Wednesday, January 26

'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy - Leslie Langtry

Gin Bombay loves her work, and (mostly) loves her family - both are unusual, and they're inextricably intertwined, for though Gin is a single mother who's somehow been roped into leading the local Girl Scout troop, she's also a member of long and proud line of assassins who "invented the garrote, the ice pick, and arsenic."
The family usually meet every five years, but even though the last meeting was just over a year ago, Gin receives a summons in the mail. This can mean only one thing – someone’s in trouble. In her family, that also means someone’s going to die.
While assuaging her angst with a slice of Death by Chocolate cheesecake, a handsome Australian approaches her, intrigued by her assassin-related reading material. His name is Diego Jones, he’s gorgeous, and he seems interested in her. The only problem is that when she tells him her cover identity – bodyguard – he reveals that he’s one, too. Well, that and the fact that all Bombay kids are inducted into the family business after their fifth birthday – and Gin’s daughter Romi, who would have been nine at the next reunion had this unscheduled one not been called, now qualifies.
It will come as no surprise that Gin’s latest project happens to be the man that love interest Diego’s guarding. This is combined with her being tapped to discover which of her generation (among her brother, her best friend/cousin, and a wider circle of cousins) is betraying the family to law enforcement, creates tension and intrigue. Theoretically.
I really liked the premise of ‘Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy – assassins are interesting in the abstract, and the concept of relatively-ethical wrong-doers skirting the boundaries of conventional behaviour is a rich area to explore. However, I had several issues with the novel.
The first was that Gin is scatty and disturbingly casual about her work – she leaves the envelope with information about the hit sitting on a table for a day, shares confidential information, and is lead by her convictions rather than her intellect. She’s also bossed around by another mother, which seems unlikely in a career killer.
I could have overlooked these issues, though, had it not been for two other aspects. First, there were a number of gaps in the world building (nobody has ever known about this centuries-old assassination family? There are enough jobs to keep at least twenty-five professionals in America and Europe not only employed but able to live well? No government body has noticed or been concerned about a radar-blocked island in the middle of the ocean? Everyone’s successfully inducted in to the family around age five, every partner’s comfortable with full disclosure, and no family member has an issue with dissenters being killed?)
Second I found the writing style laboured – there are ‘witty’ little asides (“Every time there was a reunion, any one of us could be marked for termination. And I don’t mean with a pink slip.”), clumsy phrasing (“A stab of guilt hit my stomach…”), entirely too much coincidence, a neat and tidy ending in the last chapter, with a gift-wrapping of an epilogue, and an irritating family custom of naming family members for places. So in addition to Virginia “Gin” Bombay we also meet Dak[ota], Liv[erpool], Roma, Flo[rida], Cali[fornia], Missi[ssipi], Lon[don], Phil[adelphia], Coney [Island], Rich[mond]ie, Clinton, Savannah, Asia and Dehli, among others.
'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy is relatively formulaic chick lit. It gestures toward urban, but is fairly frothy despite its potentially gritty setting. Good for a beach novel, when the sun makes deeper thinking not worth the effort, it’s not bad for what it is. Although I finished, and didn’t hate, 'Scuse Me…, I’m not going to be breaking land speed records to see what else Langtry’s written. - Alex

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