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The Kills [Hardcover]

Richard House
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
RRP: 20.00
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Book Description

18 July 2013

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013.

Shortlisted for the South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2014.

This is The Kills: Sutler, The Massive, The Kill, The Hit.

The Kills is an epic novel of crime and conspiracy told in four books.

It begins with a man on the run and ends with a burned body.

Moving across continents, characters and genres, there will be no more ambitious or exciting novel in 2013.

In a ground-breaking collaboration between author and publisher, Richard House has also created multimedia content that takes you beyond the boundaries of the book and into the characters' lives outside its pages. This material and much more can be found on

Plot summary:

Camp Liberty is an unmanned staging-post in Amrah province, Iraq; the place where the detritus of the war is buried, incinerated, removed from memory. Until, suddenly, plans are announced to transform it into the largest military base in the country, codenamed the Massive, with a post-war strategy to convert the site for civilian use.

Contracted by HOSCO, the insidious company responsible for overseeing the Massive, Rem Gunnerson finds himself unwittingly commanding a disparate group of economic mercenaries at Camp Liberty when the mysterious Stephen Lawrence Sutler arrives. As the men are played against each other by HOSCO the situation grows increasingly tense. And then everything changes. An explosion. An attack on a regional government office. When the dust settles it emerges that Sutler has disappeared, and over fifty million dollars of reconstruction funds are missing.

Sutler finds himself accused and on the run. Gunnerson and his men want revenge for months of abuse and misinformation. Out of the chaos a man named Paul Geezler rises to restore order, a man more involved than he's willing to admit.

And then there's the vicious murder of an American student in Italy. A murder that replicates exactly the details of a well-known novel.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st Edition edition (18 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447237862
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447237860
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.2 x 6.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Richard House has written a damn good book . . .The Kills is possibly the most eyebrow-raising entry on this year's Booker longlist . . . he is not your average novelist, but is also a film-maker, artist and magazine editor . . . If this all seems hifalutin, rest assured: The Kills is still all about spinning a good yarn' Sunday Times, Culture

‘For all its bulk The Kills proves easily digestible . . . it is well worth ejecting five or six conventional thrillers from your holiday luggage and devoting yourself to The Kills for a few days. Like all the best thrillers, it takes you on a hell of a ride’ Daily Telegraph

‘Prepare to be dazzled by this monumental novel . . . a true achievement. House’s sea of words relentlessly interrogates his themes through action and dialogue, leaving his reader washed up on a faraway shore, dazed yet exhilarated’ Sunday Times

'Richard House's Man Booker-longlisted novel stands out from the pile . . . an ambitious and complex meta-thriller that spins its many stories like plates, tantalising you at every turn . . . a page turner . . . and a book absolutely to be read twice over.' Independent

'If you have a week-long, do-nothing holiday planned, or you have to spend some time convalescing in hospital, or you are going to prison, then Richard House's monumental, Man Booker-longlisted thriller may be the ideal accompaniment. The Kills is a dense and twisty series of linked stories that range across Europe, America and the Middle East . . . engrossing but also ferociously complex and demanding . . . [House] has a lovely turn of phrase . . . he writes in startling detail about character, location and physical mannerisms . . . a very sophisticated yarn-spinner' (Evening Standard)

'A hot favourite on the Booker longlist . . . This is a staggering achievement . . . Highly recommended' Daily Mail

‘Richard House has written a gripping, hallucinogenic – and enormous – novel that deals with the aftermath of the Iraq conflict . . . The [enhanced] digital edition is far and away the better way to read this novel; the first two books in particular are augmented by a series of short films embedded on the page, often with text overlaid, as well as animations and audio clips. For example, listening to the phone messages left by one character's mother as she tries to cajole him into contacting her, before she understands that he is in danger, adds an emotional jolt to the text. Throughout, the simple yet elegant enhancements work to take us beyond the page, adding depth and texture to the story. This is the first time I've read a digital edition of a primarily text-based novel where I've thought: yes, this works . . . House’s writing is spare and compelling, and the digital edition is truly enriched by the additional media’ Guardian

‘They [the Man Booker 2013 judges] outdo themselves in choosing an astounding sequence by Richard House in The Kills, four consecutive novels amounting to 300,000 words or more. This is a thrilling, overwhelming ride, starting from a brilliant North by North-West-ish donnée: an official working in the Gulf under a false name on a questionable project is asked to disappear quietly for a couple of hundred thousand and quickly finds himself the fall-guy for a missing $53 million. Astonishing for its scale and drive, it is released in a number of digital formats as well as an immense hardback. It is full of lucid action, drifting contemplation, apparent dead-ends, confusion and thuggish explosions. I could not wait to get back to it when reading it, and House is probably this year’s major reinventor of the possibilities of the genre: the leap into the present tense at the three-quarter stage shows a novelist in full command of his technical possibilities . . . one you ought to read’ Philip Hensher, Spectator

'majestic . . . brilliantly realised characters' Telegraph top 10 summer reads 2013

‘Thrilling . . . explores the multimedia possibilities of the modern book’ Metro

A gigantic experiment, bracing, thrilling and worthy of a medal for narrative heroism, Richard House's four-volume The Kills plays an epic set of variations on the shadow war for loot and influence behind the chaos of Iraq. (Boyd Tonkin, Books of the Year Independent)

The novel I enjoyed most was Richard House's sensational pile-driver, The Kills. (Philip Hensher, Books of the Year Guardian)

Richard House's The Kills was the novel that impressed me most: a terrific unbuckled ride through global and intimate catastrophes, blood and billions. (Philip Hensher, Books of the Year Spectator)

The Kills is consistently great fun, whether it motors along as political thriller or existential murder story, or folds in on itself as (post-)postmodern work of ludic fiction. In all the ways that actually matter, House is a fine writer: a deceptively simple stylist and a plotter of considerable talent' (Literary Review)

With a single observation he can give lasting resonance to a few seconds of human awkwardness. House gives us vivid pictures: powerful, bleak, beautiful. (Times Literary Supplement)

The jar of scorpions Richard House introduces on the first page of his cracking novel The Kills is highly appropriate because there's a sting in the tail on every page. I want to call it a thriller but the story - set in post-war Iraq, and Italy . . . is more than that. Let's call it biz-crime-heist-noir. The Kills is four interconnected books in one and if you read it on an iPad you get lots of bonus digital goodies. It's a killer of a read. (Daily Mail)

House's writing is spare and compelling, and the digital edition is truly enriched by the additional media. (Guardian)

House is a master of flawed character and unexpected moving images. (New Statesman)

From the Back Cover

Book of the Year in the Guardian, Spectator, Independent and Daily Mail.

The Kills is an epic novel of crime and conspiracy.

It starts with an explosion, a man on the run and the theft of over fifty million dollars. It moves from the Middle East to the Mediterranean, around mainland Europe via the sleazy underworld of Naples, and across America. It ends in a locked room.

Brilliantly original, playful and ambitious, The Kills is a terrifying, awe-inspiring, mind-blowing sensation.

'A damn good book' Sunday Times

'A staggering achievement' Daily Mail

'A thrilling, overwhelming ride' Spectator

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
By Ripple TOP 100 REVIEWER
Richard House's Booker-longlisted "The Kills" is a collection of four related books, originally published in e-book format between February and June 2013. In some ways, the e-book format is the natural habitat for House's creation as it includes a largely optional multi-media component to the story. It is a hugely ambitious piece about money, murder, greed, stories and where things start and equally where, if ever, they end. Covering more countries than feature in Michael Palin's passport, the book starts with corruption and embezzlement in a US civilian company working in the re-building of Iraq, and ends with a kind of "Tales of the Unexpected" story in Cyprus having taken in a gruesome story of murder in Naples.

Before getting to the conventional book element of the project, it's worth covering the multi-media component. While I have not seen the e-versions I assume that the suggested points for watching or listening to the various elements is noted in the text, whereas with the hard copy, this is not the case. It is pointed out that the multi-media elements can be watched entirely separately, or not at all, as they are not in any way necessary to the story. In fact, they tend to fill in background stories of the characters. It's not the first book I've seen to introduce a multi-media element but the quality of the short films in particular is of the highest class. They would not look out of place in an installation in the Tate Modern. House also largely avoids the trap of giving either images or audio to characters - mostly but not entirely the narrative element is told in sub titles in the films - which can detract from the reading experience in the same way that films of much loved books are usually disappointing as they don't fit with our mental images.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1333 10 Aug 2013
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Richard House has tried to create something along the lines of Roberto Bolano's 2666 - a series of loosely connected novels forming together to create something whole. Just as in 2666, the sections wouldn't really work as stand alone novels, yet are not sequential or linked directly in style.

It is absolutely not a traditional thriller or whodunnit.

The basic intention is to build a world - an atmosphere. There seem to be two principle narrative focuses - a corrupt contract for rebuilding Iraq, and a series of killings that copycat a situation depicted in a trashy best-selling novel. As in Bolano's work, the issues are never really dealt with head on; we follow some of the people whose lives are touched by these narratives and have to infer the bigger picture from their thoughts and actions. This is hard since the different angles sometimes contradict one another and often get bogged down in a sea of confusion.

The atmosphere is done really well. Whether it is Sutler, on the run across the dustbowl of Eastern Turkey; the seamy sex industry in Naples; the small town lives in America that drive their sons to seek fortune in the desert; or the nightclubs of Cyprus. Most sections are set in sunshine. The heat and sand and desolation feel real. The people feel real too; flawed, driven by hidden agenda, afraid, defensive.

For the first half of The Kills, Richard House seems to have complete mastery of his material. And the focus is exclusively on the corrupt project in Iraq. It really does feel like the same situation viewed from different angles, through different lenses. The diversion to Naples feels like a misstep, and the third "book" in the series never quite gels. It also feels like a bit of a diversion from the real focus on Iraq.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant 29 Aug 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This truly is a book I could scarcely put down. The basic plot is straightforward, but a multiplicity of complex characters, and complex motives, coupled with extremely vivid evocation of the middle eastern and mediterranean environment and culture, make for a very stimulating read. What makes it all the more interesting is that one suspects that the outrageous fraud at the heart of the novel, and the attempts to cover it up, are all too likely to represent reality closely. This is really classy writing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars First half great, second half not so great... 8 Sep 2013
By Janne
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having just finished my summer's read in September, I can attest to the length of the book. As four novels in one, it certainly has the space to consider many characters, situations, ideas and stories. But while the first two books work very well, the last two seem contrived and a bit rushed, almost like the author lost interest in the book as well. I really enjoyed the verisimilitude of the Iraq stories; both had a strong sense of place and time, clearly in the 'now' and almost up to the minute with Syria references. The characters, the intrigue, the doubt and the settings all worked well. The third and fourth books lacked this coherence and while they had some interesting elements, the plots struggled for direction and the characters came and went too quickly to engage the reader. 'Because there has to be an end,' I finished the last book, but was left unsatisfied by how it was wrapped up. I had not expected a tidy Dan Browneseque conclusion, but so many characters simply walk off stage with no follow-up (e.g. Geezler). Partly the point, I realise, but excessively so in this case. Usually, the 'less is more' rule applies and certainly here, a great 500 page novel is buried in the sands of a 1,000 page saga. Still, the first two books are definitely worth a read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Its meandering and boring, Took on a two week vacation
Given up after first book.
Don't be fooled by all the glowing review snippets on the cover and inside pages. Read more
Published 4 days ago by A. D. Thacker
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant contrivance surrounding elemental tale
this is essentially three novels with the quest to find out who the victim is and who the ultimate perpetrator is of a murder - the hyper links to mini-videos and sound tracks is... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Leslie Gardner
4.0 out of 5 stars Could have been called 'How to be in the wrong place at the wrong...
This is an excellent, literate quartet of thrillers.

As mentioned above, most of the characters find themselves in difficult, complex situations governed by forces out... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Chris E
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull
The first two parts of this novel are interesting. Corruption, Iraq, corporate greed and backstabbing, what isn’t there to love? Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mr. Mj Flatt
3.0 out of 5 stars Killing You Softly
OK this is a killer of a book or books I should say. It is one of those massive works that requires a lot of effort and goodwill and understanding. Read more
Published 4 months ago by nickyb
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
Great book. Complex and very satisfying. It will stay with me for a long time - summer of 2013 Majorca
Published 5 months ago by Brian Larkin
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid like the plague
I can't believe I stuck it out to the very end, hoping in vain for some resolution, which of course didn't materialise. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Senorpat
2.0 out of 5 stars unrewarding stamina test
Rather rambling and disjointed. Requires stamina to finish it. Satisfying in parts. Bursts of violence, little humanity, far too long.
Published 5 months ago by nifw1001
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be put off by the reviews of those who don't read...
I read the bad reviews before I purchased the book, as I always do. It seems pretty clear that those who've read it and commented on it as 'hard to read' or 'turgid' are actually... Read more
Published 6 months ago by J
1.0 out of 5 stars I gave up
I got to page 350 and gave up. I don't normally but I really felt I had gained very little enjoyment from what I had read. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Phil h
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