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The Kills Paperback – 8 May 2014

3.0 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (8 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 144726164X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447261643
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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)

House is a master of storytelling and characterisation. This epic novel, a globe-spanning tale of corruption, is gripping, exquisitely written and thought-provoking (Metro)

Book Description

An astonishing landmark novel in four books, The Kills is both a political thriller and a bravura literary performance. Longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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 ingenious and definitely part of the allure despite its being cumbersome to use (I kept losing my place on the kindle i read it on, or when i read it on my iPad, i had to keep finding my place again and again - never mind) - the opening novella was utterly engrossing partially because i was getting used to the gimmick of the multi media; the lengthy middle section among soldiers is complex, gritty and moving, just too long - and the only women are the wives left at home reflected in their husband's recounting of events. i only got part way into the third section - it is sort of way too long - but very competent and adept writing, vignettes and characters- and sometimes i am only too aware that there's contrivance and extra features involved...
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Format: Kindle Edition
One section of the book is discussed in depth.

The Kills was enormously hyped on publication, as though it were a once-in-a-decade event. And yet Amazon reviewers seem lukewarm.
I decided to see for myself; & although not my favourite genre, being a complex, detailed, gritty, 'masculine' thriller I was quite enjoying it, in spite of finding it confusing at times. Until I got to the chapter or section 'Istanbul'.
I am talking here of the first book in the volume, Sutler. The protagonist, Sutler aka Ford, an innocent man who has been set up as a decoy by a powerful organisation, is fleeing through chaotic & inhospitable regions in the Middle East. He arrives in Istanbul, where, unknown to him, an earlier pursuer, a journalist, has (by extraordinary coincidence) caught up with him again. Sutler is desperate to change some travellers cheques into local currency & to this end walks round a busy commercial area. Hunted, in an alien environment unable to speak the language, terrified of being spotted again, he nevertheless decides to draw attention to himself by discussing his requirements loudly with traders!? I can only assume that the idea is to attract the attention of someone who can change the money, but this seems an enormous contradiction.
This is as nothing to what follows: he is indeed approached by a man (referred to in the narrative as a courier), who confidentially tells him he can help, if Sutler will follow him. And Sutler does, through narrow alleys until they come to a small shop, where he introduces Sutler to Zubenko.
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Format: Hardcover
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 of their control.

Most loose ends are tidied up ok and one is left under few illusions as to the fate of the characters - 'The Massive', for example, opens with an account of the main characters' fates.

The loose ends not tidied up are fairly irrelevant and such is the author's skill that it doesn't really matter, to be honest. I would say it was best to come at these novels not expecting a neat, Hollywood ending. The reader can, to a certain extent, draw their own conclusions and fill the gaps with their own interpretation.

I took a breather between novels 2 and 3; novel 3 is quite a change in direction from the first 2 (where pretty much everything is tidied up). It was my favourite of the quartet, with Naples very well rendered. I liked the play between fiction and non-fiction, and there was a very strong sense of unease. Novel 4 is interesting geo-politically.

Well worth a couple of weeks of your time - books to linger over.
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