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Killer's Choice


Killer's Choice

Louis Begley’s KILLER’S CHOICE marks the third appearance of Captain Jack Dana, a retired Marine infantry officer turned novelist whose James Bond-like lifestyle makes for interesting, albeit incredulous, suspense novels. After 9/11, Jack enlisted in the Marines and trained at one of its prestigious combat schools. While serving in Afghanistan, he was seriously wounded by a Taliban sniper. Recovering from surgery, he began writing a novel about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book turned out to be a huge success, and between royalties, the sale of movie rights and other financial rewards, Jack became a wealthy man and a professional writer. He also has the talent of a trained killer, which fortunately he uses only in an honorable way.

Readers learn this information in KILLER, COME HITHER. In this first installment of the trilogy, Jack investigated the death of his Uncle Harry, a Wall Street attorney, who authorities believe committed suicide. Jack’s investigation exposes not only that Harry was murdered, but that his death was the work of a right-wing multibillionaire, Abner Brown, and the organization he led. While Jack obtains some measure of justice for Harry’s murder, it is not until the second volume, KILL AND BE KILLED, that justice is truly served. But Brown’s demise comes at a personal cost to Jack. Once again, someone close to him is murdered.

"KILLER’S CHOICE...takes a plot turn that can only be described as quite disturbing.... I was not at all prepared for the twist, but I am anxious to discover what happens next to Captain Jack Dana."

In these first two novels, Jack is a complex and complicated character. While easily acclimated to the elegant life of Manhattan and Sag Harbor, he is equally accustomed to a brutal life where he is able to kill without hesitation. In one moment, while walking his dog in Central Park, he slashes the throat of a Rottweiler that attacks him upon command from a hired killer. His adventures can make for quite interesting reading.

KILLER’S CHOICE opens with a gruesome and chilling murder. Simon Lathrop, Uncle Harry’s law partner and best friend, and his wife, Jennie, are being tortured and murdered. Jack hears their final moments of life over the phone. Traveling to their home, he views a scene so brutal that it reminds him of Charles Manson and the murder of Sharon Tate. More disturbing is the crime’s professional manner, including scrubbing the scene of any clues.

But shortly after the investigation gets underway, Jack begins receiving computer messages from the killer informing him that he, along with the current love of his life, Heidi Krohn, will be the next victims. While Jack is used to such threats, he and his Chinese aide, Feng Houzhi (known to Jack as Mr. Feng), along with the FBI and local police, start taking security precautions to protect themselves from their unknown adversary.

The search for the killer, labeled by the authorities as “The Monster,” takes the traditional twists and turns of the series. The most interesting aspect of these mystery/thrillers comes from Begley’s portrayal of the life of wealth in New York City and Sag Harbor. The author gets much of his material from his own life experience, as he was a Wall Street attorney before writing his first novel at age 57. The series captures a great deal of that life in its descriptions of dinners, cocktails and weekend trips that are entertaining and make the plots different from your typical detective thriller.

But KILLER’S CHOICE then takes a plot turn that can only be described as quite disturbing. No spoilers from me, but if you have read the first two books, you will want to read the third and then look forward to the next installment. I was not at all prepared for the twist, but I am anxious to discover what happens next to Captain Jack Dana.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on August 23, 2019

Killer's Choice
by Louis Begley

  • Publication Date: May 12, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 1984820281
  • ISBN-13: 9781984820280