Elmore Leonard's Killshot centers on the meeting of two outlaws and a middle-aged middle class couple. Carmen Colson works for a realtor, her husband Wayne is a construction worker. Armand "Blackbird" Degas, a hit man for hire, has tired of his profession and is seeking a different one. He teams up with Richie Nix, a convenience store robber, to extort money from a realtor in Michigan. When they go to collect the money they mistake Wayne Colson, husband of one of the realtor's employees, for the realtor himself. Wayne surprises them and forces the pair to leave without their loot. The rest of the novel follows Bird and Richie attempts to rid the world of the Colson's, the only two witnesses of their attempted extortion.
The theme of hunting permeates the book, as does the static nature of relationships. Blackbird hunts people for a fee. Richie hunts victims to boost his self-image. Wayne hunts for sport. Carmen is not a hunter, she is the hunted. Which leads to some interesting irony at the conclusion of the story. Is the killer instinct a male instinct? Can Carmen us a gun to end a human life, even if it is to defend herself?
Wayne and Carmen have been with each other for almost twenty years, yet they have varying degrees of warmth and love for each other. At times Carmen can't stand Wayne and his blue collar ways (Carmen's mother criticizes Wayne constantly, feeding these dislikes), and at other times she's madly in love with him.
Richie and Bird have a love/hate relationship from the very beginning. The relationship is further complicated when they both sleep with Richie's girlfriend Donna, and ex-prison kitchen worker. At various times Richie admires Bird's cool demeanor, other times Bird is way too cautious for the impetuous Richie. Bird views Richie as a hothead, other times as a smart kid who could make something of himself if not for his easy temper.
The Colsons enter the witness protection program, and we learn that it is set up primarily for cons that testify against their former bosses. They get new identities and a new home in Cape Girardeau (on the shores of the Mississippi) after Richie and Bird attack their house in Michigan. Carmen shoots a shotgun at them and scares them off, foreshadowing the events that come at the conclusion of the novel. The witness protection program isn't what the police promised them, and the US Marshall assigned to their case enters the house as he pleases, making Carmen's life unbearable.
The novel concludes with the usual Leonard plot twists and surprises, but it lacks some of the satirical edge or likable characters of some of his more recent novels (Get Shorty, Be Cool, and Maximum Bob). For the Leonard faithful, however, it is still a must read title.
All text (C) 2000 LCB
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