The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson will be published on February 19, 2015 by Faber Books and February 3, 2015 by HarperCollins.
I looked at the pale, freckled hand on the back of the empty bar seat next to me in the business class lounge of Heathrow airport, then up into the stranger's face.
'Do I know you?'
Delayed in London, Ted Severson meets a woman at the airport bar. Over cocktails they tell each other rather more than they should, and a dark plan is hatched - but are either of them being serious, could they actually go through with it and, if they did, what would be their chances of getting away with it?
Back in Boston, Ted's wife Miranda is busy site managing the construction of their dream home, a beautiful house out on the Maine coastline. But what secrets is she carrying and to what lengths might she go to protect the vision she has of her deserved future?
A sublimely plotted novel of trust and betrayal, The Kind Worth Killing will keep you gripped and guessing late into the night.
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I’m not always conscious when I’m writing a book that I’m bringing to it parts of me that have lain buried for years, but this was certainly the case with Monument to Murder. There’s a lot of me in this one.
Even though the same characters appear throughout the Kate Daniels series, I don’t write to a particular formula, so the structure of each book is different. Monument to Murder has two definite storylines, both rooted in fact, one in the past, one much more recent.
In the planning stages, I required a crime scene location. The other story location was already fixed. At the end of the previous book, Deadly Deceit, Kate Daniels’ colleague and former lover, Jo Soulsby, had left her job as a criminal profiler and gone to work on a project at HMP Northumberland to look into the treatment of dangerous prisoners. In Monument to Murder she meets up with recently widowed Emily McCann – the main character in the second storyline – psychologist and former friend from university. Jo was my link between the two storylines, a friend to both Emily and Kate. However, it was then that I encountered my first problem . . .
Having pitched the idea for this book to my agent, I’d received a word of caution. Not one to pull his punches, he was concerned that the secondary storyline might overshadow the first. A situation would never do as Kate’s investigation had to be paramount. After all, she was my protagonist. It’s her that fans of the series find fascinating. A tricky balancing act, but could I pull it off?
In the main storyline, I wanted to bury some bones. That was to be the inciting incident, the starting point for Kate and the Murder Investigation Team. While considering locations for the burial, I remembered having read a newspaper article about an archaeological dig at Bamburgh Castle, a project that had been televised by Channel 4’s Time Team. Geographically, Bamburgh is around than thirty miles from HMP Northumberland. It was incredibly serendipitous, the first instance where fact met fiction, and something I firmly believed would add weight to my story.
So, the police investigation begins when Kate is called to a crime scene on Bamburgh beach. A child playing ‘hunt the dinosaur’ with his father has stumbled upon skeletal remains where a section of dunes has shifted, falling onto the beach below. For those who know that stretch of shoreline, Bamburgh Castle overlooks Lindisfarne – also called Holy Island – which posed a question right at the very beginning, for Kate and the reader: did the burial of these bones have any religious significance? This is where the title came from too, Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island both being ancient monuments.
The novel actually opens at HMP Northumberland in the head of a dangerous prisoner, Walter Fearon, just as Emily McCann returns to work after a long spell of compassionate leave. With evil on his mind, the inmate begins a campaign of terror, messing with Emily’s head at every opportunity. His unhealthy attachment to her is a minor irritation at first. But anxiety soon escalates when he turns his attention to her daughter and Emily sees what he is capable of, even within the confines of the institution holding him. In one scene, Fearon turns up at her office when he had no business being there, and this is where real events again became fictionalised . . .
When I was a student probation officer, I was sent to work in a prison on placement. This (and three years working in a prison later on in my career) gave me insight into the pressure cooker environment that exists inside. I’m not saying that bad behaviour, violence, drug taking are rife, but anyone working in a jail will tell you that it does go on. The best that can be hoped for is containment. It’s an impossible task watching every single prisoner twenty-four hours a day. Each shift is unpredictable, for everyone, staff and inmates alike.
During this placement, something very unusual happened which stuck with me long after I’d gone back to my course to complete my studies. On this particular day, my supervising probation officer rang in sick which meant that I was limited to seeing low risk prisoners. At noon, however, when all inmates were supposed to be at lunch and all staff engaged in their supervision, a prisoner arrived at my door demanding to be seen. His presence and the lack of security personnel nearby really shook me up. The prisoner didn't harm me but I found out later that he was serving life for bludgeoning to death a woman he’d never met before or even spoken to.
Without giving too much away, this frightening experience is mirrored in Monument to Murder. Perhaps in handing it to Emily I was, in some small way, exorcizing my demons. Below is a short extract from the book . . .
Emily glanced at the clock on the wall above his head: 12:35. Lockdown was still fifteen minutes away. He wouldn’t be missed until the head count.
‘You’re supposed to be at lunch.’ Emily was trying to mask the anxiety in her voice. She could see from his smug expression that her efforts had failed.
‘I gave them the slip,’ was all he said in return.
Fearing for her safety, Emily couldn’t afford to show fear. But years of training hadn’t equipped her for this. Everything she knew about working with dangerous prisoners deserted her then.
As the novel progresses, Emily’s fear for her own safety and that of her daughter grows exponentially as Fearon nears the end of his sentence and is eventually released. Emily’s story and Kate’s hunt for a killer alternate throughout Monument to Murder, Jo very much involved as the go-between, the two stories merging around three-quarters of the way through, before a race to a thrilling finale. So, did I manage to pull off the tricky balancing act? You’ll have to read the book to find out.
US readers should know that Monument to Murder is due to be published in April 2015 by Harper Collins/Witness Impulse under the new title of Fatal Games.
Monument to Murder is currently on offer on Amazon as part of an Autumn Deal at 99p! See links below to order your copy.
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If you're of sceptical persuasion you'll know Tim Minchin's beat poem "Storm". In just a few words it manage to summarise all the frustration of speaking to a person who believes in sorts of quackery and can't accept the sheer ludicrousness of it all. Personally, I'm usually too polite to enter into confrontation even when faced with most ridiculous ideas such as my recent favourite when a person described wrapping yourself into foil to stop bronchitis but occasionally I can't stop yourself from getting into right rant. That's why “Storm” is always close to my heart. I've quoted “Do you know what they call alternative medicine that's been proved to work? Medicine.” many times. I'm not alone. Tim Minchin's Storm quickly became something of a rationalist anthem and a regular highlight of his epic shows.
If you haven't listened to "Storm" it is a tale of dinner party going horribly wrong. Together with another couple, Tim and his wife are invited to an apartment of Kate, their Australian actor friend and at one point Jane, lady half of the couple as Tim calls her, despite her good looks seems to be full of prejudices towards science in general, medicine and reason while on the other hand she passionately believes in elixirs, homeopathy and spirits. While on the actual party Tim avoided confrontation, it was the paper that suffered his irritation and frustration and so the "Storm" was born.
However, while undoubtedly successful on its own, "Storm" mostly went viral due to its immensely brilliant animated adaptation made by Tracy King and DC Turner. So far it has been seen by over three million people and has been widely accepted as a darling of all humanists, sceptics, secularists, scientists and atheists. "Storm: The Illustrated Book" is made by the same team and its style is instantly recognizable by everyone who saw the video. However, graphic novel is not just couple of frames collected together in book form but a whole new approach to a recognizable tale. The beat of the original poem is transcribed perfectly and I suspect "Storm: The Illustrated Book" will bring this cry for reason and understanding of science to a completely new audience which is exactly as it should be.
Review copy provided by Orion Books.
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After years of placing her tales in France and exploring its rich medieval history, in her new novel Mosse decided to do things differently and to return to her home village in the UK. “The Taxidermist's Daughter” takes places in small village of Fishbourne in Surrey in 1912 and follows the story of Constantia Gifford as she accidentally becomes involved in a frightening murder mystery. Connie is twenty-two and is living alone with her father in a house filled with remnants of what was once a world-famous museum of taxidermy "Gifford’s World Famous House of Avian Curiosities". After the museum's closure, Connie's father became a very uncomfortable man to live with. He's bitter and disappointed in life. The events surrounding the closure are still a mystery to Connie as she lost her memory after a particularly nasty fall years ago. The subject matter is a taboo which can't even be mentioned, let alone discussed so she spends her days with stuffed birds as her company, slowly learning her father's trade.
It all changes one night during which it is believed that ghosts of those about to die in the coming year are walking the earth. A woman is found drowned outside Blackthorn House (Gifford's house). Death certificate proclaims the cause of death as suicide but Connie's having her doubt. Soon she becomes embroiled in a search spanning years which will bring back to light some long forgotten memories as well as the mystery at the heart of her father's life.
With her Languedoc trilogy su ccessfully out of the way, Mosse's writing in “The Taxidermist's Daughter” feels completely reinvigorated. She feels fiercely confident in her story and I, as a reader, found this sort of enthusiasm absolutely infecting. “The Taxidermist's Daughter” is simply Mosse's best work yet which will appear more to readers who enjoyed her gothic tale "The Winter Ghosts" (or “The Cave” if you've only read the original, shorter story”) or her recent short story collection “The Mitletoe Brde and other stories” than to those who only read her Languedoc trilogy. “The Taxidermist's Daughter” is a thrilling lyrical tale with a touch of macabre which I can only wholeheartedly recommend.
Review copy provided by Orion Books.
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“City of Stairs” doesn't really feel like a Robert Jackson Bennett's book. I'm so used to his particular way of writing atmospheric Gothic novels that I was initially completely disoriented by this amalgam of fantasy and science fiction. I've even double checked the info on the press release just to make sure that this is the same Robert Jackson Bennett. Luckily, this is not meant to be a complaint. “City of Stairs” is brilliant but just very different to what you would expert from author of “Mr. Shivers” or “American Elsewhere”.
Bennett's story takes place in city of Bulikov, once proud city now conquered by Saypur and largely reduced to just another colonial backwater. Once Bulikov was protected by Gods but they haven't been seen for a long time. Shara Divani arrives to city as just another Ministry of Foreign Affairs diplomat sent to over-complicate things for locals. However, secretly she's on a mission. Accompanied by her secretary Sigrud (the best character in a book by a mile), Shara is tasked with discovering truth behind the murder of a seemingly irrelevant historian Efrem Pangyui who dabbled into Bulikov's hidden and forgotten stories. Soon she discovers that nothing in Bulikov is as it seems and perhaps even Gods are not as gone as everyone thought they are. Her quest will lead her deep into Bulikov's past to a time when it was still a force to be reckoned with.
Jo Fletcher Books have been publishing some truly imaginative stuff this year and similarly to excellent “Gleam” by Tom Fletcher, Bennett's “City of Stairs” occupies a place in that wonderful niche of literature where the setting itself has a life of its own and carries the book seeming without any need for a story. Bulikov is a wondrous creation, innovative malleable place that evolves together with its residents. I hope this was not an one off and that Bennett will soon return to it.
So is new Bennett better than the old? As you can guess the question is pointless and it's down to a preference of a reader. Personally, I've really enjoyed this reinvention of Robert Jackson Bennett but deep down I still hope his previous reincarnation is not gone for good. I can imagine sidelines continuing successfully together. Until it happens, “City of Stairs” is a completely new chapter in his writing and showcases a new side to his talent. Bulikov is a place you should definitely visit. You'll have one hell of a ride.
Review copy provided by Jo Fletcher Books.
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Turns out Interzone readers are a spirited bunch. You see, we have this policy where we try to not publish negative reviews because we feel that it's hard enough to reach audience without us making it even harder. Bad stuff we read we just forget. So suitably, our published review of “Interzone 252” was favorable. It's our favourite science fiction and fantasy magazine after all. However there was a sentence that said that one of the stories in the issue felt like a filler. To put it bluntly, it caused a bit of furore with a few readers and we even received an e-mail from Interzone themselves citing their strong editorial policy. It was a bit funny in a way and hopefully now the situation is sorted to everyone's satisfaction.
“Interzone 253” is another strong issue, not least because it is a second issue in a row that has an original story by one of my favourite fantasy writers at the moment, Neil Williamson. His "The Golden Nose" is another example of his talent. This imaginative story explores the way increasingly complex technological advances can make even the best talent feel ordinary and redundant.
But to go back at the start, James Van Pelt's "My Father and the Martian Moon Maids” opens the issue and is one of those emotionally powerful stories that aims straight to the heart of the reader. It features an older man reminiscing about his youth and will strike a chord with older readers. Andrew Hook’s “Flytrap” is another tale written in a literary fashion that seems to be pervasive in this issue. This was my first encounter with Hook and I've really enjoyed it.
D.J. Cockburn’s “Beside the Damned River” is a 2014 winner of James White Award and is an extraordinarily written SF which just begs for a full novel treatment. E. Cartherine Tobler's “Chasmata” was another story that I instantly liked because of the dreamy way in which it was delivered. On the other hand I found final story, Caren Gussoff’s “The Bars of Orion” to be a bit forgettable. There's nothing wrong with it as such and it's a decent, personal SF drama that mostly suffers because of its vast scope and the sheer quality of other stories included in this issue.
To conclude, “Interzone 253” is an above average issue, jam packed with true feats of imagination. What's best, “Interzone 254” sounds like it'll be just as good because it has a new novella by Nina Allan in it as well as her new ongoing feature. On to reading!
Review copy provided by TTA Press.
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Poems by Iain Banks with Ken MacLeod will be published on February 5, 2015 by Little, Brown
Iain Banks the literary novelist and Iain M. Banks the science fiction writer are too well known to need introduction, but Iain Banks the poet has hitherto been almost undetected: a single poem was published in a magazine and three short pieces within the novels. But he took his poetry seriously and worked on it carefully, though he shared the results mainly with friends.
Readers of Iain's novels will find in these poems many aspects of his writing with which they're already familiar: a humane and materialist sensibility, an unflinching stare at the damage people can do to each other, a warm appreciation of the joy they can give to each other, a revel in language, a geologically informed gaze on land and sea, a continued meditation on what it means for us to be mortal embodied minds with a fleeting but consequent existence between abysses of deep time.
Ken MacLeod, Iain's long-time friend and collaborator, has collected his poems according to his wishes, and they are published here - most for the first time - alongside a selection of Ken's own poetry
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I have one of the best agents in the world, seriously. But she is prone to saying to me ‘We are meeting in London next week. I would like you to have ideas for the next two books’. To which I will say ‘I haven’t any ideas yet’. Her answer – ‘Never mind. By then you will have’!
That is where I got the idea for ‘Blood on the Water’. The headline concerned was the very hot controversy over the man accused of the Lockerbie bombing and the crash of the PanAm flight. Was he guilty or not? Was he terminally ill or not? Should he be released, whatever the answer? What was behind it politically? All very current and probably to do with oil.
But what a wonderful series of possibilities for human and political problems, lies, passions and intrigues. Was there bribery? Were there threats? And of course there were political ambitions. There always are. Was it local, national, international, or all of the above?
There is horror and tragedy, and there was crime, maybe several crimes before, during, and to me the most interesting – their lies afterwards, to cover it up!
How do I backdate it a century? One could easily have a couple of hundred people aboard a boat, all but one innocent of anything except a good party out on the river. Glamorous, happy, music and even dancing on deck. Then all in a single instant, a violent explosion, and the whole ship goes down, taking its passengers with it.
Research! It took one real ship like it four minutes to sink after the boilers blew up. Four minutes! The Thames water at that time was so filthy it would poison you before it drowned you. And try to imagine swimming in a late Victorian gown – the weight of it would take you to the bottom as soon as it was completely wet. And the men would have jackets on and boots. True horror!
Monk, my hero, is a river policeman. He could be on the water at the time of the explosion, and actually see it. He would try to rescue all those he could reach, and feel desperate for those he could not.
I can’t have North African oilfields as the political issue. We knew nothing of them then, nor did we value oil as we do now. No political turmoil there. But this was just before the completion of the Suez Canal, which would cut in half the time of sailing from England to India, the great tea clippers etc. No long way around the Cape of Good Hope! Just slip through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, and you are half way there already.
Fortunes to be made, or lost. What is the point of being master of the seas, if nobody needs to go the long way around? Very hot feelings on all sides. Lots of money, lots of fear, lots of fortunes to be made, or lost. That will do nicely!
The villain is important, of course, but the issues are the thing of drama. Why would anyone sink a pleasure boat? To start a major political row? International quarrel? To kill specific people, or even one specific person? Who, and why?
Now we get to the intrigue. To follow the original we must catch someone, then find we have a problem we don’t know how to deal with. So far, so good.
The moral questions. I always have to have a moral question, a ‘damned if you do, and damned if you don’t’.
If he was innocent and framed, then you have to put that right. Which means someone else is guilty! But far worse than that, it means that a lot of very important public people were lying. Which people are they, and why are they lying? To conceal what?
I love trial scenes. Nothing I can think of is more dramatic. Like the ancient Egyptian ‘weighing of souls’.
Is the law itself compromised? If it could happen to one Egyptian man, and he would face hanging for something he may not have done, then it could happen to anyone: to someone you love – or to you yourself. Let’s frighten everyone! See what they do.
And there should be room for some nice, dramatically different scenes. Let’s send Monk down in an old-fashioned diving suit to look through the sunken wreck for evidence, not to mention at least a hundred bodies still trapped inside. Let’s put him in danger. Let’s test all the courage and the loyalties.
We should have some scenes of beauty as well. The light on the water, sunrise over the city, the dome of St. Paul’s against an evening sky. Great clipper ships with masts circling the stars as you stare up at them. Mud flats at sunset.
Did I love writing it? Did I laugh? Scare myself silly? Cry at the end? Yes. Am I a little bit crazy? No, I’m just a writer who loves their craft, and wants to make you think and care and imagine as well.
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Over the past few months I’ve been asked numerous times why or how I wrote The Surfacing. With a bad habit of politeness, I usually give a credible answer, when I’d prefer not to give any answer at all. Because behind that question I hear either (1) a misguided pedagogical imperative or (2) a mercenary one, or both. (1) Can you (knowledgeable) please give us (ignorant) the book’s intellectual or personal context, which will help us to read it properly. Or: (2) Make your pitch. Lay out something of personal value, in trade for the investment (time, money, attention) you’re soliciting from us.
I’ve heard other authors answering those questions. I’ve heard myself give it a go. In our answers there’s often an element of the Treasure Hunt, of the A-Funny-Thing-Happened-To-Me anecdote, of the Everyman-Seconded-To-A-Quest, and always a fair whiff of memoir. Put on the spot, authors often take refuge in practical detail, as I did here, when recently answering an apparently harmless query about how I got interested in 19th century Arctic exploration:
A French publisher bought the rights to my first novel, Track and Field, (set in 1923) and I wanted to take the opportunity to rewrite one of the last scenes. Looking for a detail to indicate a form of emotional retreat in one of the characters, I had him refer to Scott’s expedition to the South Pole. That sparked a curiosity about Amundsen, who (I discovered) in 1928 set off on a rescue mission in the Arctic (by plane) and was never seen again. From there (Amundsen first made the Northwest Passage) it was a short jump to a curiosity about those who set out to find Franklin.
These details are all perfectly true, but tell precious little about the sequence of words that constitutes a book. That’s probably the point: they serve as a screen against deeper probing, or are offered as a bribe to shut further questions – and myself – up. Shutting myself up has become a more tricky and pressing need recently. When I was a kid, in the days preceding a local election or the arrival of a circus, a loudspeakered van would trawl through the streets blaring its tedious gospel uninvited into every home. That’s the sound you hear when talking in public about yourself.
Why and how, then, is what it always comes back to. I allow myself to believe I don’t fully know, and don’t want to. While there’s doubtless a certain strategy in that, the fact remains that I distrust absolutely the coherent, articulate answers I’ve heard myself producing in recent weeks. At first they were tentative, full of reserve and disclaimer and clarification; but the more I heard the question repeated, the more I heard myself refining and honing my spiel. Unsurprisingly, perhaps: after all, I’m practised at narrative construction, and at making those constructions sound. But by and by the thing started to sound like another book, written by another man, in a manner unrecognisable to me. (It sounded like a well-planned and well-executed campaign.) A process that calls to mind lines from Penelope Fitzgerald’s Innocence, about the quarrels of ill-matched newly-weds:
Chiara had no gift for quarrelling at all and could scarcely understand how it was done, nor, really, had Salvatore, since his argument was with himself, and he was therefore bound to lose … Each battle, as it closed, was recorded in their memories, as in an elementary history book. In these books you usually get three or four causes of hostilities given, and afterwards three or four results, which have to be learned by heart.
The clear, solid sense of the answers I’ve heard myself give interviewers makes me long to believe them, but absolutely sure they’re incomplete at best, certainly misleading, and in all likelihood totally false. I didn’t make and then follow a plan. I rewrote the last draft much as I wrote the first. The word-by-word process was tentative in almost every way, contradictory and confused in its intentions, muddled and inconsistent in its means and procedures, and generally disingenuous in its expectations of the reader. If that sounds amateurish, it is and was, but deliberately and persistently so; because I’ve found that the best stuff magically materializes when you’re flailing around, distracted by your own sense of limitation and failure. That’s the zone you want to work in, devoid of any impression of coherence, confidence, or perspective.
In contrast, other writers often seem suspiciously clear-minded regarding their writing process. They make it sound like a holiday taken to an exotic location, involving first research and deliberate planning, then relentlessly perceptive note-taking along the way, and afterwards studious collation and correction of first-hand impressions, done with a particular audience in mind. It’s an engaging metaphor and an admirable method, both of which I’m envious of, but can’t imagine ever adopting. My alternative: writing as the invention of rules for a new game - rules which, like the white lines on a pitch, facilitate by means of restriction rather than restrict per se. Some of the rules of the new game (i.e. The Surfacing) I invented were:
Those restrictions were an integral part of the process of composition, which I’m now rationalising in retrospect. They’re part of a facilitating strategy, which points as much to a desire for disguise as for self-revelation. The importance of that inclination shouldn’t be underestimated, I think. Because even if it might seem wilfully perverse both to plead ignorance and appeal for silence, those seem to me the writer’s natural habitats, more than whatever platform (interview, profile, blog…) now serves for a podium. Little matter if that sounds too sly to be true. Beyond quibbles regarding prurience, simplification or misrepresentation, refusal to elaborate can also serve as a reassuring refuge. And that’s how it should be. A book can very well be your final word on your chosen topic, not a call for further query. For instance, in my own case I recognise that the writing of The Surfacing had something to do with:
- my own personal reserve, which no doubt feeds
- a fascination with a certain self-mythologizing mode of masculinity, what it conceals, facilitates, and pretends to ignore
- notions of paternity (the book was written while my wife was pregnant, then during the first years of my son’s life)
But do I want to discuss these facts or concerns with a stranger? No. Do I want to elaborate on them publicly, in a non-fictional form? No. Do I respect the reading public’s ‘right’ to curiosity and to inquire about them? If I do (actually I don’t), I give far greater weight to any writer’s inclination towards silence (surly or not), disingenuousness, even outright obfuscation and obstructionism. To my mind, a writer ought to be allowed freely to indulge the (perhaps deluded) fantasy of themselves as some kind of truth-teller or world-painter, however subjectively skewed. And all fantasy needs room to breathe, not repeated calls to order or explanation. So let us invent our stilted little worlds, then leave them lying around for you to find and pick up and bring home, and make of what you will. Asking for more, you not only risk having your reading done for you in advance; you also risk making the writing a mere prequel to public self-presentation as a form of self-promotion.
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Hard Freeze and Hard as Nails by Dan Simmons will be published on April 28, 2015 and August 25, 2015 by Mulholland Books.
Reason to Kill...
Joe Kurtz, former investigator and convicted felon, is on parole. But his years in Attica for snuffing the mob killers of his beautiful partner didn't make his old haunts any safer. Back on the streets, he's already marked by a local Mafia don with unfinished business.
A Reason to Live...
If watching his back wasn't enough, Kurtz has been hired by gravely ill John Frears whose daughter met a grisly fate at the hands of a child-murderer. Frears wants one thing before he dies: for Kurtz to find the fiend that the authorities couldn't. But the calculating killer-a master at changing identities-has a little unfinished business of his own.
A Reason to Die...
Dodging a contract on his head, and tracking a serial killer on the loose, Kurtz is plunging headfirst into the icy waters of revenge-as both victim and private avenger. It's going to be a tough winter in Buffalo for Joe Kurtz-cold enough to freeze the blood.
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