Kill for Me, Kill for You: A Novel

Image of Kill for Me, Kill for You: A Novel
Release Date: 
March 19, 2024
Atria Books
Reviewed by: 

“engrossing . . .”

“We exchange murders, criss cross.” That’s how psychopath Bruno Antony (Robert Walker) explains it to tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) during the rail trip to hell that gets things moving in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 Strangers on a Train.

Both men have someone they want dead, but they’d be the first stop for the cops if a body turns up. Therefore, they can take care of each other’s problem, while building foolproof alibis. Haines is just talking, but Antony is deadly serious, and goes ahead with his end of the plan.

Steve Cavanagh is an Irish writer but sets Kill for Me, Kill for You in New York, with no obvious cultural faux pas. Amanda’s daughter is murdered by a rich deviant, and her distraught husband subsequently commits suicide. The pervert’s money gets him off, and Amanda becomes obsessed with vigilante justice. But her half-baked plan fails. And then in a support group she meets Wendy, who also has a dead daughter and a scot-free assailant. Amanda has seen Strangers on a Train, and so makes the obvious solution.

If Cavanagh had merely photocopied the movie plot the book would be pretty predictable, but he adds quite a few twists and turns—outdoing Hitchcock himself, who was famous for shocking about-faces.

Is Kill for Me, Kill for You great literature? Hell no. It’s a thriller you’re not going to file next to Tolstoy and Faulkner. It should be read as a dog-eared beach book taken off the rack at a Caribbean resort. Sand should fall out of the suntan oil-stained pages as you read it.

But plenty of thrillers get put down with the bookmark at the halfway point. Not this one. It’s relentlessly readable and propulsive, like the best of Lee Child and Michael Connelly. And it has Farrow and Hernandez, halfway believable New York cops.

Cavanagh’s effective structure has chapters told from each character’s point of view. At first, it’s not clear how Ruth, a woman assaulted by a knife-wielding maniac (leaving her afraid to leave her hotel room), connects to Amanda and Wendy, but c’mon, the author knows what he’s doing.

The story requires some suspension of disbelief, given the amazing coincidences and chance encounters that drive the plot forward, but that’s standard in thrillers. Ruth’s character alone takes more sharp curves than a Le Mans racer.

The ending is distinctly out there, with another big turnabout, and a not wholly satisfying outcome. But who cares, really? There are plenty of other books on that rack, though probably not as engrossing as this one.