The quartet of Billie, Helen, Natalie, and Mary Alice were supposed to kick off their retirement after decades of service to the Museum with a luxury cruise and a very large pension but, as Deanna Raybourn’s very satisfying thriller, Killers of a Certain Age kicks off, they learn that another operative has been sent to kill them off before they can enjoy the rewards of their hard work. Through flashbacks to different points in Billie’s career as an assassin, we learn more about what the Museum is and also how very, very deadly Billie and her team are. This book was a complete delight to read.
Once Billie et al. learn that someone at the Museum is after them, they spring into action—in spite of their aches and pains and their bewilderment that the organization they’ve worked for for such a long time has suddenly turned on them. Instead of enjoying the spa and luxury foods and, for Natalie, flirting with handsome staff members, the hunt down the operative, kill him, and discover that the operative has a bomb scheduled to blow the entire ship to smithereens. The action doesn’t slow down there. The plot races along as Billie and her crew work out the conspiracy against them, dispatch the agents sent to kill them, and plan their own revenge. Seriously, this book just doesn’t quite.
In addition to the excellent (I’m trying hard not to say killer here, but what the hell) present-day plot, Raybourn peppers the narrative with flashback chapters that take us back to the late 1970s, to Billie’s recruitment, and the 1980s, to see the quartet in action. The Museum we (and a young Billie) learn assembled in the wake of World War II out of members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Special Operations Executive (SOE), and other organizations in order to assassinate Nazis who escaped justice. The mission rolled into a new one, by the time Billie came around, to execute lethal justice to drug cartel leaders, international criminals, and other people they decided the world was better off without. We also learn that when an organization has the resources and will to be judge, jury, and executioner for a whole planet, it’s really hard to stay strictly ethical.
Killers of a Certain Age is one of the best, most original, and most entertaining thrillers I’ve ever read. I can’t praise it highly enough.