Mysteries with elderly protagonists are all the rage lately, whether the seniors in question are solving crimes or committing them. So you’d be forgiven for assuming that Deanna Raybourn’s latest, Killers of a Certain Age, was merely chasing a trend, but you’d be wrong – and that’s the whole point.
Killers of a Certain Age follows four friends – Billie, Helen, Mary Alice, and Natalie – who work as assassins for a shadowy organization known as The Museum. On the verge of retirement, they discover the Museum isn’t satisfied with retirement. They want to terminate the women. Permanently.
But Billie and her friends aren’t about to go down without a fight. Instead, they draw on their years of experience to take the fight to the Museum. The result is a comedic, action-packed, globe-trotting adventure that delights in smashing our assumptions about women and aging.
Assassins, by definition, don’t want to be noticed, which is why these women are so good at their work. Even as young women, their targets deemed them harmless. As they’ve aged, they’ve become even more invisible, making them increasingly deadly. But like society, the Museum conflates invisibility with infirmity – to its detriment.
It’s easy to understand the comparisons between Killers of A Certain Age and The Thursday Murder Club, but in fact, the Killers are nearly two decades younger than the Thursday pensioners. While Billie’s team feels every bruise and bullet wound, they’re still more than capable of holding their own in a fight. In fact, it’s the hard-won combination of resourcefulness, experience, and teamwork honed over decades that is their greatest weapon.
Both the characters and the author play with expectations, particularly the notion that women of a certain age are only one thing: old. These women are complicated. They have relationships, strengths and weaknesses, regrets and hopes for the future. It’s fascinating to watch the four of them navigate the end of their careers. They’re fighting not only for their survival, but to carve out a new path on their own terms, all while managing grief, family obligations, and mansplaining. Similarly, Deanna Raybourn draws in readers knowing they expect another cozy senior mystery, and then subverts those expectations thoughtfully and thrillingly.
If you’re a fan of The Thursday Murder Club or Finlay Donovan is Killing It, or any mystery that delivers thrills, friendship, and laughs in equal measure, Killers of a Certain Age is a natural fit for your next read.
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