That’s how women describe Michael Woodrow. He’s an irresistibly handsome corporate hatchet man, trimming costs by axing employees. He also likes to kill women.
That’s how he balances his professional and homicidal lives until he falls in love with his next-door neighbor… and his father is released from prison after serving 18 years for murdering Michael’s mother.
That’s a standard that becomes increasingly difficult for Michael to sustain when a sleazy, but sharp Florida PI closes in.
That’s the perfect word to describe this masterpiece of suspense from Tom Kakonis, author of Treasure Coast and Blind Spot.
“An intense, suspenseful thriller…tough to put down,” Lansing State Journal
“Gripping, exciting, a finely-crafted thriller,” Grand Rapids Press
“Some of the best thriller writing you are likely to find,” Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Suspenseful, clever, shocking!” San Antonio Express
“Chock-full of all the thriller ingredients. The horror of it will leave even the most seasoned reader gasping,” Booklist
A People Magazine “Nail-Biter of the Week.”
Flawless was a re-read for me having read it back in the 90’s or early 2000’s latest. It was originally published under the pseudonym of Adam Barrow because of some difficulties Tom Kakonis was experiencing with his publishers at the time. Kakonis is one of my favourite authors and has been recently brought back into the light by Brash Books who have published his latest offering Treasure Coast and are in the process of re-issuing his back catalogue. Happy days ahead!
As I was reading plot elements came back to me and overall it was an enjoyable outing and a
worthwhile trip down memory lane. The ending is still wrenching and a shocker, though it does take a while to get there. If I have a criticism it would be that at times this rambles a wee bit as we re-live Norman’s past and the events that lead-up to the killing of his wife and Michael’s mother. Michael is his son and our current day murderer at large, who combines the day job of axing people at work with a more literal head-hunting afterwards. Norman’s past is dictated to us by means of a journal he is writing in Michael’s basement.
Michael and Norman have an awkward relationship which is somewhat unsurprising. Norman having being incarcerated for nearly 20 years for killing his wife, comes to live with Michael upon his release. Michael we sense immediately is strange – notwithstanding his penchant for killing. Having been raised by a difficult aunt - Grace in a less than healthy environment...there was very little Grace approved of. Outside of her Bible walloping, of course. If she ever made it to heaven, I’m sure she’s pecking away at God right now.
He’s almost robotic. He’s lacking in emotion, empathy or compassion and can’t relate to anyone. He does enough to manage the day-to-day interactions that pass for normal relationships with outsiders, but he’s a fairly blank canvas.
Into their lives appears the instantly likeable and lovely Lizabeth, a new neighbour who quickly strikes up a friendship with Norman which develops during Michael’s work absences. When Michael and Lizabeth are introduced and an attraction develops, we have for a time the hope that normality may prevail as Lizabeth’s influence and effect on Michael seems to offer a chance of a regular life with an emotional attachment and an end to his killing ways.
The appearance of an investigator, Victor Flam hired by the wealthy family of one of Michael’s previous victims into the mix threatens the uneasy equilibrium that is settling over our Woodrow men. Flam is shrewd and capable and within a short period of time develops a workable prognosis that could link Michael’s team of consultants to the death of his victim. Having eliminated some of Michael’s colleagues from his enquiries, he’s intrigued by the fact his possible suspect has a father who has served prison time and in the lack of anything else better to do, pays a visit to Norman to do some cage rattling background to see what shakes loose.
Like Flam, Norman was, that same moment, attending to an interior voice counselling him to remain calm, still, to draw in long slow breaths, the way you learned to do in the hole, let the whistle of the breathing and the steady rise and fall of the chest persuade you of your existence. It wasn’t easy. Even down here, returned to his desk the air was thin. A man like Flam takes all of it with him when he leaves.
Norman is somewhat troubled and over the following weeks considers his son - his emotional detachment and his behaviour and as he continues to revisit his past and their shared history wonders whether he is the carrier of some murdering gene which has been passed on through the blood to Michael. Flam like a dog with a bone is nothing if not persistent.
Interesting characters, especially Norman and Flam. Lizabeth Seaver had my sympathies. It was hard to warm to Michael and indeed I didn’t. The climax is a shocker. Hand on heart – not my favourite Tom Kakonis book, but a worthwhile and enjoyable re-read.
4 from 5
Many thanks to Brash Books for a fresh copy. I did still refer to my old Adam Barrow copy located in the stacks also.
The recently read Treasure Coast's review is here.