Philip Kerr
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
Written by the creator of one of the finest anti heroes, Bernie Gunther, this book is a departure from Kerr’s normal stomping grounds. I will refrain from delving into the book to illustrate what points I have, as to do so might ruin other readers’ enjoyment, so for once this will be a blessedly brief review!

“The Shot” is a thriller based in 1960 America and Cuba, against the backdrop of the impending succession of Kennedy to the White House, with a supporting cast of Mafia, various flavours of Feds, Cuban devotees of both Batista and Castro, and the occasional Russian spy. Central for much of the story is an American assassin and his wife, and the plot weaves all of these characters (some real, others fictional) into a preposterously believable tale of skulduggery, lost innocence and the stench of corruption.

For fans of Kerr, be prepared for some disappointments, but stick with it – the story is worth the effort. Chief amongst the disappointments is the absence of Gunther. This is a far more grimly populated book than anything involving Bernie; none of the characters are as attractive, the central protagonists do not have much in the way of redeeming charm. There is little humour in this story, and the Mickey Spillane style dialogue and wit I’ve come to love is sadly absent. This book reads like a first or second draft: it’s in need of a good editor to stiffen up the plot lines and cut out some of the extraneous description. In places there are what feel like missing explanations, and some characters need a little more polish and filling out to truly come alive. I suspect that this was the last draft before the Author died in 2018, and understandably no more has been done to improve it.

But for all the negativity, this is still and excellent high paced thriller which carries the reader along from a slow start to a rocketing finale, and certainly in my case utterly clueless up until the grand reveal in the final chapters. The description of the planning and reconnaissance work for several assassinations is superlative, easily surpassing Forsyth in Day Of The Jackal, and in my opinion far more practical. Even the few less believable parts of the plot are slotted into the story like cogs in a Swiss watch.

A stonking read, and if it’s not quite up to the standard of Kerr’s best work, I for one can forgive him.

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