Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

By  0 Comments

Deanna Raybourn has crafted a modern thriller featuring four older women who struggle with relationships, menopause and the fact that their previous employer is trying to kill them in her newest novel, Killers of a Certain Age.

As career assassins, the threat to their lives is nothing new, though. Billie, Mary Alice, Natalie and Helen have spent the last 40 years of their lives dedicated to the Museum, the elite organization of assassins. Now in their 60s, they are rightfully celebrating their retirement. Their employer has graciously treated them to a retirement river cruise to thank them for their years of service and to give their own assassin an ideal opportunity to eliminate the four women once and for all. The retirees uncover the assassination plot just in time, and the women manage to escape from the boat with their lives, though a little worse for wear. They realize that the Museum won’t stop until they are dead, and so they’re forced out of retirement for one last job.

As the tale unfolds, the story vacillates between their present-day turmoil and the time when the women were just meeting. Under the tutelage of Constance Halliday, four women were recruited to create the first all-female group the organization referred to only as the Museum. Since its inception in the wake of World War II, the Museum has existed solely to remove those whom traditional governments are unable to touch. Initially, the targets were almost exclusively Nazis who managed to evade capture or death at the close of the war. As the number of remaining Nazis dwindled, the Museum branched out and continued to pursue the drug lords, sex traffickers and dictators who needed to be eliminated quickly and quietly.

Now, for reasons unknown to the women, the Museum has targeted them. The foursome must band together to discover who put the hit on their heads while managing to stay alive themselves. Though they have extensive training and experience, they are not as young as they used to be. Their reflexes have slowed, and they can’t bounce back from confrontations as quickly as they used to. They discover, though, that their age is a tremendous asset. Since the world is full of young, technology-dependent professionals, the retirees can use the world’s underestimation of older women to their immense advantage.

Killers of a Certain Age is Raybourn’s first contemporary novel. She is best known for her Veronica Speedwell series that is set in Victorian England and features a strong-willed butterfly hunter turned amateur sleuth. This series followed the Lady Julia Grey series about a mystery-solving woman in the Victorian era. Raybourn’s decision to set her newest novel in the present was risky, but the risk has paid off. In her modern thriller, Raybourn has brought her skill of crafting a strong female lead who solves a mystery that has fallen on her lap. In Killers of a Certain Age, though, Raybourn modernizes in more ways than just the setting.

Billie stars as the novel’s main character, with the present-day story told in first person through her eyes. Instead of the classic male counterpart as in her Victorian era novels, Billie is flanked by three women who have lived and fought alongside her for most of her life. Each woman has her own idiosyncrasies and motivations, but the bond they share is stronger than any differences in personality. The quartet juggles constant relocation, looking over their shoulders and discovering the masterminds behind the plot to kill them, all while keeping a sense of humor and indelible love for each other.

Raybourn weaves humor throughout the entire tale. The characters keep their moods light with sometimes-risqué jokes and crude comments. This fun and compelling read checks all the boxes for an entertaining read: loveable characters, dynamic action and just a touch of vulgarity. While the violence is not overly gory, the killers are assassins after all, and some heads had to roll.

In order to contain the action and backstory of all the characters, Raybourn wasn’t able to build out all the details of some of the relationships. She sacrificed depth of characters in order to propel the story along, but some readers may find themselves wishing for more from some of the relationships. Most of the characters, including Billie, through whose eyes we see most of the book, seemed to remain stagnant throughout the entire book. The women ended the novel in a state close to how they began.

For a novel about older women who kick butt and can take care of themselves, it has everything you could ask for. Raybourn reminds readers that women are capable and strong, and that sometimes being underestimated is the greatest asset you can have.