Review of Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
This fun, darkly funny, feminist story about a retiring female team of elite assassins was the right book at the right time for me: entertainment in the perfect combination of action and suspense, loyal friendship, clever plotting, and the promise of love.
“Forty years ago, Constance Halliday set us on this road and created her squad of Sphinxes. It hasn’t been exactly what any of us expected. But we have done our best, and we will make her proud. She challenged us to make justice our priority, and tomorrow, justice will be done.”
The Museum is an organization that operates outside of governmental control, relying on various trained elite killing forces. Originally formed in order to hunt down and rid the world of lingering Nazis, the Museum's mission has evolved to focus on taking out carefully chosen bad guys of all stripes--drug dealers, human traffickers, arms dealers, and the like.
After four decades of successfully ridding the world of cruelty and destruction one person at a time, the Sphinxes (Billie, Natalie, Helen, and Mary Alice) are set to retire. They're not sure what they'll do with themselves once the work that has shaped them into who they are--both separately and together--is over, but they're getting used to the idea of collecting their pensions and figuring out the rest.
But when the four friends are sent on an all-expenses-paid vacation to mark their retirement, a Museum associate attempts to do them in. The women realize they may know too much about where the bodies are buried--literally--to be allowed to drift away into the world without a fight.
Pulling together as a team once more, they realize they've been set up--someone has convinced the higher-ups that the women have been taking lucrative hit jobs on the side and thereby betraying the Museum and its founding principles.
The cardinal rule of the Museum was that freelancing was strictly forbidden. It’s one of the things that separated us from hired guns. We killed to order only, targets that had been scrupulously vetted and chosen because their deaths would benefit humanity as a whole.
It's kill or be killed, and the seasoned women have to use their years of niche expertise, optimistic resilience, laser focus, and broad experience to escape the hits out on each of them.
In Killers of a Certain Age, Raybourn has crafted an irresistibly fun, clever, feminist caper that had me hooked the whole way through. I loved the women's complicated bonds, their crafty planning, their fights for justice, and their ability to remain flexible and reinvent themselves.
I love a spy/assassin book and a book that treats dark subjects playfully without being silly, and I loved this combination in Killers of a Certain Age.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
I loved Raybourn's A Curious Beginning, the first in her Veronica Speedwell series, which I can't wait to continue reading. The fantastic blend of feminist sass and clever problem-solving is as evident in this book as it is in Killers of a Certain Age.
While this book is a standout for me, you might also enjoy a different book about aging women taking back their power, The Change, or other campy books about unlikely killers like Finlay Donovan Is Killing It and Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead.