Author of the Month

Name: Peter Swanson

First Novel: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart

Most Recent Book: The Kind Worth Killing

'...a fantastic read, superbly written and definitely not to be missed.'

On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start - he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit - a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.

But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, ‘I’d like to help’. After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse.

Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda's demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her precocious youth.

Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

Often an author will write an explosive debut novel, and their subsequent book disappoint slightly. However, I found Swanson's ‘The Girl With A Clock for Her Heart’ enjoyable, but didn’t get me too excited. On the other hand, Swanson has now delivered ‘The Kind Worth Killing’ which for me, felt an even better and more accomplished novel. I really could not put this book down until I had turned that final page.

The book is written from the perspectives of different characters. I loved the fact that the people involved changed throughout the book as their perspective on what is going on around them changed. This book had similar tones to those books written by one of my favourite novelists, Jason Starr. Both have characters that were pretty awful and hard to like (although this is deliberate). Even those characters that didn’t have starring roles in the story were deeply flawed. Yet it didn’t stop me liking one of the characters despite them being a killer and not someone I would want to get on the wrong side of!

The blurb on the cover refers to Highsmith’s famous novel, ‘Strangers on a Train’ and the premise is very similar. Man in a disastrous marriage, meets someone in a random location, makes a chance remark about killing off the spouse and the ball starts rolling from there. How many of us have said we could gladly kill our other half when they have annoyed us? It doesn’t mean we want them permanently removed from our life. It is just an expression of anger. Swanson, like Highsmith, takes this off-the-cuff remark and shows that sometimes, the unexpected can happen, and when it does, like many things in life, not everything goes to plan. And that’s when the story gets really interesting.

The plot was very well set out, and just as I thought I knew what was happening I was thrown a curveball and the whole plot changed. And again, just as I was lulled into a false sense of security, (i.e. feeling smug that I knew what was coming next), the plot would suddenly veer off-centre again. Swanson certainly kept me on my toes and delivered masterful twists and turns with the assured hand of someone who has many books under his belt, not just two!

If you are looking for a happy ever after with all ends neatly tied off, then this isn't the book for you, but I don’t feel it will cause any disappointment for any reader venturing in to this story. ‘The Kind Worth Killing’ is a fantastic read, superbly written and definitely not to be missed.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) I felt the writing had significantly changed from your debut to this second book. Do you feel as an author you made any changes or improvements to the way you write?
I think that with ‘The Girl with a Clock for a Heart’, I was very focused on plot, on trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air, and that with ‘The Kind Worth Killing’, I also thought about plot, but tried to flesh out the characters more. Of course, it helped that I was writing first person narration in TKWK, and that probably changed my writing style, as well.
2) This is definitely a book about revenge, how justified do you feel Lily's actions were? Did you agree with what she did?
Let’s just say that I agree with some of what she does, especially since she has a code of sorts. It’s in the title: some people in the world are the kind worth killing. However, by the end of the book, I do believe she is no longer acting in accordance with her own rules.
3) Was the plot fully formed before you started writing or did you work around ideas, as a work in progress?
I kind of made this one up as I went along, although I always had an idea (or two) about the direction this was going. When I began this book, it was just a premise - man and woman meet on a plane and hatch a murder.
4) Despite loving your novel, did you intentionally set out to make all the characters here so impossible to like? How did they develop into such honestly vile people and did you enjoy bringing the beast within each to the fore?
I didn’t set out to make them particularly vile. What I guess I was trying to do was make the characters match their actions, and since most of their actions involved the act (or the idea) of murder, they turned out be less than likable.
5) ‘The Kind Worth Killing’ has been described as a cross between Highsmith’s ‘Strangers on a Train’ and Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’. What do you think it is about Flynn’s novel that has sparked this resurging fascination for showing the darker side of relationships within the home?
I think that domestic noir, for lack of a better word, has always been around and always been popular. Patricia Highsmith wrote a lesser known book called ‘Deep Water’, a chilling look at a terrible marriage that becomes murderous. It’s really excellent, and it gets to the heart of what makes these stories fascinating: it is a kind of voyeurism, wanting to know what’s going on behind the stylish doors of our neighbours.
6) You live in Massachusetts and both your novels have been based in Boston. Do you prefer to place your novels somewhere you know well?
It’s easier that way, of course, since I know the area well. I also just think that New England is a great locale for thrillers. It’s got old cemeteries, narrow streets, and unpredictable weather.
7) Where to next? Will you keep with stand-alone thrillers or will you venture into series? Do you think a series of books is something an author looks at wanting to do, or do they fall into it once they have a character that lends themselves to this?
I would love to do a series, but I don’t really have a character yet. So that answers your second question: I think a great character has to emerge. Right now, I’m working on another standalone. It’s mostly set in Boston, but a large chunk is set in London.
8) What does your family think about you writing such dark books?
I think they know that I lead a very dull life, that the only thing dark or exciting about me happens in my imagination. Still, every once in a while, a friend or family member will wonder out loud to me how exactly I make this stuff up!
9) For writers who are just starting out on their ‘novel journey’, what one piece of advice would you give?
The same advice most authors offer, I think. Just keep writing. Every day until you finish whatever it is that you’re working on. I think it’s important to get to the end, and then go back and smooth out the wrinkles. Editing and re-writing are important, but the writing has to come first.
10) Are you a fan of crime fiction in general? What would you say are the top three crime novels that have made a lasting impression on you?
I pretty much read only crime fiction. I’m very suspicious of books that don’t have murders in them. My top three are ‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie, (the best book by the best plotter in crime fiction ever), ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ by Ira Levin, and ‘A Flash of Green’ by John D. MacDonald.