Unlike most sequels, ‘The Corruption Of Chastity’ doesn’t disappoint. The energy and zaniness which made ‘A Last Act of Charity’ a thrill to read enter a new dimension with ‘Chastity’. Story-wise, the characters I very much enjoyed in the first book continue to surprise you as author Frank Westworth gives them additional psychological substance and emotional development. The rollercoaster experience I felt with the first book’s momentum intensifies with ‘Chastity’, all the way to a captivating finale, yet remains well-punctuated with welcome breathers. And stylistically, the book’s certainly got something cool going on…
‘She pulled the body, still warm and willing, to the floor of the nave, carefully slid the long blade between two of the exposed neck vertebrae and sliced. The bones parted. One more slice and the head fell free. Black skin and wide white eyes staring at the religious painting on the ceiling.
‘Chastity glanced up. ‘Can you still see? That’s some bad old white man’s God on his big white cloud, welcoming the sinners to their hereafter. But there is no hereafter, is there buddy? None. Just one big fat silent nothing. Hope you enjoy it.’
‘She stood. Stretched. Placed the handgun beside her clothes and walked, naked apart from the long knife, to the church door. Opened it. stepped outside, crossed the small car park, the small road, and ran lightly down the clean beach to the calm waters of the big lake. Waded in. squatted down and relieved herself luxuriously…’
As this segment shows, Westworth’s writing comes in outbursts of tough, streamlined elegance. Oftentimes it is often paired with sharp and punchy dialogue, which is astutely delivered and ultimately pushes the plot forward, maybe more so than the action scenes.
Plot-wise it is also interesting to see how the cool and determined master blues guitarist / contract killer JJ Stoner is no longer the main driver of the story, as is the case in the previous opus. What may be perceived as a lurid and gritty man’s world is increasingly overtaken by the female characters, all of whom have important roles in Stoner’s life. Be it, Chastity, Charity, Bili the bassist, or Jenny, a cruise ship love interest… they are fleshed out and constantly surround Stoner. And dangling like a Sword of Damocles, the mood of uncertainty which prevails in the book is upheld by these strange femme fatales with hidden agendas; and it’s fun trying to decipher their intentions while being under the influence of their sexual power and enchantment.
In ‘Chastity’, Westworth pushes the boundaries of classic noir further by making once familiar characters more elusive and mysterious. He also successfully weaves in elements of the spy novel: the alpine forests, the boat cruises, and the stints in exotic, luxurious hotels – all are rather reminiscent of what you’d expect from a Bond movie. And the book’s solitary sniper / assassin sequences have nothing to envy from the genre. Yet despite the influences, Westworth preserves his own, unique voice. Add in the weird sex and the not-so-distant vibe of blues music in the background, and you have a sincere attempt at creating something new: something which I’ve never really come across before, something Westworth has mastered; something I dare name ‘nasty noir’.
However, at times I found ‘Chastity’ hard to digest. Occasionally the conversations go on a wee bit too long and thus feel contrived. And I couldn’t help myself from smiling at all the wisecracks which are arguably too numerous for a regular human being to spurt out if his/her intention is to make him/herself understood. There is a delicate balancing act to maintain in order to keep the reader both focused and entertained, and at times I felt Westworth went a bit too far. I had to re-read segments to make sure which character was speaking; and by doing so I interrupted the flow of my reading, which possibly made me miss out on some of the finer subtleties. But maybe that’s me being finicky?
Having said that, the long chunks of dialogue are just a minor blip in what is a second great chapter of the Killing Sisters saga. Looking forward to the third and final book.