Frank Westworth’s ‘Killing Sisters’ and JJ Stoner stories aren’t books for kiddies or the over-sensitive. Equally, they aren’t crude, bloodthirsty, gratuitous modern versions of the penny dreadfuls of the distant past, or the pulp novels that came later. These are intelligently written plots, whether as short stories or these full length novels, written in a prose that is both eruditely different and entertaining. There’s a cleverness to the writing that allows it to still be enjoyed by readers who might miss some of the subtler nuances, yet rewarding the more intellectual reader with a deeper entertainment. A nice trick if you can do it. Well done Mr Westworth.
The prose in ‘The Corruption Of Chastity’ is slightly more fluid than in the first ‘Killing Sisters’ book, making this one a lot more accessible to someone picking it up without having read the first. It’s written in a manner that makes it work fine as a standalone, even if you’ve never read any of the Stoner books. This is not a criticism of the earlier novel, ‘A Last Act Of Charity.’ That one only takes a couple of pages to get into the unique rhythm of Westworth’s writing style, and by then you’re either hooked, or you’ve decided that these books are not for you… not because of the prose style, but because of their no-holds-barred nature.
Unlike ‘Charity’, which would suit post-watershed grown-up TV audiences – easily satisfying fans of Nordic drama and the darker cop shows like Luther – the linear nature of this plot in ‘Chastity’ would make an excellent adventure movie. The action moves seamlessly back and forth between the Middle East, the UK, the luxury of a cruise ship, and a nice, comfortable, civilised, modern Germany.
In the manner that will be familiar to seasoned Stoner fans, especially where the sisters are involved, lives are taken right from the start, and they’re not always the bad guys’ lives. Soon the whole concept of good guys and bad goes out of the window when it’s the assumed good guys who are the ruthless killers.
Not that the characters spend all their time killing. Other physical matters need dealing with too, and though the sex scenes are fairly graphic (explicit might be better, but you get what I mean), they have a beauty about the way they’re written that lifts them well clear of just being ‘the dirty bits’. Instead they tell you more about the characters’ psychological make up than several chapters of Freudian analysis ever could.
Due to workloads (I’m a crime novel writer myself, as well as a book editor) it took a while to fit in the reading time required for this fairly long novel, but boy was it worth it.
In all, another brilliant book from Frank Westworth’s somewhat worrying imagination. I hope that the final part of the Killing Sisters trilogy won’t be last we’ll see of JJ Stoner (or Charity, Chastity and Charm – the sisters). The genre of powerful thriller writing would be much the poorer for their loss.
Reviewed by Chris Graham
Chris Graham is the author of the ‘Lena’s Friends’ series of mysteries, in which ‘ladies of the night’ become embroiled in all manner of intriguing investigations…
‘The Corruption Of Chastity’ by Frank Westworth is available as an ebook or paperback