The Redemption Of Charm is one knockout of a thriller and a most satisfying conclusion to the Killing Sisters trilogy. In it, all the intrigue, betrayals, and double-crosses that commenced in A Last Act Of Charity are peeled away through JJ’s relentless search for answers to the questions haunting him since he discovered he was betrayed by the people closest to him and set up for a contract killing.
All the characters are here in Frank Westworth’s unique portraiture: The Hard Man, Shard, Bili, Stretch, Menace and Mallis, Blesses — most especially two of the murderous sisters three, those contract killers, Charity, Chastity, and Charm. You’d have to go back to The Iliad to find more devious, sexualized, or dangerous women / goddesses in literature. Names and identities, loyalties and pasts, the whole spider web of relationships—everything is expertly untangled over the course of 30 chapters.
You can get lulled by Jean-Jacques Stoner’s witty repartee with friends, lovers, and enemies, but you’ll never get entirely comfortable with him. He’s a paid assassin, a blues musician, a raconteur and rogue, but not a soulless killer. JJ’s philosophy of murder-for-hire, for self-preservation makes him someone you rarely meet in the genre. He can’t be pigeonholed. The author will not provide a moral out, such as is often the case whenever a good guy pumps ‘the lead gift’ into a villain’s head or chest. No tidy but phony rationale here.
Rather than litter this critique with spoiler alerts, I’ll mention just two: a knife-blade sexual experience with Chastity and a sexual encounter followed by a killing midway through that occurs so unexpectedly you feel after reading as if you’ve just stepped on a water moccasin.
As he does in every novel, this author can spin digressive yarns, regale with knowledge about techniques of closed-circle fighting, guitars, control in jazz, or choosing the right motorcycle—all in the midst of brilliantly descriptive action. He enthrals with the unpredictable without losing narrative control, a difficult feat for any writer. I liken Mr. Westworth’s style to riding the Slingshot at Cedar Point; you go from zero to 70mph in three seconds, straight up into the air and then swung from side to side in heart-thumping jolts. Riders are known to faint and find themselves on a YouTube channel, thanks to the ride’s attached cameras aimed at their faces.
For American readers, there’s the bonus of having JJ wandering about in America, ‘the land of drone strikes and random mall murders.’
Although the trilogy itself culminates, the ending also leaves little doubt the cast of survivors, including the unkillable JJ, will be back in action—and soon, one hopes. If you’re a reader of action yarns and like, say, vintage Bond or Robert Ludlum derring-do, it’s time to grow up and discover Frank Westworth.