Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words
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In this section, I usually paraphrase the official author bio in my own words, sometimes adding things from other sources. However, Lauryn Christopher’s bio is too good not to steal fully intact. I think it gives insight into her approach as an author that my summarization or paraphrasing would lose. (Yes, she has written other books and you can find out about them from her website or the website of her small publisher, Camden Park Press.)
I grew up reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, and looking for clues in the ordinary behavior of my friends and family. Then I graduated to the Alfred Hitchcock school of mysteries, where innocent people were often caught up in situations that were beyond their worst imaginings. That led to police procedurals, and whodunits and a whole slew of other figure-it-out reading.
Much as I loved solving the mysteries, I often wondered about the shadowy characters who perpetrated the crimes. The people who had gone over to the “dark side.” So I decided that while I’ll often write stories from the point of view of the problem-solvers, I’d write some from the criminal’s point of view as well — they’re not always who (or what) you might expect. I hope you enjoy exploring what makes these characters tick as much as I have.
Corporate spy and hit-woman Meg Harrison has a smoothly operating business. Then not only does a new client piss her off, but she discovers he’s hired her to kill her sister. A sister she didn’t even realize she had.
Corporate spies, assassins and hit-men (or women) are such staples of certain fictional genres that readers are accustomed to the premise and suspension of disbelief is easy, regardless of how prevalent we believe they are (or aren’t) in the real world. Once we buy into the initial premise, the stories fall into a few basic formulas. How well the author executes the formula while making it feel unique is what sets one book apart from the others and determines the best reads.
Conflict of Interest has a couple things that made the story unique. First is the protagonist, Meg Harrison. The stereotypical hit-person is a lone-wolf man. He’ll be amoral (almost a requirement for the job), or a psychopath as well as cold and unemotional. He’ll often live off-the-grid or, if not, have a cover completely separate from his life as a assassin, with frequent “business trips” as an explanation for his disappearances to perform his contract killings.
Meg’s situation couldn’t be more different from the stereotype. Not only are there the obvious differences we’d expect because of gender, but her approach itself is much different. She operates as a business, with legitimate (although not totally unrelated) legal activities filling the time between her more clandestine jobs. This has many advantages with easy laundering of the money from her illegal activities one of the biggest.
Although largely unemotional about what she does, we find Meg doesn’t fit the norm, as she discovers the identity of her latest victim-to-be. As a reader we’re setup to want Meg’s assignment to be successful, with the story conflict turning out to be just how she should define success this time around. With Conflict of Interest, Christopher turns the hit-man formula on its head, and in doing so gives us a surprising and entertaining read.
No significant issues.
Rating: **** Four stars