Graeme Shimmin – A Kill In The Morning

My 300th review is also a somewhat special one as the novel involved is an alternate history, a genre that I don’t read that much. The main reason for that is basically the so-called butterfly effect. From the turning point on the change will have growing side-effects the more time passes and often the author starts adding familiar stuff he likes although the plausibility is rather uncertain or the author simplifies thing in such a way that the complexity of history is pretty much ignored. These are things that annoy me so I am very picky towards such novels. Those novels that I have picked up with some alternate setting simply avoided trying to set up an alternative history. It is simply a different universe. Essentially I only want to pick up an alternative history novel if it is done well.

This particular novel I picked up after reading a review on another site. Usually I am not easily convinced to pick up a book there as I’ve found my taste to differe considerably from the reviewers there. In this case my instinct said I should give it a try. A Kill In The Morning (2014) by Graeme Shimmin is essentially a spy thriller in the mold of James Bond. The main protagonist is a similar hard-assed womanizer who does not refrain from violence. The early parts of the novel seem also to be the pulp-like type of story Ian Fleming wrote. Of course we are here dealing with an alternative history. In this case the Second World War did not really get started and Germany made peace before they got hit back. Shimmin plays his alternative history safe by setting the novel only a decade after the turning point. This allows for better definable possibilities with regard to what could have happened so things remain believable. The one similarity that did not change was that a Cold War does happen as well and that provides the familiar James Bond-like setting. In this case the enemies are not the Communists but the Nazis and unlike the Communists they do have a healthy economy to drive their technology programs, making the competition much harder. Here I should stop on disclosing the background of the novel and discuss some other elements.

The protagonists in the novel all follow familiar molds. Shimmin changes it a little by adding a stronger female element in it, giving it a less old-fashioned flavour and highlighting some different aspects in his alternative history. As I have read all the James Bond novels (with reviews on my site) I can only say he does a good job mimicking the way Fleming set up his characters although there is of course a large difference in style and prose.

Shimmin’s aim is however not to tell a James Bond story in an alternative history setting. To explain that I have to start spoiling a little more. If you are interested already, stop reading here.

Shimmin’s plot is far more cunning. Events unfold much more rapidly then expected and at about two thirds of the novel he kicks in the major twist of the plot. It comes with total surprise and while some would say it is not realistic it does fit perfectly within the Jamed Bond themes. What follows in the last third is a lengthy finale in which Shimmin crafts an engaging and exciting turn of events in which he carefully fits the pieces of the puzzle in place which will leave the reader with great satisfaction. In the end he adds a more than fitting last Bond cliche with a twist as a dessert.

A Kill In The Morning is based on a cunning idea which is executed perfectly. Shimmin manages to lull his readers into a familiar atmosphere by using typical James Bond elements to tell his story until he throws them into an unexpected plot twist at a point when they thought the story would follow the usual hectic but entertaining course over some rapids. Instead he gives them a major waterfall. I am actually unhappy that I am disclosing this in this review. It is more fun not to know there is a grand twist but without it I would have a hard job convincing others to read this novel. For that reason I gave the warning above. I can only say that this novel is very much recommended.

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