The Kills: Sutler, The Massive, The Kill, and The Hit



The Kills is an epic novel of crime and conspiracy told in four books. It begins with a man on the run and ends with a burned body. Moving across continents, characters, and genres, there will be no more ambitious or exciting novel published this year.

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The Kills: Sutler, The Massive, The Kill, and The Hit

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The Kills is an epic novel of crime and conspiracy told in four books. It begins with a man on the run and ends with a burned body. Moving across continents, characters, and genres, there will be no more ambitious or exciting novel published this year.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Christopher Rice
…there are more successes than failures in these 1,000 pages. And the patience required to get through it all is made easy by House's insistent and electric prose style, which imbues long passages about corporate machinations with bristling suspense. Taken together, the four books of The Kills depict a searing landscape in which identities are lost and then stolen, and morally bankrupt institutions are aided in their corruption by the abject refusal of certain individuals to face the truth. This is not an international thriller so much as a fiercely literate attempt to subvert the thriller genre itself.
Publishers Weekly
Longlisted for the Man Booker, House’s thousand-plus-page novel is an intense, frustrating yet unforgettable tale of U.S. contractors working amid corruption, betrayal, and murder in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The novel is made up of four books. The first, “Sutler,” follows Brit John Ford (aka Sutler), a contractor at Camp Liberty in Baghdad. After employer Paul Geezler of HOSCO International instructs him to draw his final payment using a convoluted system of accounts, a deadly explosion sends Sutler on the run; Geezler claims the contractor stole $53 million from funds allocated for the Massive, a military complex to be built in the desert. The Massive exists only on paper, in contrast to Camp Liberty’s burn pits for destroying medical and military waste, which are very real but undocumented. The second book, entitled “The Massive,” follows the men who tend the burn pits, as each meets a premature demise. In the fourth book, “The Hit,” Sutler is sighted at three separate locations, and Geezler goes missing. Set apart from books one, two, and four, the third book, “The Kill,” set in Naples and populated with prostitutes and language students, is metafiction at its most gruesome. While it’s different from the other three books, it addresses the same themes: how do killers become killers? How do victims become victims? How do perpetrators turn into victims, and vice versa? How do money, people, places, and crimes disappear? House probes but does not answer these questions. He presents intriguing characters and enthralling scenarios, then leaves readers to make sense of it all. This huge undertaking is notable for its ambition, and it seduces with both its shortcomings and its accomplishments. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“A symphony in four distinct novel-length movements….Perfect for folks whose idea Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks involve curling up with a fat, rewarding read.”—Passport

The Kills challenges what a thriller can be…Despite the influence of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, Sutler calls the protagonist of another open-ended epic to mind: Tyrone Slothrop of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, a character who disappears from the book but whose presence can be felt on every page. The Kills has similar goals as Gravity’s Rainbow: to expose the greed and corruption that thrives in the economy of war. House may not have written a conventional thriller, but The Kills is a thrilling work of art by a writer at the top of his game.”—Jim Ruland, Los Angeles Times

“One-word review: Wow.”—Susannah Cahalan, New York Post

The Kills offers up all the suspense and violence of a thriller, but House’s tetralogy is much more than an exciting story.”—Tulsa World

The Kills is in part a comprehensive, Tom Wolfe-esque plunge into the underworld of military contracting. It's also a shrewd, globe-trotting thriller in the vein of John le Carré...Reading it will make quick work of a cross-country flight or a weekend at the beach.”—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“A long read, and worth every minute....House’s brilliant structure allows him to maintain maximum suspense while following his characters and ideas across a vast moral, political, and philosophical landscape. (The effect is not unlike Roberto Bolaño's in 2666, an inspiration for The Kills.) The novel is ambitious, expansive, beautifully written, and gripping, with intimations of danger shimmering behind even the simplest gesture. Imagine Philip Petit walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. The Kills is that dazzling.”—

“Huge and hugely ambitious...House is one of the few British writers taking on the challenge of constructing a literary novel through the prism of a crime novel...House creates a surreal, Mesopotamian Catch-22...The Kills, with its ambition, linguistic stylization, and global reach, is exactly the kind of novel the Booker Prize (and the reading public) needs.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

“The thousand-page novel you’ll actually want to read...Richard House’s THE KILLS comprises four separate novels—addictive, interlocking thrillers that echo the political intrigue of Graham Greene and the innovative structures of Roberto Bolaño....There’s a summer’s worth of white-knuckle page turning here, but you’ll probably need only a week.”—Details

“Criminally entertaining.”—Vanity Fair

The Kills is not a typical thriller, but it has the pace and energy associated with the genre and it's already being compared to the work of John le Carre....House has taken a familiar form and made it fresh....Richly detailed, evocative prose.”—Out

“This is the kind of book that classics are made off.”—Amos Lassen,

The Kills is a hugely ambitious and mesmerizing work, fresh and entertaining. Richard House is the real deal.”—Olen Steinhauer, New York Times-bestselling author of The Tourist and An American Spy

“This is a staggering achievement....Highly recommended.”—Daily Mail (London)

“Remarkable...Part Olen Steinhauer spy thriller and part Roberto Bolaño art novel...The Kills is a work of intense artistic conviction and demands a serious commitment from its readers. They'll be rewarded.”—Booklist

“Engrossing…House’s four-part, 1,000-page novel of corruption and murder is a heady page-turner. Already a hit in the U.K., The Kills trots the globe with professional killers and military contractors, and earns its comparisons to John le Carré with a healthy dose of political intrigue.”—Matthew Love, Time Out New York

“Richard House’s ambitious espionage novel, inspired by Roberto Bolano's 2666 and Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart, is comprised of four tightly linked books….It all adds up to an astonishing saga.”—Jane Ciabattari,

“A sprawling, subterranean, sometimes-surreal novel of the new world order, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, in which Bolaño and Pynchon wave in passing as we dodge between IEDs and sinister plots....Ambitious and often brilliant.”—Kirkus Reviews

The Kills...takes you on a hell of a ride.”—The Daily Telegraph (London)

The Kills by Richard House: The second section of this four-part novel is callexd 'The Massive'; it's a title that could have stood for the whole. House's sprawling quadruple-decker, longlisted for the Booker Prize, is a literary thriller set against the background of the Iraq War.”—Garth Risk Halberg, The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2014

“Richard House has written a damn good book....The Kills is possibly the most eyebrow-raising entry on this year’s Booker longlist....He is not your average novelist, but is also a filmmaker, artist, and magazine editor....If this all seems hifalutin, rest assured: The Kills is still all about spinning a good yarn.”—The Sunday Times (London)

“A gigantic experiment, bracing, thrilling and worthy of a medal for narrative heroism, Richard House’s four-volume The Kills plays an epic set of variations on the shadow war for loot and influence behind the chaos of Iraq.”—Boyd Tonkin, The Independent (London), Books of the Year

“The novel I enjoyed most was Richard House’s sensational pile-driver, The Kills.”—Philip Hensher, The Guardian (London), Best Books of the Year

“Richard House’s The Kills was the novel that impressed me most: a terrific unbuckled ride through global and intimate catastrophes, blood and billions.”—Philip Hensher, The Spectator (London), Best Books of the Year

Kirkus Reviews
A sprawling, subterranean, sometimes-surreal novel of the new world order, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, in which Bolaño and Pynchon wave in passing as we dodge between IEDs and sinister plots.House (Uninvited, 2001, etc.) has scarcely introduced us to civilian contractor John Jacob Ford before Ford is told to disappear: An op has been blown and it's best for him to skedaddle. What's he been doing? All kinds of shady work in Iraq for a company named HOSCO; one mission involves the transport of millions and billions of dollars in cash (easily skimmable) in "backpacks, suitcases, briefcases, even brown-paper bags." Ford, duly renamed Sutler, now finds himself in the thick of an elaborate project to construct a secret city in the desert of southern Iraq—to what purpose remains murky, but clearly it's all for the fiscal benefit of the company and the various First World flags under which it flies. (It's a nicely symbolic touch that the illusory city is to be founded atop a flaming garbage dump that doesn't officially exist.) As the story progresses, Ford/Sutler's attachment to the real world becomes increasingly tenuous: He's a shadow in a world of spooks, a cipher barely moored to the planet the rest of us inhabit. As he travels through the desert and beyond, moving from book to book (there are three more-or-less closely related tales here and a fourth that, at least in a fashion, rules them all), the stories told about him and all the weird goings-on in the Mesopotamian sands become ever more hushed, ever more fraught. That a tumultuous place such as Iraq invites Rashomon-like treatment is a commonplace, but House's tale, ingenious and well-written as it is, goes on much too long. And though he does a good job controlling details and making economical use of his secondary characters, the story is too clever by half, with threads too easy to lose.Ambitious and often brilliant. But, as one character says, "It's confusing." And so it is.
Library Journal
House's (Uninvited) thousand-page epic, first published in Britain as four stand-alone ebooks (Sutler; The Massive; The Kill; The Hit) and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, is now collected in one massive omnibus. Modeled after Roberto Bolaño's labyrinthine 2666, the novel blends the geopolitical machinations of an espionage thriller with DeLilloesque levels of conspiracy and metafiction. In the first book, a government contractor known as Sutler goes on the lam when $53 million earmarked for rebuilding Iraq disappears with him. The Massive serves as a prolog, focusing on the American civilians who work at an Iraqi burn pit before Sutler arrives. The third book concerns a text called The Kill, referenced by characters in the first two volumes, about a pair of brothers who read about a fictional murder and re-create it, beginning a complex loop of art imitating life. The final book, The Hit, attempts to tie the strands together, as a German diplomat's sister-in-law takes up the search for Sutler. It's tough to summarize this book succinctly and equally tough to forge through in places, so dense is the writing, and might be best considered in its original form as four separate volumes. The work is also intended to be interactive; readers can find supplemental audio and video material on the publisher's website, though the extras aren't essential to the story. VERDICT House's doorstop of a tome demands considerable attention and patience from readers, and those prepared to offer it will find subtle intertextual rewards. Others will be frustrated by the sudden narrative shifts among each volume and the deliberate lack of resolution. Recommended for those who wished their John le Carré came more postmodern and surreal. [See Prepub Alert, 2/10/14.]—Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250052438
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 8/5/2014
  • Pages: 1024
  • Sales rank: 93,556
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard House is a writer, artist, filmmaker, and teacher. He is the author of two short dark novels, Bruiser and Uninvited, published by Ira Silverberg in the Serpent’s Tail High Risk series. He is a member of the Chicago-based collaborative Haha, whose work has appeared at the New Museum, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Venice Biennale. He teaches at the University of Birmingham and is the editor of Fatboy Review, a digital literary magazine.

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