We’ve all read that crime-thriller or seen that mystery show where the killer turns out to be a hitman — a hired gun. One with no relationship to the victim and no motive other than a paycheck, they are nearly untraceable. Usually, the story progresses quickly beyond the hitman to reveal the one who ordered the hit, and the hitman himself is allowed to remain practically anonymous. 

But have you ever wondered what kind of person would become a hitman? Is it a simple, desperate need for money? Or is there a deeper, darker past that could cause even a sensible man — or woman — to choose this particular career path?  Endings (Oceanview Publishing) by Linda L. Richards explores the backstory and subsequent life of an average suburbanite turned hitwoman. 

Richards uses first-person narration to track her unnamed heroine from the depths of a painful personal tragedy, through a transformation that sets her on a deadly career path, and beyond. The writing style allows readers a close look into the mind of the protagonist, while the book’s short chapters serve to keep the plot progressing forward easily. As our narrator isolates herself more and more, we as readers get to know her meditative ticks and particularities on a granular level that makes even her most shocking choices nearly relatable. 

JUST ANOTHER DAY AT WORK, UNTIL…

As our narrator fails to heal from the gut-wrenching events in her past, she seems to slip out of her personality as she slips into a life of anonymity. Her life becomes all about being as unnoticeable as possible. She has no real personal relationships and she falls into the rhythm of waiting for a text letting her know she’s caught a job. Then it’s off to another new city to take out a stranger and then back home to lie low and wait for the next text. It’s a pattern she never would have imagined for herself, but the real surprise is that she’s actually quite good at it. Following instructions, completing tasks, blending in — it all comes quite naturally to her.

That is, until one particular job shifts her mindset. Perhaps she gets a little too close to the target, but suddenly nothing is completely making sense anymore. That feeling of satisfaction she used to get after completing a job is gone. It’s in the midst of this internal confusion that she hears about a vile serial killer whom she cannot stand to let live. She becomes nearly obsessed with tracking him down, harboring a promise to herself to kill him when she does. 

It’s the first time she’s set out to complete a hit she isn’t being paid for, and she’s sure she’s in the right. But even as a seasoned hitwoman, she’s unable to predict what she’ll do when she comes face to face with this notorious murder. Now she’s finding out if it’s vengeance or redemption that’s most important to her. Is this just the beginning of a long and dangerous career? Or will this be her final hit?

One great thing about fiction is that it allows us as readers to live the lives of people whose experiences and choices are very different from our own. More than just a thriller, Endings serves as a framework for us to examine some thorny moral questions: What would lead a person to kill? Is there ever a “right” reason to do so? And perhaps most importantly, when is it time to stop? 

Learn more about Linda L. Richards on her BookTrib author profile page.

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Linda L. Richards is a journalist, photographer and the author of 15 books, including three series of novels featuring strong female protagonists. She is the former publisher of Self-Counsel Press and the founder and publisher of January Magazine. In 2010 she was awarded The Panik Award (in honor of the late Paul Anik) for the best Los Angeles Noir for Death Was in the Picture. In 2019 she was awarded The Arthur Ellis Award for best short story for “Terminal City” which appeared in Vancouver Noir. She published Return from Extinction: The Triumph of the Elephant Seal from Orca Publishing in October 2020. Look for her next novel, Endings, from Oceanview spring 2021.