I’d already read and enjoyed Richards’ first novel about stockbroker-turned-sleuth Madeline Carter, Mad Money (2004), which began one of the few mystery series that managed to make the world of business as fascinating as the crimes outlined in the books.
But Hitting Back is something else again--an absolutely perfect (except I want a whole book!) look at the life of a professional hit woman. Spare, cool, and totally convincing, it tells the story of a cipher (“Did you notice?--you never learn her name or where she’s from. A complete shadow figure, yet I’m fairly confident I’ll spend time in her company again ...,” writes Richards in her notes), whom the author manages to turn into a human being in a few short passages.
Not to spoil your reading pleasure, but here’s one passage from the tale that caught my attention early on:
I reach into my purse. It is Coach--authentic Coach, not something you’d buy on Canal Street--and my fingers touch the cold skin of my thirty-eight. It’s a Bersa Thunder, considered to be a good gun for a woman ...Anyone who has read Richards’ previous books--not just the Carter ones, but the historical mysteries featuring Kitty Pangborn (Death Was the Other Woman)--doesn’t need me to tell them how sharp (and often very funny) they are. Critics have been equally appreciative of her work. “Mad Money is a breezy debut,” wrote Adam Woog in The Seattle Times. “For unforgettable characters and sheer suspense, remember Linda L. Richards’ name,” remarked Gayle Lynds.
Hitting Back is a genuine original, both in its writing and the imagination that went into its creation. Here’s another selection from the story, relating the downside of becoming an assassin:
It’s more of a temperament thing. That’s what I’ve found. More of life lining up in a certain way, showing you what you’re made of. And this probably isn’t true for everyone, but for me it was also a combination of rage and desperation. And, obviously, there’s no road back. Once you’ve taken a life for money, it’s not like you can return to whatever you were doing before. You can’t just go back to being a stockbroker or a gardener or someone’s secretary. For so many reasons, once you turn that corner, you can’t ever find your way home.Richards takes the opportunity in Hitting Back to spread the word about the forthcoming e-book version of her second, 2005 Madeline Carter novel, The Next Ex. Given how much I enjoyed Hitting Back, you can bet I’ll be wanting a copy of that story as well.