Verdict: The latest in a series of thrillers based around a charismatic geisha turned assassin, TWISTED THREADS is perhaps the most conceptual work of Kaylin McFarren’s series, but nevertheless thunders along at a frantic, spellbinding pace and offers a truly memorable addition to the series.
The fourth book in Kaylin McFarren’s dark and potent ‘Threads’ series, TWISTED THREADS is a drama-filled, darkly chilling mystery with elements of romance and plenty of intelligent plot intrigue along the way.
Set largely on a cruise ship, where lead protagonist and assassin Akira Hamada is tasked with tracking down an unknown new target, the context for all the drama is neatly laid out in the opening few dozen pages. While the set up could be accused of containing a few Agatha Christie-like mystery tropes – like the deliberately limited scope of a cruise ship environment – it’s subtle development makes the concept an imaginative and colorful idea.
Hamada – who owes her life to a vicious member of the Japanese yakuza mafia as a result of an earlier book in the series – is tasked with tracking down and killing off an English couple with whom she’s sharing the luxury seabound holiday. Their presence on the cruise is part of the scant detail Hamada knows about the pair, and her success is loaded with meaning: if she pulls off her gruesome task, she wins her freedom and a new life of her choosing. Fail, and her mother becomes another of Hamada’s closest to slip from the mortal coil.
At just short of 400 pages, there’s plenty of time for plot nuance, used to its full extent in a tale full of twists. There are moderately steamy love scenes and moments of self examination that sit lightly around the edges of the plot, but this book absolutely thunders by, an accessible read that encompasses plenty of family, intrigue and clever character development. There’s some good emotional depth, too, as we’re taken on a ride with the characters as they consider their options and struggle with the Catch 22 nature of their tasks. It’s left to the reader, inevitably, to examine concepts around justification of violence and even cultural differences that pour forth from the character’s actions.
Reading TWISTED THREADS certainly does benefit from some earlier knowledge of the Threads series, which brings the characters more deeply to life, but this also works as a standalone, with plenty of texture and some nice depth to the plot lines. The detailed context of how Hamada became an assassin, for example, is something that adds considerable depth: the evolution and actions of the characters seem still smarter and more in line with their extended stories in the context of their series-long exploits. There are some lovely detailed touches, such as the opening of the book with a dingy and evocative poem (also by McFarren) called The Death Ship, or the cultural self-analysis in the lead character’s quips on American culture. We’re even given factual depth in the explanation of the author’s inspiration that sits just after the final chapter.
This is, perhaps, not a genre changing work of suspense fiction, but a very cleverly built series. The writing is simple and flowing, rather than a work of great charismatic literature, but it works on every level, pushing the reader on yet offering enough for depth of character and plot to take root. The result is a beautifully constructed and very memorable page turner worth sitting up for.
~James Hendicott for IndieReader