PLOT: 5/5

Gripping, mind-boggling, terrifying, and beautifully woven, Killing Strangers, is a didactic and entertaining debut in equal proportions, set in the America of recent times. There is so much happening at the same time in the novel that it is hard to read through quickly. It is meant to be devoured as it intends to rattle the reader and provide hope in the beauty of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism that the American Dream is made of.

It does not have an excess of philosophical thought but the loose ends are ultimately woven together to make for a detailed and analytical read that will set the reader thinking about contemporary issues in America such as mass shootings, religious radicalisation, and immigration. However, these issues are not American issues but have global repercussions. This enhances the depth of the plot that borders on the logical and empirical with a touch of the emotional but never becoming excessively sentimental. Hence, this makes for a reading experience that engages the reader and calls for attentive reading.

The plot opens with the character of Larry Watson, a retired FBI agent, who is on his way for a job interview at Atlanta Tech Corridor. However, things take an immediate turn in the plot as there is a mass shooting incident that takes place at the Atlanta Tech Corridor. There are several people, witnesses, survivors, and victims who get caught in the gunfire and are traumatized by the incident.

Larry Watson gets engaged in the rescue operations. This particular scene serves as a prologue to the rest of the tale as the first chapter comes after this which shows the character of Dave Pruitt, someone who has Asperger’s syndrome but is highly active and obsessed with guns. This is followed by an introduction to Alim Mubarak, an Iraqi immigrant who, unlike his son Zamir who is born and raised American, finds it challenging to balance his racial identity with the constant media stereotyping. Yet, he is a dedicated American citizen.

This is followed by the character of a young CEO who started Maverick Investments named Mark McCarthy. His dream is to see his company soar high in terms of monetary value. The plot culminates in the coming together of the lives of all these characters. This is where the twist and turns lead to multiple climaxes surrounding the shooting incident such as the rise of racism, sectarianism, and hate violence.

The plot is moderately paced but full of suspense and a lot of drama. It revolves around the shooting incident and takes the readers through the effect and aftermath of this by portraying the role that each of the characters play in this issue. It also provides a good background by going into the near past from when the incident took place. This gives a good background to understand where these characters are emerging from.

In Killing Strangers, the writing style is a mix of third-person narrative with interspersed dialogues. The dialogues help to understand the inner workings of the character’s mind. The writing style is lucid and easy to follow. The strict adherence to presenting a realistic picture of contemporary issues is the unique selling point of the book. The author never looms in excesses of any kind.

There is the maintenance of a balance in characterisation, in choice of words and expressions. The constant shift in the narrative between the different characters is like watching a movie in which scenes unfold as characters develop parallel to one another. The descriptions are never overdone but yet they are detailed and that gives a good backdrop against which the characters are built.

The central aspect of the novel is the characters and the author has paid enough attention to make sure that each character is different from the other and also to some extent representative of the idea that is being dealt with. This has a tendency to make them archetypal characters but the touch of individuality in their descriptions and behaviour keep them uniquely grounded in the plot.

The idea is to reflect the issues of the society and not to stereotype anyone. This is done successfully as the humane side of the characters rises from the adversity they have to face as Americans living in contemporary America.  On the whole, it is a highly interesting thriller that deals with crucial present-day issues that are faced by all in a globalized world.

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