Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Book Review: Killers of a Certain Age

By Jami Denison

When the Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That premiered, a popular meme circulated the internet with a photograph of Carrie, Miranda, and Charlotte next to a shot of the four women of the Golden Girls. The New Yorkers were glamourous and styled; the Floridians had gray hair and glasses. The meme pointed out that all the women were about the same age. Fifty is the new thirty? Sixty is the new forty? Who can keep track anymore?

Killers of a Certain Age, the latest offering by Texas author Deanna Raybourn, puts sixty squarely in the retirement home. In fact, her heroines—Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie—are literally retiring. They’ve spent forty years at the same job, a job they started at the age of twenty. But it’s not medicine, education, business, or entertainment the women are stepping away from. No, these women are a squad of assassins, working for The Museum, an organization begun after World War II to hunt down escaped Nazis. When they’d gotten all the Nazis, there were plenty of other bad guys left to fill the void. 

To celebrate their retirement, the women are sent on an all-expenses-paid cruise. But when Billie spots one of their own, she realizes that she and her friends have been targeted for assassination by their own organization. They fake their deaths in order to find out who at the Museum wants them dead.

Going back and forth between the women’s 1970s adventures and their current predicament, Killers of a Certain Age at times feels like Charlie’s Angels meets the Golden Girls. Led by Billie, the women swap the sex appeal of their younger years for a savvy cleverness that keeps them ahead of their adversaries every step of the way. It’s a funny, quick-paced romp filled with quips and right hooks. 

In her author’s note, Raybourn said she wanted to write about older women, and the book’s tagline reads: Older women often feel invisible, but sometimes that’s their secret weapon. But is older the same as old? Actress Jennifer Coolidge of White Lotus fame is 60; she is starring in the next season of the series. At times, Raybourn, who is 54, seemed to be writing for women in their 70s who’d been retired for ten years, not a squad who had just finished their last assignment. An early line about Billie “protesting and burning bras” in 1978 reinforced the feeling that the women had initially been older; those were 1968 activities. In the late 1970s women were wearing bell bottoms and going to discos. And watching Charlie’s Angels

Still, I think Raybourn has a stellar group of women, and I hope Killers of a Certain Age is the first book of a series. There’s still plenty to explore with these four. Sixty may be older, but it isn’t old at all. 

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Deanna Raybourn:

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