Killing Joe
by Marie Treanor, paranormal (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $3.50, ISBN 1-59998-927-1

Through his spotlessly clean windscreen, he saw her emerge alone from the hangar-like building she worked in. A swift glance at the open wallet in his hand showed him the photograph of a studious-looking, dark-haired young woman in black-rimmed spectacles and a white lab coat, her severity lightened by a quirky half-smile. Across one creamy if clinical shoulder was scrawled, "All my love, Maria". He'd written it himself last night, along with a fake New York phone number on the back, just to make his possession of it look innocent.

The girl now walking across the car park right in front of his vehicle was not called Maria, and she was not American, but she was definitely the same woman. Even her thick, black hair was in exactly the same style, if you could call it that—tied carelessly behind her head, with lots of it escaping. Dr. Anna Baird, a project leader working for the British Institute of Crash Research.

His client wanted her death to look accidental. And obviously, given her profession, a car crash was the most pleasing accident for her to have. But Joe — the assassin always thought of himself as Joe — found it a particularly ironic touch to use her own research to do the job properly. Like any kill, a car crash had to be studied scientifically in order to ensure the target's death and his own survival, and she did appear to be the number one expert in the field. He had a bit of reading to do back at the hotel.

Killing Joe is most amusing in that before Joe can run his rented Zeitek into Anna's vehicle, he is hit by a speeding car. Even more funny is how he subsequently finds himself trapped inside a crash test dummy in the British Institute of Crash Research and Anna turns out to be the first person to discover his presence.

I really want to love Killing Joe more, I do. Joe is an unapologetic hero - he's more of a cool-as-ice noir antihero than a typical romance hero and I like that. However, with it being a short story, it has the author speeding up the romance via a forced instant attraction on the heroine's part. Needless to say, the characters hop into bed way too quickly, thus cutting short any enjoyable build-up of sexual tension that may be had should this story be longer.

I've had fun with the pretty original premise, the wry humor, and the refreshingly not-too-stereotypical characters, but I'm afraid that I feel that this book has really shortchanged itself as well as me by being this short.

Rating: 83

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