Prince of Killers
Prince of Killers is the first in a new trilogy of romantic suspense novels from Layla Reyne. Set in and around San Francisco, and focuses on a family that made its name and fortune from organised crime but which, owing to a tragic incident a few years earlier, is changing direction and turning its hand towards legitimate business… and vigilante justice.
The novel is fairly short, clocking in at around 200 pages (according to Amazon) and it does a decent job of introducing the overarching plot that will run throughout the trilogy and the major players. Hawes Madigan is the heir to the organised crime empire built and run by his terminally ill grandfather. Together with his younger (by two minutes) twin brother Holt and their sister Helena, he has been running MCS (Madigan Cold Storage) for the past five years, and is now facing the prospect of fully stepping into his grandfather’s shoes, as the man doesn’t have long left to live. A man in his position naturally has many enemies, which is why he’s sceptical when he receives information from enigmatic private investigator Dante Perry that someone is trying to kill him. The difference is, however, that Dante believes it’s someone from within Hawes’ organisation.
Hawes quickly discovers that Dante’s information was accurate when two of his trusted lieutenants turn on him later that very day – and would quite possibly have succeeded in killing him had it not been for Dante turning up out of the shadows to save Hawes’ life. From here on in, Hawes finds himself starting to… if not completely trust Dante, then coming to depend on him to have his back and provide the sort of stabilising influence Hawes so desperately needs at this point in his life. Losing their parents fairly young, the Madigan siblings were brought up by their grandparents and, as the eldest, Hawes has been groomed to one day take over the ‘family firm’. But something happened three years earlier that made him decide to get out of the business of indiscriminate killing and clearly there are those within the company who are not happy about this new direction. So what with preparing to say goodbye to his grandfather, continuing with his plans to dismantle certain parts of the business, and his priority of protecting his family at all costs, Hawes carries a huge burden of responsibility, and the prospect of at last having someone who can help lift those burdens, even for a little while is an undeniably attractive one.
The big problem with the book, however, it that it’s really difficult to accept the ease with which Dante – a complete stranger – is accepted into Hawes’ inner circle. There’s no question the relationship between the two men is based on insta-lust, and that’s okay as we’ve got two more books to go to develop something deeper between them, but I just couldn’t buy that the Madigans, for whom caution and mistrust are pretty much default positions, just let Dante waltz in and start offering opinions and becoming part of the team almost without batting an eyelid. Hawes takes the guy home with him the day they meet (okay, so that night Dante sleeps on the sofa) and after that Dante’s all but moved in! – which just didn’t make sense for the sort of character Hawes is supposed to be. And as an extension of that, I really couldn’t buy him as having been this badass assassin who was feared by all – he just wasn’t edgy enough.
On the upside, the characters are likeable, the family dynamics are well done, and the continuing plotlines are promising. I want to know more about the Madigans’ relationship to the chief of police (I get the impression he may have served with Holt – and that there’s more to be said on that front), and the truth of what happened ‘that fateful night’ three years earlier. Unlike the novels in the Whiskeyverse, which are told from both protagonists’ points of view, Prince of Killers is narrated entirely by Hawes, which means that at this stage Dante is something of an enigma; we’ll get his PoV in book two. Oh, and I should warn you that this one ends on one helluva cliffhanger, so you might want to take that into consideration before you start.
I keep picking up Layla Reyne’s books hoping for a return to the form she showed in her début Agents Irish & Whiskey series, in which she managed to achieve a good balance between the plot and fast-paced action sequences while also developing her characters and the relationships between them. Her last series – Trouble Brewing – didn’t manage to achieve the same sort of balance, and this latest offering suffers from similar issues; the overarching plot of the Fog City series is very intriguing, but the characterisation is a bit on the superficial side, and the story is pretty rife with implausibilities. I’ve come to the conclusion that Ms. Reyne is great at constructing and delivering a TV show in book format – filled with good-looking, super-hot, wisecracking characters, lots of action, perilous situations and things going ‘boom!’, her books kinda race by and generally entertain, but I find myself having to ignore inconsistencies and wishing for more character development and character insight.
After saying all that, though, I expect I’ll be picking up the next book; I want to know more about Dante and to find out how that bloody cliffhanger resolves! Prince of Killers might work for you if you’re looking for a quick, fast-paced, sexy read with lots of action and aren’t too worried about the inconsistencies that show up along the way.