Book Review: Of Vengeance by J.D. Kurtness

As I have mentioned on occasion, I am trying to read 100 books this year.  To that end, when I see a short book that grabs my attention I will usually take a chance on it.  1) it is short which helps me towards my goal 2) if it isn’t a great book I haven’t sacrificed a lot of time.

Hence, my reading Of Vengeance by J.D. Kurtness

Of Vengeance Book Cover
Of Vengeance Novella Dundurn Paperback 160 pages Library

“Let’s be honest: Who hasn’t fantasized about shooting someone in the face with a hunting rifle?”

One day, a thirteen-year-old girl decides to startle a classmate. Instead, she accidentally kills him.

And she likes it.

Over the years, she begins experimenting with murder. Her victims are, of course, people that deserve it: a careless driver, a CEO of an energy corporation that is destroying the planet, a rapist. Every crime scene is flawless — untraceable and made to look like an accident or suicide. But, as she sleepwalks through her day job and lives in a crummy apartment, one thing becomes increasingly clear: she needs more.

Because nothing compares to the thrill of violent retribution.

Kirkus:

A chilling justification of a life of violence, as nonchalant as it is grim.

My take? What a weird little book.

I think the supposed charm is the nonchalant tone and descriptions as a chance accident leads to the development of a psychopath. It is the story of a clearly morally deranged person but who approaches her “hobby” as if it was hiking or a competitive sport. Not sure I see the appeal.

Sure, everyone has had the urge to get revenge on the jerks and inconsiderate among us but reading about how a person might go about building a life around living out such a choice is unsettling and dark. Maybe that was the point…

On the other hand, we have the Montreal Review of Books:

This isn’t, in the end, an attempt to solve or get away with a murder; instead, Of Vengeance hints at another layer of crime that forms the undercurrent of the novel. In deceptively simple prose, Kurtness mounts a poignant and timely argument about the danger of running headlong into the hands of technologies we don’t fully understand.

I agree with PW:

Kurtness writes smoothly, but the black humor won’t be to every taste. Readers into passive-aggressive fantasies will best appreciate this one.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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