Marry, Bang, Kill

by Andrew Battershill

Marry, Bang, Kill follows Alan Mouse––Mousey to his “friends”––a retired cop living on Quadra Island, a quiet place just off the coast of Vancouver Island. When he crosses paths with Tommy Marlo, a small time mugger who stole a laptop loaded with incriminating photos along with a hundred grand from a dangerous biker gang, he decides to help Tommy escape probable torture and dismemberment. With a cast of shady characters hot on Tommy’s trail––an ambitious rogue cop, a dangerous contract killer, a sadistic biker, and even Mousey’s drug dealer looking to score a piece of the action––Mousey knows full well the risk, but hopes that doing this can help redeem him for all the terrible things he did in his former life in Chicago.

Now, had you read any other synopsis of Marry, Bang, Kill before this one, you probably would be led to believe that Tommy’s the main character, and that most of the story centres around him trying to find a way to steal from the biker gang that’s out to kill him. But that honestly gets wrapped up almost immediately, and Tommy then disappears from the pages for several chapters to make way for the actual story that apparently didn’t deserve a mention. And I’ve gone on and on and on about how crucial it is to get this right so you don’t set readers up for unreasonable expectations. Similarly, reading about this being described as a “revisionist crime thriller,” I was hopeful that I would be in for a gritty, atmospheric treat along the lines of Andrew Sullivan or Kevin Hardcastle with their contemporary noir, but found myself again disappointed when Battershill’s writing put me more in mind of Terry Fallis or Andy Weir with his general goofiness and lack of subtlety. (I mean, it could have been worse. I could have been anticipating something akin to Patrick de Witt as it promised on the back of my copy.)

But I get the feeling that this type of thing was part of the end goal, that Marry, Bang, Kill is largely an exercise of subverting reader expectations, whether it comes to something enjoyable or not by the end. Battershill doesn’t always describe people the first time we meet them, occasionally completely ruining immersion when he finally does so by throwing something jarring in there, like suddenly letting us know that Tommy was black though I previously saw him in my mind as some scummy white guy. As well, some things that feel done for the sake of uniqueness hurt the perceived realism, chief of which being the main antagonist, the contract killer, being portrayed almost like a basic bitch––something I didn’t buy a hardened killer being. Top it off with that same character treating us to girly talk with her girly friend at a time when we should be approaching an exciting climax, and I’m left with the impression that an author doing something different doesn’t necessarily equate with better.

So, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Marry, Bang, Kill, but perhaps it’s better if you come at it with more reasonable expectations––or happen to be fans of Terry Fallis or Andy Weir.