Listening to The Killing (originally titled Clean Break) is like listening to a fantastic crime noir movie from the 1940’s. It was written in 1955 by Lionel White and made into a film titled The Killing by Stanley Kubrick in 1956. I have never seen the film and probably will not. It cannot possibly top the audiobook.
The Killing takes place in New York City and on Long Island. It is a heist novel, meaning a huge robbery is central to the story. There are several characters who could be considered the main character because of the parts they play but I feel Johnny Clay is it. Johnny has spent the last four years in jail planning the perfect heist. Not only does he have the perfect plan but he has the perfect crew to pull it off. Johnny’s crew is made up of non-criminals. The beauty of his plan is that no one should be an immediate suspect by the police. Even Johnny himself has not a record that would make him a usual suspect for that type of crime.
The heist is to rob the cashier’s office at the track immediately after the start of the biggest race of the year but right before the armoured truck shows up to collect the expected 1.5 to 2 millions dollars. Everything must go off exactly at the time planned and every man must do his job exactly as planned. This is Mission Impossible with a clock and silencer on a rifle as the high tech. If it works, they split the money, each about a half million each. If it doesn’t, Johnny is probably the only one caught and sent to jail.
Johnny’s gang consists of:
Big Mike a bartender at the track clubhouse
George Peatty a cashier at track
Randy Kennan, a cop with a need for cash to pay off loan sharks
Marvin Unger, a court stenographer
Marvin is the respectable man who has never done anything wrong. He gives Johnny a place to live and hold the planning meetings. He also fronts the money needed to pay off individuals and buy weapons. Johnny’s motivation is his girlfriend Fay. Fay waited for him while he was in prison. His plan is to pull this one job and then for he and Fay to leave the country and start living the good life.
All of this is going great until Sherry Peatty, George’s wife finds a ticket stub with an address and time written on it in his jacket pocket. She suspects he is up to something based on his recent behavior. George is a poor soul who thinks he has somehow won the luck lottery by convincing beautiful Sherry to marry him two years ago. Actually, in the vernacular of the time, Sherry is a tramp looking for the easy life and lots of money. George keeps a roof over her head and all she has to do is be “nice” to him when it suits her. She uses her hold over him to find out the minimal details on the heist. She then goes to visit Val, her boyfriend. Val is a gangster who drives a Cadillac and has a real gang of hardened criminals at his disposal. He and Sherry plan to get the details of the heist, let Johnny do the work, and then rob the robbers.
Mike Dennis’s narration is first rate. He has a wonderful voice in just doing the descriptions. When it gets to the characters speaking, his talent really shines. Listen to the gravely voice of Randy the cop which conveys his large size. Marvin truly sounds like a fussy little man who alternates drooling over the thought of the money and regretting he ever got involved. Mr. Dennis brings all of those emotions out in his narration. The accents are fantastic. His command of the different shades of a New York City accent is incredible.
The novel does a great job of introducing each character and their motivation to join the heist or try to get it for themselves. The language is full of 1950’s slang. It really is addictive. I found myself listening every chance I got. Would they get away with it? Who would end up with the money?
I received this audiobook courtesy of Audiobook Reviewer in exchange for an honest review.