Review: The Wish to Kill by Janet Hannah

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

A violent explosion is the volatile starting point of The Wish to Kill, the first book in Janet Hannah’s Alex Kertész Mystery series. Imagine sitting in your office and thinking about a colleague just moments before this colleague dies due to a sudden explosion. Gets you thinking about being a little more careful of your thoughts, right? You just never know what might come true.

Alex Kertész, who works as a biochemist at the University of Jerusalem, had been thinking about a man named Ilan Falk just moments before the man’s lab went up in flames due to an explosion. Even though the explosion seemed fatal, his lab had looked surprisingly intact, the damage only confined to the area around his body. Ilan was a man that wasn’t well liked by many of his peers. As for the police, the reason behind his death is difficult to see. This makes the true reason for what happened to Falk difficult to discover. Realising how easy it could be for someone to arrange Falk’s death, Alex decides to put this mystery to bed by doing his own extensive digging.

This novel is set in Jerusalem, which is actually the first I’ve read which is set in this country. When Alex parks in a street called King George street, the author goes on to offer interesting details about a stone windmill, it having been used as an observation post by Jewish fighters in what was known as the War of Independence. Hannah has the ability to describe a terrible and dangerous event to the point of foul drifting tendrils of smoke after an unexpected explosion. She delivers vivid sketches of the interiors of buildings. The historical account she gives about the Yemen Moshe neighborhood already shows readers that they’re in for a novel that doesn’t just leave characters at the door so to speak.

The son of a Hungarian surgeon who had been working in Budapest and a Jewish French woman who went to Hungary in the fifties to teach French, Alex comes across as a one of kind and charming character to meet. His family background is given in great and ample detail, quite early with nothing more for readers to want to learn. At the age of sixteen, Alex’s father lost his life due to a fatal heart attack. He had taken his family to a medical conference when it happened. They were in Paris at the time and Alex’s mother, whose parents live there, had wanted them to stay there.

Not long after Falk’s funeral service, Alex and a man named Mickey go to see Guelah Falk, Ilan’s daughter who lives in a hilltop suburb west of Jerusalem called Mevasseret Zion. He shows a comforting side to him as he tries to think of what to say to Falk’s family with the image of Falk’s body still vivid in his mind. His empathetic side is further revealed by when Alex explains how one of the minor characters makes vulgar remarks about Falk and how it upsets him.

Not many readers might be familiar with the term “ill-wishing”, but this is a concept that the main character aims to struggles with. Other than the fact that Alex had something on his mind just before the explosion, Falk’s research assistant – a woman named Shosh – thinks that she killed Ilan simply by wishing it. Alex does some further enquiries about this phenomenon that I’m sure will interest many readers just as it did me. He gets his answers from a man named Akiva whom Hannah humorously describes as a man having an extensive mental encyclopedia.

Elisha Tal is one of Alex’s co-workers who makes odd remarks when asked, in the first chapter, if he heard the explosion that claimed Falk’s life and if he he was at the building at the time. Making readers’ detective antennas spike up close to the ending, he is described as a big cunning man with an uncontrollable temper. Having already suspected Elisha, Alex thinks up a plan, and it’s invigorating to see how ill-wishing comes into play to make his plan work.

The author shows a keen understanding of Jewish military history with what she writes and the military situations she lays out for us. Alex turns out to not just be a brilliant biochemist, but a former soldier with his own military background. How his military background comes into play throughout the course of the story is clear to see in the beginning, but as readers move forward, it is clear and essential that more connections still have to be made. Alex lacks a bit here and there as coming across as a former soldier with his scientific intelligence and all, but the author makes it work.

There is a bit too much back story about Alex which takes away from the initial excitement readers start off with. The sudden explosion event that gets you excited for more flames and bullets flying, but eventually winds down to something more scientific coupled with a tiny dose of the supernatural. I didn’t find this book to be as full of suspense as I would usually in the thrillers that I read, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The true potential power of the mind is not something I know much about, but Janet Hannah certainly makes it a point for readers to realize how it can be used for your own advantage. That is for readers who wouldn’t mind dabbling with the possible power of their own minds. All the puzzle pieces about this relaxing murder mystery boils down to an unforseen conclusion that carries with it a foxy display of cunning and expedience. The author leaves readers with a question of import to ill-wishing at the end, leaving them assuming what her main character might learn about in the sequel.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Self-Published Author
Date Published: October 23, 2011
Genre: Occult Horror
Pages: 224
View on Amazon
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