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Exit Strategy, Kelley Armstrong

September 23, 2021

During very busy times, I sometimes pick up mystery or crime novels for a few minutes of escapist reading, and at the beginning of the semester I tried Exit Strategy, by Kelley Armstrong. It was good enough that I searched for the two sequels, Made to Be Broken and Wild Justice.

The first-person narrator of these novels is a Canadian contract killer named Nadia Stafford who was a crime victim early in her life, became a cop, and then killed an obviously guilty man. Her version of that story is “As I stood there, watching Franco grinning, I knew I hadn’t come here to see Wayne Franco arrested. I’d come here to see Dawn Collins get justice. So I waited. And when he made the mistake of reaching into his pocket, I put a bullet between his eyes.”

Now Nadia believes she’s walking a fine line between being an outlaw and dispensing justice, and in between jobs, she runs a lodge in the wilderness north of Toronto. In her first adventure she meets another contract killer named Jack and they stop a colleague from implementing his exit strategy of serial murders, as “if a hitman wants to retire to a normal life, he needs an exit strategy, to make damned sure there’s nothing, and no one who can finger him.”

When Nadia and Jack talk about retiring and being able to travel, he describes the idea this way:
“Seeing Paris in the spring. Strolling the Great Wall. Standing under the pyramids in the moonlight. Sounds great. Reality? Standing by a mountain of broken rock. Shoes full of sand. Sweating my ass off. Worrying about my pocket getting picked. Surrounded by strangers….Waste of fucking time. Might as well buy a book. Look at pictures.”
So I’m not terribly sympathetic with either character’s point of view.

Despite that, it’s a good adventure with interesting characters. Nadia is a vigilante killer, but she’s getting pedophiles and rapists off the streets.

In the second book, Made to Be Broken, the adventure begins in Canada, at Nadia’s lodge. There’s a great description of what it’s like to live in a rural area:
“People spend a week, and are seduced by wilderness life: the clean air, the endless laes, the peace and quiet, the friendly people. They start thinking they’d like to purchase a piece of this paradise.
Then reality rears its ugly head. The nearest Wal-Mart is how far? Ethnic restaurant? Movie theater? Hospital?”

In Made to Be Broken, Nadia and Jack get people who kill single mothers and sell their babies off the streets.

In the third book, Wild Justice, everything comes full circle so that Nadia and Jack have to kill everyone in the convoluted crime rings protecting the person who raped her when she was a little girl. It’s a tidy end to an entertaining series.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2021 1:58 am

    There is an attraction to reading about vigilantes; my favorites are the Travis McGee novels.

  2. September 23, 2021 10:25 am

    Oh man – knowing that she gets some sort of justice in the end gives me a little thrill and I haven’t even read these. But that take on traveling – ugh!

    • September 27, 2021 9:03 am

      To be fair, what Jack says about traveling is partly influenced by his hopes for settling down forever with Nadia.

  3. September 23, 2021 3:17 pm

    This is one of my all-time favorite series. I like her generally, but I don’t think any of her other series come close to this one.

    • September 27, 2021 9:03 am

      You are the one who recommended this book to me, so thank you! I’m glad to hear that I don’t need to go looking for many others by her.

  4. September 27, 2021 7:47 am

    Yikes! Sounds like the perfect action thriller trilogy. Might I even call it…a thrillogy? 😈

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