Feature: The Kill Club by Wendy Heard
Last year, Wendy Heard wrote Hunting Annabelle, a serial killer story set in the 80s, and it quickly became one of my favorite thrillers. Now, Wendy is back with The Kill Club, which puts a young woman’s love for her sibling at the forefront…with a side of murder. What made Hunting Annabelle fabulous was not only it’s setting (the 80s – I read a lot of true crime set in the 80s) or the story (murder and a twist you won’t see coming) but the characters. With The Kill Club out in December, I asked Wendy to help us get to know the people we will meet. Check them out below and be sure to preorder The Kill Club!
PS I also highly recommend you subscribe to her newsletter – she released an adult thriller version of a Choose Your Own Adventure and other fun stuff!
The Kill Clubby Wendy Heard
Published by: Mira Books
on December 17, 2019
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
IndieBound, Audiobook through LibroFM
Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.
Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.
Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.
All she has to do is kill a stranger.
Meet The Kill Club Characters
by Wendy Heard
When Jazz’s young brother Joaquin finds himself in serious danger at the hands of their unhinged foster mother Carol, and child services refuses to help, Jazz gets a call inviting her to join an underground murder trade program to rid herself of Carol for good. Jazz faces moral and life-and-death dilemmas we can all hope to never encounter. The operators of the murder trade program see her as someone who will be easy to control, but they’ll soon learn not to underestimate women who have nothing to lose.
Jazz [Jasmine] Benavides | Age: 28
“I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and I’m shamed by my own smallness, by how vulnerable and female I must look to the world around me.” – Jazz
Jazz is the most personal protagonist I’ve ever written. This book broke my heart and then put it back together, and I hope people enjoy their time with Jazz as much as I did.
Jazz was 8 when she was removed from her home by child services. It was classified as extreme neglect—she and her 5 siblings were fending for themselves while their mother was immersed in her addiction. She bounced from foster home to foster home until she was 13, when she was placed with Carol. She was wild and angry, unable to attach one moment, too quick to attach the next.
Jazz feels like a failure, but she’s gotten her shit together in a pretty major way. At this point, she’s holding down a steady job with benefits, playing drums in a band, channeling her anger into boxing and jiu jitsu, and saving up for Joaquin’s college education. Jazz’s superpower is her adaptability, and she has learned to move forward, one foot in front of the other, leaving the past behind.
Jazz will do anything to protect her young brother Joaquin. He’s all she has, her only family member, and she lives and breathes to see him live a better life than she ever could. Since my daughter was born, I’d been wanting to write a book about the desperation of love, the absolute lengths to which we will go if the one we love is threatened. This journey Jazz ends up on is truly the hero’s journey, but with a twisted, morally gray spin that I hope makes all of us question what we would and wouldn’t do to save those who rely on us.
Could you do it? If your brother/daughter/sister were in danger, could you kill a stranger to save them?
Joaquin Benavides Coleman | Age: 13
“He’s my only family, the only thing tethering me to this earth.” – Jazz
Joaquin’s interests are science, girls, and soccer. His adoptive mother Carol has different ideas, and since his older sister Jazz moved out (at Carol’s insistence), she’s been getting worse and worse. When Carol gets involved with an extremist church that teaches faith-based healing, Carol decides he doesn’t need the insulin that he relies on to treat his juvenile diabetes. He has one week to live unless Jazz can find him a way out.
I named him Joaquin because, when I was pregnant, Joaquin was the name I planned to give my own son if I had one. I knew I needed to love this kid desperately on Jazz’s behalf if I was going to do justice to their relationship. They are each other’s only person.
Carol Coleman | Age: 50
“He needs to grow his faith, and he can’t do that while he’s being fed lies at school, lies by you.” — Carol
Carol took in a lot of foster kids before Jazz, but Jazz was the most challenging: fighting, angry, having been separated from her biological siblings and mother by child services. Carol always wanted a baby of her own, and Jazz was the opposite of the loving child she dreamed of.
Then came Joaquin, and she thought she’d turned things around, until she realized that as long as Jazz was in the picture, his loyalty would always be to her.
With the help of her church, Carol hopes to steer Joaquin down the right path, and she has faith that Jesus will heal his diabetes. All of Jazz’s doom and gloom ranting that he’ll die are just the words of the unsaved.
Sofia Russo | Age: 32
She doesn’t just want justice. She wants revenge.
An assistant principal at a low-income middle school in East LA, Sofia has dedicated her life to doing things right. She holds two master’s degrees, works hard, keeps everything neat and clean and under control, and she was ecstatic when her daughter Olive was born.
Beneath the surface of her well-polished life lurked a years-long secret: her ex-husband was abusive, both emotionally and physically. After Olive was born, she gathered the courage to leave, but she didn’t anticipate his ability to pull lies out of his hat in court. An ugly custody battle left her winded and depleted, and her daughter was taken from her and sent to live with her abusive ex, cared for by nannies.
She’s seen lawyers and filed every report imaginable, and he’s managed to wriggle out of everything. At this rock bottom point, a mysterious phone call offers to solve all her problems.
Sofia’s story is extremely relatable to so many women I spoke to while writing this story. I hope that women reading her story feel seen and understood, and that the stories of the members of the Blackbird kill club give us all something to think about and speak to a larger conversation about where people are supposed to go for justice when all the legitimate channels fail them.
Where is Sofia supposed to go?
Detective Nielsen | Age: 35
They’ve screwed up the investigation completely. They’ve gotten it all wrong.
An Army vet who served in Afghanistan before joining LAPD, Detective Nielsen is leading the investigation into the Blackbird Killings. The crime scenes are a mess, all of them in public places, and Forensics is tied up for days collecting endless unrelated evidence. He’s convinced the killings are being perpetrated by a mass shooter type, someone picking random victims out of a crowd, but his partner, Patel, isn’t so sure.
Nielsen is a hard worker, but he falls short in the empathy department. He’s been through so much while deployed, and he has no patience for anyone who can’t soldier through hardship, putting a brave face on for the sake of getting a job done.
Detective Patel | Age: 42
She puts her hand on his bicep. “I’m sorry for those you lost.”
Raised in London, Patel joined the army and was deployed to Afghanistan, serving eight years before moving to the United States with her ex-husband. Like Nielsen, she soldiers through hard times and focuses on the job to be done, but she is more humane with those who work beneath her. She’s got a sharp sense of humor and prides herself on her interview skills as well as her investigative prowess. She’s organized and administrative, and she’s determined to see the Blackbird case through to the end. As the case starts to fall apart and a positive outcome seems less and less likely, she has to wonder what will happen to her career if she can’t bring in a plausible suspect.