All Things Violent by Nikki Dolson

Originally Nikki Dolson’s All Things Violent had a release date of May by 280 Steps but then the publisher suddenly shut down in March. Luckily, the book and writer managed to rise from the ashes and found a home in the burgeoning Fahrenheit Press. Who knows how many books have been lost by the 280 Steps debacle but it is nice to see several books like Dolson’s All Things Violent, Eric Beetner’s Rumrunners and Leadfoot, and Mark Rapacz’ Boondoggle getting published.

Dolson’s All Things Violent is the story of Laura, a twenty-something-year-old woman who is just starting her career as a hired assassin. She is also in love with her boss, Simon, a career-minded narcissist running a private investigation firm in Las Vegas. Training Laura is another one of Simon’s specialized assassins, Frank, whose training methods and criticisms are harsh and, at times, life-saving. But it’s the distinct point of view of a young black woman in an overwhelmingly white man’s game that keeps the reader’s interest engaged. In the opening scene of All Things Violent, the perfume of their target is what engages Laura, not something a male character might latch on to.

Evelyn Bright was gone. Only the faint scent of vanilla remained to prove she’d been there at all. I smelled it before when I searched her house. The scent clung to her clothes, lingering in the master bedroom and bathroom, fainter in the other rooms. I smelled vanilla again when Frank and I caught up with her husband and his mistress. In the car they were driving, it was slowly overwhelmed by the mistress’s own flowery scent— a mixture of hairspray and cheap perfume.

All Things Violent is a good character study of how a young woman deals with the savagery of her chosen cut-throat trade. Told through the first person of Laura, I found All Things Violent enjoyable except for the one jarring chapter towards the end of the book which switches into the third-person omnipresent point-of-view. I realize there was some information that the reader needed to know but there probably was a less distracting way to do so. (But then again this might be an inside baseball complaint.) Dolson reveals to us Laura’s history and motivation during her various assignments. Throughout All Things Violent, Dolson shows she has the writing chops and some great story-telling talent. Not only did I enjoy All Things Violent, I am looking forward to reading her next book.

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