An international assassin is loose in fictional Clement County, Kentucky. But who is the target? And why?
That’s the premise in “The Assassin’s Kiss,” the sixth novel in the Clement County saga written by four Eastern Kentucky University professors under the pen name Quinn MacHollister.
Could the trouble stem from disputes between two Native American tribes – the wealthy Quapanog and their more destitute brethren, the Khiute? Maybe it arises from the growing drug trade that Sheriff Ron Motley can barely cut a swath through? Perhaps it’s a result of someone’s troubled past? Or the greed of a large corporation trying to regain a foothold in Clement County?
One of the hardest parts of writing about the assassin was not giving away whether the sniper was male or female. That challenge was left up to Charlie Sweet, co-chair of EKU’s Teaching and Learning Center. “You’d be surprised how tough it was to avoid using a he/she pronoun and find other ways to identify the shooter,” Sweet said. “Try it sometime.”
It would be easy to paint the sniper as completely evil, sinister, and rotten to the core. But the authors tried to avoid such stereotypical characterization. “The assassin calls each kill a ‘kiss,’” said Hal Blythe, the other co-chair of the Teaching and Learning Center. “And the sniper uses money earned from the killings to pay for graduate studies in English Literature. You’ll often find the shooter listening to lectures on tape while waiting for the target to show up.”
The authors also take some characters out of Clement County for a change of scenery. “Sheriff Motley travels to Connecticut for the funeral of his former DEA partner,” said Mason Smith, an EKU senior lecturer in English. “And, we have other characters up to mischief at several locations in New York, including an exclusive convalescent home where a nasty BSE corporate executive is recovering from a fright she sustained in the last novel, “Where There’s Fire.”
As in the other books in the saga, a supernatural element appears. Previously, Clement Countians have faced battling bigfoots, elusive aliens, wicked witches, savage superwolves, and the devil’s disciple. This time, the threat is more ominous, delivered through dreams.
“We have the sheriff’s trusted friend and former deputy, a Quapanog called The White Wolf, on a vision quest, while two members of the Khiute tribe, at odds with the Quapanog, have dreams that they’re the ones to restore balance between the two tribes,” said Marie Mitchell, an instructor in the Department of Communication.
Toss in secrets between two powerful families, secret agents, a lost boy, a love triangle, a mock wedding extravaganza, and drones and you have “The Assassin’s Kiss.”
This novel also includes a list of characters and a map of the county to help readers—and writers – keep people and places straight.
All books in the saga are available on Amazon.
Readers can also learn more about the authors and the Clement County saga novels on Facebook under Quinn MacHollister or Mitchell-Smith Books.