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Book review: A hug that turns the page, a tribute to older women

Penny A Parrish FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR

Four old friends together on a luxury cruise…it sounds delicious. But when the four friends are women who have spent forty years as assassins, the Love Boat concept is thrown into the water. In this book, Deanna Raybourn has taken the often overlooked life of older women and turned it into a page-turning hug.

Billie, Natalie, Mary Alice and Helen were recruited by a private agency in the late 1970s as young women. They often worked as a team to take down the bad guys in this world: Nazis, arms dealers, sex traffickers, drug lords. They were well trained, learning to use knives, firearms, poisons – even tobacco juice to kill bad guys and girls.

Today, the agency rewards these retirees by sending them on a luxury cruise as a token of appreciation for their years of service. They are quick to leave the port when they realize that this time they are the target of the agency they worked for (never identified, just known as The Museum). For most people, it would be hard to escape someone trying to kill you on a ship in the middle of nowhere. But they are experienced, intelligent and wise women. They realize it.

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But then what? One option is to simply walk away, disappear and adopt new identities and get regular jobs. “Do what?” Natalie asked. “We spent forty years murdering people, Billie. That’s all we know how to do and you can’t exactly find clients for that on LinkedIn. “I think Craigslist would be a better place to find clients,” Helen said. So they decide to go after the bigwigs at the top who ordered their disappearance.

This book is a tribute to older women, who are often overlooked as they age. Gray hair comes in handy when you want to be invisible. Wrinkles make you look like someone’s sweet grandmother. The extra weight around the middle makes you look like a breeze. These women take advantage of their age, their experience and their wisdom to triumph over those who want them dead.

The plot has many twists and the writing is often funny. The dialogue makes you feel like you’re sitting with your best friends, having a glass of wine. And you’ll never look at non-dairy cream the same way again!

Penny A Parrish is a freelance writer in Stafford County.

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