cover image The Distance

The Distance

Helen Giltrow. Doubleday, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-53699-8

In British author Giltrow’s riveting debut, the rich, sophisticated Charlotte Alton is the alter ego of Karla, who operates a high-tech information network. Eight years earlier, Karla established a new identity for Simon Johanssen, a hit man fleeing gangster John Quillan. Now Johanssen wants her help infiltrating the Program, a prisoner-run society in a heavily guarded London neighborhood, to kill inmate Catherine Gallagher. Because Quillan is the most powerful man in the Program, Karla has misgivings about sending Johanssen inside, but reluctantly agrees. She also looks into Catherine’s background but finds no record of a crime, conviction, sentencing, or incarceration—only a year-old missing person report. Meanwhile, Catherine saves Johanssen from Quillan’s sadistic sidekick, and he begins to reconsider the hit. While Johanssen isn’t entirely convincing as a professional killer, the attraction between him and Karla, as well as other unexpected connections between damaged characters, add depth to an already satisfying read. Agent: Gráinne Fox, Fletcher & Company. (Sept.)