Review — NAUSEA, by Ed Kurtz

Title: Nausea

Author: Ed Kurtz

Publisher: Dark Fuse


Becoming a hit-man isn’t exactly one of those career goals your guidance counselor would mention, not the sort of thing for which there are accredited training programs or job fair opportunities, not what you’d hear little kids say they want to be when they grow up (well, one would hope; maybe keep an eye on such kids if so).

Nor is it usually a profession someone would kind of stumble into by accident, but that’s more or less the case with killer-for-hire Nick. There he was, in a life without much else going for him anyway, lacking prospects or ambition … then he just so happened to murder a couple of people … and got noticed by an influential party who thought he might have the necessary talents.

So, hey, what the hell, why not? It pays the bills, it beats the alternative of annoying that same influential party, and, well, once he’s past the initial learning curve and settles into a system, he finds he’s pretty good at it.

At least, he used to be. These recent assignments aren’t sitting right. The coincidences are bothering him. Is he losing his touch? What happened to his stone-cold detachment? Why is he suddenly feeling sick? Could it be he’s growing a conscience after all these years? Or is it something else?

Nick decides, like any good sociopath, to attack his problems head-on. If what’s troubling him has to do with the assignments themselves, or his employer, then maybe selecting a random target will prove he’s still got what it takes and get him back on track.

Nausea is a fascinating exploration of the dark side of a psyche, a protagonist who is not a good guy, who should not be sympathetic. No decent person should be rooting for him to get his mojo back at the cost of innocent lives, no matter how intense his inner struggle or his outward opposition. Yet, well, there it was … though maybe that’s a reflection on my own psyche.

I do admit, I have a fondness for the bad-guy-meets-worse-guy dynamic. This isn’t even the rogue/scoundrel Jack Sparrow thing, or the justified anti-hero thing like in The Punisher. This is a capital-B capital-G Bad Guy, and Nick made a place for himself right up there with Dexter and Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders.