Cover of Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman. Various security screens, showing a person running, a man's face, a swan, and a cityscape

About the Book

Title: Swipe Right for Murder
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Hard Yes
Drinking Buddy: Diet Pepsi. Dry. Shaken, not stirred.
MPAA Rating: R: extreme violence, language, sexual situations, drug and alcohol use
Talky Talk: Everyday Schlub
Bonus Factors: Moral Ambiguity, Hipsters
Bromance Status: Along For the Ride

Cover Story: Hard Yes

Yes. This is exactly what an action book about terrorists and espionage should look like: the grainy images, the surveillance equipment, even the Swan logo, give us an unsettling forewarning of the danger that lies ahead. My only criticism is that this book had a funny side, which really doesn’t come through in the cover art, though including humorous images might have been a bad idea.

The Deal:

Seventeen-year-old Aidan has had bad luck in the romantic department. A gay teen, he’s never really been accepted by his family and has trouble connecting with other guys. After a disastrous affair with the father of a friend, Aidan finds himself looking to hookup apps to find another silver fox. When staying alone at a hotel, he connects with an older gentleman named Benoit. After a fulfilling, no-strings-attached night together, Aidan wakes to discover his partner dead from a gunshot wound to the head. With laser targeting devices trying to pinpoint him through the hotel window, Aidan attempts to dial 911 from his lover’s phone, and answers an incoming call. It becomes rapidly clear that Aidan was not the visitor Benoit was expecting. Whoever is on the other end of the phone thinks Aidan is a mercenary who murdered Benoit and has stolen some mysterious and valuable item. Fleeing for his life, Aidan is pursued by angry terrorists, thugs who look eerily like the Hardy Boys, New York hipsters, FBI agents, and a doey-eyed man named Shiloh who always seems to be there in the nick of time.

Plus, he has dinner reservations with his family that night, and he can’t be late.

Drinking Buddy: Diet Pepsi. Dry. Shaken, not stirred.

Two pints of beer cheersing

Now Aidan is kind of a nerdy kid, someone who has trouble with relationships, be they family, friend, or romantic. He’s not a tough guy. He lost his older brother to an undetected heart condition fairly recently, and his family babies him, terrified he could be next. And all of a sudden, he’s running for his life from terrorists and the feds. I don’t think any of us would do well in that situation.

On the other hand, we don’t get a lot of emotional response from him. He kills several bad guys in the course of the adventure, and he just kind of shrugs it off. Justifiable homicide or not, Aidan is still more concerned with his relationships than the fact that he stabbed a guy to death with a paperclip (which was completely absurd). Also, his family was overprotective and silly, to an almost situation comedy degree.

MPAA Rating:  R: Extreme violence, language, sexual situations, drug and alcohol use

It’s pretty much nonstop action from the moment Aidan wakes up next to a dead man. Secret supervillain lairs, audacious acts of terrorism, drugs, and the moral ambiguity of violence. Not to mention this handsome young man named Shiloh, who always is there right when Aidan needs him. He’s like Aidan’s personal, sexy, guardian angel. It’s a little too perfect, actually. Is Shiloh who he really says he is?

Honestly, a lot of this was over the top, with untrained Aidan pulling off the craziest stunts, the bad guys monologing their plans, and the feds insisting on sending Aidan into situations where an experienced agent wouldn’t go. But hey, if we don’t worry about that in a James Bond movie, why should we care here? Let’s just sit back and see if Aidan gets off that collapsing roller coaster alive.

Talky Talk: Everyday Schlub

‘The Green Door.’ The 49 Steps. The Man Who Knew Too Little. Stories about everyday people who find themselves sucked into worlds of danger, excitement, and daring. So the question remains, how would you react? 

Aidan’s friends insist that he immediately go to the police and tell them everything. Aidan is not so sure. He feels he might be implicated in Benoit’s death and he’d rather know just who he’s fighting before he turns himself in (he’s not entirely sure he can trust the law). So Aidan, armed with nothing but his charm and $10,000 in stolen cash, sets out to take down a terrorist organization by himself.

Would you be brave enough to do the same?

Bonus Factor: Moral Ambiguity

One green sign saying "good" and one saying "evil" pointing different directions

Aidan discovers that the organization behind all this chaos is ‘The Swans.’ They’re a militant LBGTQ rights group with incredible (read: unbelievable) tech. They hack hospital equipment and cause a homophobic politician to die during routine surgery. They send a flock of drones after a group of funeral protesters, chasing them into a sniper ambush. And this is just the opening act.

Aidan is horrified…in theory. Yes, terrorism is wrong. But these so-called victims…they’re people who decided that folks like Aidan are subhuman perverts, unfit to live in decent society. People who have dedicated their lives to making sure Aidan couldn’t get married, could be denied employment, and could even be jailed or institutionalized. It’s hard to feel sympathy.

Plus, there’s the matter of Scotty. He’s an older gentleman, an ex-professor who leads the Swans. He has a knack for getting into Aidan’s head. Aidan realizes that he’s Scotty’s type, and Scotty is not without his physical charms. Scotty implies that Aidan would be an asset to the Swans. Aidan has a chance to join something big.

Of course, the thing about terrorism is that innocent people always get caught in the crossfire. And when Aidan realizes what the Swans’ next target is, he’s faced with a difficult choice.

Bonus Factor: Hipsters

Aidan’s friends, Jackson, Tats, and Logan, are so hip, you’ll cough up your gluten-free, artisan craft soy latte all over your urban efficiency sleeping pod. Or something. Their level of hipster was just a bit too much for me, even taken ironically.

Bromance Status: Along For the Ride

I didn’t bond with this book, but I enjoyed the journey. I’ll read more by this author.

Literary Matchmaking

Scream All Night

For a much better book by the same author, read Scream All Night.

Boy Nobody (The Unknown Assassin #1)

Allen Zadoff’s I Am Boy Nobody deals with another teen agent, though a slightly more competent one.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1)

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, is a historical novel about a nameless yahoo who gets sucked into international intrigue.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor a certain flash drive for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.