Killing and Dying is a peculiar little story collection. Every story, every character, has some level of seediness to it. He appears to trade only in imperfect characters, leaving all their stories pretty open-ended.
Our first story, for example, focuses on a guy wanting to sell people on what really does bear a lot of resemblance to a Chia pet (like a character mentions), only more artsy, a combination sculpture/plant that would need constant, paid upkeep from him (and which he asks $500 for upfront). A setup with plenty of drama and comedy to mine. But there’s also some darkness there, seeping out in spurts. He seems a tad racist, for example, calling one man an “oriental,” and telling his black partner that they only were rude about his idea because he is not black. And he and his supportive partner butt heads in destructive fashion, the cracks in their relationship being broken wider and wider. So what could be a silly lark of a story becomes something much more layered and thought provoking.
This holds true for all the stories in Killing and Dying. I don’t know that there’s one character who isn’t unproblematic, without some sort of wart(s) that Tomine draws attention to. It’s refreshing to see characters who are so unflinchingly imperfect, who don’t claim to be paragons of virtue or anything like that. These are just normal people with dark aspects to their lives and personalities that are usually hidden, just like so many of the people we interact with on a daily basis. If you want an unflinching portrayal of life, with all of its blemishes intact, then Killing and Dying is for you.