Hit List

by Lawrence Block

William Morrow, 2000.
Hardcover, 296 pages.
ISBN: 0060198338

Hit List by Lawrence Block John Keller lives a normal, single guy's life in New York City. He travels on business, collects stamps, dutifully shows up for jury duty and has the occasional relationship with a most unsuitable woman. But Keller's job is anything but normal; he is an extremely accomplished assassin who accepts his gigs from his broker, the super-efficient Dot. Keller's latest job in St. Louis was really strange; he just had a bad feel about the whole thing. Then, the people who rented his hotel room after he switched rooms are found murdered. The coincidences keep piling up, until it becomes clear to Keller and Dot that the hit man has himself become the target of a rival assassin who is methodically eliminating the competition. Naming the mysterious assassin "Roger", Keller and Dot set out to take out the other hit man.

Lawrence Block is truly one of our writing treasures. Whether he is writing about the gentleman thief and bookseller, Bernie Rhodenbarr, or the spy who never sleeps, Evan Tanner, he always entertains. Hit man John Keller is a complex character who kills for a living, but who strives to be ethical in his daily life. Extremely introspective, Keller is always at his most entertaining when he is musing over some vicissitude of daily life, such as when he wonders how in the world he is ever supposed to "clean his plate" in a diner that boasts a bottomless cup of coffee. (No matter how much coffee he drinks, a waitress is always standing at the ready to refill it.) His neuroses at time have an almost Seinfeldian sense about them: Keller's visit to a psychic (at the suggestion of his current commitment-phobic artist girlfriend) makes him extremely nervous when the psychic notices his "murderer's thumb." And it is the ruthlessly efficient Dot who pulls Keller back down to earth when his ruminations take him too far afield. The dialogue is priceless and Keller is a ruthless charmer. Highly recommended.

--Claire E. White

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This review was published in the March, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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