Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hit Me

Keller is back - and he's up to his old tricks.  Still living in post-Katrina New Orleans with his wife and little girl, our supposedly-retired hit man has more time on his hands than he would like.  The legitimate construction business that did so well for him following the devastating hurricane that was Katrina is now on the skids.  Keller's good friend and business partner has taken a job with another construction outfit while Keller happily spends his days with his family - and his beloved stamp collection. 

But Keller really hates to tap too deeply into his savings and, because he has spotted some stamps he would really love to add to his collection, when his longtime partner in crime calls, he is ready to listen.  Dot, like Keller, has been forced to create a new identity (and life) in order to avoid the repercussions of their last escapade, but now she is ready to earn a little extra cash.  The timing of her call could not have been better.

Before he knows it, Keller has accepted, survived, and highly profited from five assassinations that take him to Dallas, New York, a Caribbean cruise, Colorado, and Buffalo - where someone is willing to pay big bucks to have a 14-year-old boy killed.  And, believe it or not, you're going to be rooting for Keller the entire time.

Lawrence Block
Lawrence Block, probably best known for his Matthew Scudder novels, is one of the more prolific writers out there these days.  Hit Me is, in fact, the fifth book in what Block calls his "Keller's Greatest Hits" series.  The first three books are short story collections, the fourth one (which I loved) is the first novel in the series - and this new one feels at times more like a chronological presentation of short stories than a novel.

I say this because some of the same details about Keller's background, personal habits, stamp collecting philosophy, etc. are included in several of the book's "chapters" and each new unit is formatted more like a short story than the next chapter of a novel.  The book's title page is clearly marked as "A Keller Novel," but its content most definitely lends itself to publication as individual short stories, as well.

Keller and Dot (and now Keller's wife, Julia) are memorable characters.  Now that Julia has come to grips with her husband's choice of occupation, her role in future Keller novels and stories offers Block endless possibilities.  But the relationship between Dot and Keller is still one of the best things about the series.  The two death merchants, whose communication happens exclusively via telephone, exchange the kind of jokes, wordplay, and one-liners that keep them, and their readers, from falling into too dark a mood about what they are plotting.  That Dot's humor is mostly of the "groaner" variety, and that Keller often pretends not to get it, is part of the fun.

(Stamp collectors, and those even a bit curious about that world, will be pleased with Block's attention to this part of Keller's background, as well - others, maybe not so much.  I am in the "pleased" group.")

These Keller books are fun, and if dark humor is your thing, you will definitely enjoy them.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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