Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hit and Run

Keller is a hit man, someone willing to kill just about anyone if the price is right. He understands that his long term survival depends on never being spotted at the scene of one of his hits and, if the circumstances require it, he is willing to kill any witnesses who come so close that they might later be able to identify him. Man or woman, it really doesn’t matter much to John Keller. One can only hope that he at least draws the line at the children of his targets.

And, with the help of Dot, the woman who functions as his manager, Keller has done quite well over the last few years. He has a couple of million dollars stashed in an offshore bank account, a valuable stamp collection that he’s nurtured for years, and intentions to retire after one last hit. As for Dot, let’s just say that she’s perfectly suited for her job, seeing nothing wrong with killing for profit or for her own personal survival.

But funny things happen on Keller’s last job and, even though he senses that something is a little off about the job and the people who hired him, before he knows it he has been identified as the assassin of Iowa’s governor and he, along with millions of others, is staring at his face on CNN. As Keller sees it, his only chance is to make his way back to his New York City apartment where he hopes to regroup long enough to figure out a survival plan for himself and Dot.

Getting from Des Moines to New York City with only a few dollars in cash, a stolen credit card or two, and a packet of expensive stamps in one pocket is not easy, as Keller is quick to learn. But the hit man has acquired a few skills over the course of his career that give him a fighting chance of making it there in one piece and, since he could come up with no better plan, he heads in that direction.

In Hit and Run, Lawrence Block has pulled off the near impossible task of making a rather despicable pair of killers like John Keller and his partner into sympathetic, even likable, characters. It is hard not to root for them as they struggle to survive long enough to identify those who set them up to take the fall in a major political assassination and, when they decide to get even, they become the good guys in this dark comedy thriller.

Lawrence Block makes all of this look a lot easier than it is. He has written fifty-something books now and, although I’ve read quite a few of them, I’ve never been disappointed by one. This one is book four of the “Keller series” but, strangely enough, it is the first novel of the series and easily can be enjoyed as a standalone novel by those unfamiliar with the Keller short story collections.

Block has done it again; this one is great fun.

Rated at: 4.5


  1. Hey, I'm half way through Hit Parade right now. I hadn't even heard of Block before, but I won that book last year and am only now getting around to reading it. It is a lot of fun so far.

  2. I love all of the John Keller series!

  3. Lawrence Block does write great books in this genre. Haven't read his last few, I'll have to check them out.

  4. I remember when I worked at a library how Block always stayed checked out all the time. This book sounds like the kind I've been in the mood for lately.

  5. That's cool, sure to let me know what you think of that one. I'm curious about the shorter Keller pieces that are in the other three books. I think you'd like this novel a lot if you enjoy the one you're reading.

  6. Syndi, I have to admit that the series is new to me. It had been a while since I'd read a Lawrence Block book and I missed those.

  7. I agree, Carrie. His plots are always interesting and his characters are just outstanding.

  8. Bybee, I can understand why. This guy is just so "readable" that I wonder how he does it...consistently high quality like that is not easy to accomplish.