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Hit List [Mass Market Paperback]

Lawrence Block
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 17 2002 John Keller Mysteries

Keller is a regular guy. He goes to the movies, works on his stamp collection. Call him for jury duty and he serves without complaint. Then every so often he gets a phone call from White Plains that sends him flying off somewhere to kill a perfect stranger. Keller is a pro and very good at what he does. But the jobs have started to go wrong. The realization is slow coming yet, when it arrives, it is irrefutable: Someone out there is trying to hit the hit man. Keller, God help him, has found his way onto somebody else's hit list.

Frequently Bought Together

Hit List + Hit Parade + Hit And Run
Price For All Three: CDN$ 28.32

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  • Hit Parade CDN$ 9.89
  • Hit And Run CDN$ 9.89

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Product Description

From Amazon

Few mystery authors have a stable of protagonists as uniformly appealing as Lawrence Block's. Whether Block's taking the reader into PI Matthew Scudder's world of dimly lit bars and basement AA meetings, quirky burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr's used bookstore, or the international hot-spot hangouts of Evan Tanner, the spy who never sleeps, he always provides good company. John Keller, star of Block's 1998 story collection Hit Man, is a typical Block invention: an unassuming, get-the-job-done-and-move-on New York contract killer who collects stamps, does the morning crossword, eats Vietnamese takeout, and falls for the occasional woman.

When Keller gets off a plane in Louisville, ready to do the job he's been hired for, something about it feels wrong from the start. And when two people are killed in the motel room he's just vacated, he realizes he narrowly missed a setup, but can't figure out why. Then he goes to Boston to do another job, and afterwards dines in a coffee shop where another patron has the misfortune of leaving with Keller's raincoat:

The Globe didn't have it. But there it was in the Herald, a small story on a back page, a man found dead on Boston Common, shot twice in the head with a small-caliber weapon.

Keller could picture the poor bastard, lying face-down on the grass, the rain washing relentlessly down on him. He could picture the dead man's coat, too. The Herald didn't say anything about a coat, but that didn't matter. Keller could picture it all the same.

Keller's agent, Dot, puts the pieces--including the death of another contract killer she books occasionally--together and comes up with the seemingly crazy idea that a greedy hit man is knocking off the competition. In between other legit hits, romancing a commitment-shy artist, visiting an astrologer, and a long stint on jury duty, Keller slowly moves closer to the faceless nemesis he and Dot dub "Roger." But it's Dot, the woman of action, who figures out what to do about him. Though Hit List is too introspective to be a caper novel, and too funny to be noir, it's bound to find a rapt audience with fans of both subgenres. After two such engaging books, can Hit Parade be far behind? --Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

John Keller, whom Block introduced in Hit Man, is a killer for hire, with a difference. He's thoughtful, even broody, tends to take a liking to some of the towns where he goes to do his work, dreams of perhaps settling down in one of them one day and collects stamps in his spare time, of which there's plenty. It's a novel idea, and it carried an excellent group of stories in the previous book. A whole novel about Keller, however, who after all walks a very delicate line between likability and horror, is more than he can readily bear, and, almost unknown in Block's work, there are longueurs here. The plot is wryly serviceableAa rival is attempting to corner the market by getting to some of Keller's intended victims first, and clearly has to be disposed ofAbut about halfway through a certain unease creeps in and won't let go. For all Block's usual great skill with goofy dialogue (here between Keller and Dot, the intermediary who takes the orders for his jobs), it's difficult to indefinitely enjoy jokes about the violent deaths of a number of people who, for all Dot and Keller know, are harmless, perhaps even good citizens, but whom someone is willing to pay to remove. Apparently mindful of this, Block keeps the killings mostly offstage, or with a minimum of graphic violence. But an affection for Keller is an acquired taste, and here it proves difficult to acquire. 9-city author tour. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Keller, fresh off the plane from Newark, followed the signs marked Baggage Claim. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Step Down from Hit Man into a Slow-Moving Plot Sept. 30 2006
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Lawrence Block's series about John Keller, the contract assassin for occasional hire, got off to a strong and nuanced start in Hit Man. A series of short stories were woven together in that book that presents an interesting account of a man who has lost himself in a soul-deadening job . . . but struggles to break free. That book's weakness is that Keller doesn't ring true.

In Hit List, Keller barely rings at all as a character. He's more like a pawn for Mr. Block's fanciful plot about a hit man who has gone rogue.

That is unfortunate because the book started out somewhat promisingly as brushes with danger lead Keller to seek answers. He finds out that he has a "murderer's thumb" -- whatever that is . . . and that the occasions when he's been in danger look bad on his astrological chart. Where might all that have led? Probably someplace much more interesting than where the book actually does lead.

If you decide to stop reading about John Keller after Hit Man, I think you'll be reasonably happy with your decision.

Mr. Block does a solid job of portraying a doomed man, but it's hardly inspiring to better understand the cold comfort of being a contract killer.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Staves off boredom but only barely. May 31 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Had a couple plane rides last week, so read Hit List by Lawrence Block. Sometimes the brain needs a break. This kind of thing gives it. I usually like Lawrence Block's murder mysteries, but I must admit that this one fell way short. It was a different character than he usually writes about (maybe the only book with that guy since it didn't sell that well). The protagonist is a hit man, a contract killer. He is also a stamp collector (supposed to give him depth and ellicit empathy). Single living in a small non-descript flat in New York. Works for a "suburban housewife" out in New Jersey. Very dispassionate, but not in a cruel way. In a "well, this is my job and I better get it done so I can go to the stamp dealer" sort of way. He is not very complex, although Block tries to make him so. During a couple of his jobs he has a "funny feeling" and strange things happen. Like two people being shot in the head with a 22 in a hotel room he just moved from. And two of his targets getting killed by other means right in front of him without his help. Eventually he figures out that a competitor is trying to kill him and has successfully killed other guys as a way to reduce the competition. Sometimes I wish that tactic were available to my startups. Of course this eventually leads him to try to get the drop on the other guy and I won't bore you with the details there. Lets just say the end peters out into nothingness. Not really a page turner. Not an engaging character. But provides a good break from computer manuals and business plans to change the world.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but weak plot at the end July 26 2002
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I can see that many have given this book a low rating, but then they might not see the humour in what L. Block has done with this novel. It depends what you are looking for. This is entertainment and not a thriller or crime fiction.
The entertainment is mainly in the dialogues and the setting -- Keller and Dot's "mildly" alienated approach to their work, how Keller looks for new stamp collection in the city where he is to do his work as a hitman, the remarks from Dot, the various descriptions and characters.
I agree about the weak plot at the end - but that is forgiven.
Block writes a lot. It is extraordinary how his books differ - from the brilliant "burgler" series to more lightweigt "Tanner" series. And the "Scudder" series again totally different and great reading.
This book belongs to his lightweight novels. You have to read the Scudder or Burglar..series to get his best work.
(I am just about to order all of his "Burglar" novels..)
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hit List will knock you dead in spots March 19 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The plot is simple, although at times very obscure, with hit man Keller realizing that he has become the hunted. Full of interesting thoughts and philisophical questions, Keller makes his way through the novel with a knack for humoring the reader, establishing relationships with other characters as he does so, and collecting stamps.
This is a very unique book, though most critics fail to connect with the main character, a hit man. Sure, he's a cold-blooded killer, but the idea is for it to make you laugh at him, not judge him. I liked it, though it was a bit wordy at times, and Dot was an amazingly annoying addition to the equation. My gripes were that the characters are shallow, if anything, and the plot gets chopped up and mixed with lots of uninteresting, irrelevant garbage at times. The book is really good when the plot is moving along, but there are lots of random detours (Keller getting stuck on jury duty) that are nothing but dead-end reading. Then you're back to the plot, and it gets good again.
I hesitate to call this book great, or wonderful, or anything close, but it was ok as far as mystery books go. The finale was good, but I'd stick to the Matt Scudder series. Those are where Block's talent is, and I hope this book isn't a sign of things to come.
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3.0 out of 5 stars I Called It "Hit & Miss" Instead March 13 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The first book in this two book series (to date), "Hit Man", is a loosely connected series of short stories, most originally published in Playboy, and slightly reworked for this novelized format. The stories were interesting snapshots in the life and times of a hit man's career, character and conscience. This second entry in the series, "Hit List", continues the good insights and casual banter between Keller and Dot, who really do compliment each other well. That's the "Hit" part. The "Miss" part is in the fact that this full novelized sequel simply has no engaging suspense. Someone is supposed to be trying to "hit the hit man", but you'd never know it until about half way or more into the book, and then it's all so fluffy, (cozy rather than hard boiled), that boredom sets in with the ease of a knife through soft butter. But would I buy a third installment in the series? Yes. I would still be curious as to what happens to Keller and Dot next. Hopefully, their adventures would be both more exciting and unusual as befits the personalities of each, a potential not realized in "Hit List.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
When I first read 'Hitman' I couldn't wait until I got the chance to read 'Hitlist'. When I did, it was great. Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2005 by Adan Rott
1.0 out of 5 stars I wish I was on the hit list
Brutally slow in developing. I gave it 75 pages and I had to stop wasting my time. Keller is BORING! What a lame central character. Read more
Published on June 11 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Hits in Parts But Misses in Others
Some parts of this book are really interesting and a great read while others you are fighting not to fall asleep as they are so boring. Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2004 by James N Simpson
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Much Schtick
I looked forward to reading this book after I read "Hit Man." At best, it was average, with too many Abbott and Costello routines mixed in. Read more
Published on April 21 2003 by M. P. Procter Sr.
4.0 out of 5 stars engrossing and somewhat grossing out
I bought this because of a rave review, and wasn't disappointed. It's a well crafted page-turner with a thoughtful subtext about the banality of evil. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2002 by Joe Haldeman
5.0 out of 5 stars Keller- what more is there to say?
As I was glimpsing through the Mystery section of my local bookstore, i looked at a title. "Hit List". I read the back and it looks interesting. Read more
Published on Sept. 2 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Total waste of time
Avoid it,do not buy it, take a long walk, even talk to your ex(if you re divorced or seperated) you might find it less painfull.A total joke and waste of time and money. Read more
Published on July 30 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars GO FOR A WALK INSTEAD!
Published on July 23 2002 by "hoesy"
1.0 out of 5 stars What a snore!
This is the slo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-w-w-w-est novel I've ever read, and that includes all of Dickens and Hardy. At least Dickens writes interesting dialogue. Read more
Published on July 2 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars A good idea wasted
When I bought the book I was intrigued by the idea of a hit man being himself the prey. But what a disappointment it was - a very slowly moving plot (apart from the last 30/40... Read more
Published on April 8 2002 by Christian Braun
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