Hit List Mass Market Paperback – Jan 10 2002
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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'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.
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.
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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..)
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.
Most recent customer reviews
When I first read 'Hitman' I couldn't wait until I got the chance to read 'Hitlist'. When I did, it was great. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2005 by Adan Rott
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 morePublished on June 11 2004
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 morePublished on Jan. 16 2004 by James N Simpson
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 morePublished on April 21 2003 by M. P. Procter Sr.
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 morePublished on Dec 5 2002 by Joe Haldeman
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 morePublished on Sept. 2 2002
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 morePublished on July 30 2002
WHAT UNADULTERATED DRIVEL, A TOTAL WASTE OF TIME!
THIS IS SO OUT OF CHARACTER WITH LAWERENCE BLOCK'S NORMAL WORK THAT I DIDN'T EVEN RECOGNIZE IT. Read more