Collins' Quarry Series, which he began in 1976, includes Quarry, Quarry's List, Quarry's Deal, Quarry's Cut, Quarry's Vote, Quarry's Greatest Hits, The Last Quarry, The First Quarry, Quarry in the Middle, Quarry's Ex, and the Wrong Quarry. It is one terrific series and Collins can only be faulted for not writing more in this series over the years. Indeed, he wrote the first four in the seventies and then Quarry's Vote in 1987, but waited until the 2000s before picking back up with the series.
Quarry, if you haven't read the series before, is about a contract killer and told from his perspective. Quarry returns from the Vietnam War and finds his wife shacked up with another guy. He finds the guy the next day, under his car, working on it, and kicks the jack out, killing him. He finds himself shunned after that and can't get employment. With his marriage over and his life falling apart, the Broker recruits him as a contract killer. With the Broker as a middle man, Quarry concentrates on his work, never knowing who the client is. Quarry is, in fact, the best assassin in the Broker's stable, that is, until, betrayed by the Broker, he gives Broker a fitting end and finds the Broker's files.
Quarry's Greatest Hits is basically Quarry's Vote (entitled Primary Target here) and several short pieces to round out the collection. The first selection A Matter of Principal is a great little piece about a pair of gay mobsters who have kidnapped a young teenager and what happens when Quarry runs into them. For those of us who have already read The Last Quarry, it is a familiar story since it eventually became the first chapter of that book.
In Quarry's Vote, originally published as Primary Target, Quarry is retired and running a small motel/resort on a small lake in rural Wisconsin. He lets himself drink and get pudgy over the long winters and has even married a sweet young blonde girl, who he originally had shacked up with as a one-night stand, but it morphed into something else after her parents were killed in a car wreck. It is an idyllic life and, in his early thirties, Quarry is embarking on a calm life. Only, and you knew this was coming, someone from his old life looks him up and proposes a job, the job of a lifetime, really. One million dollars for one hit. It's a political hit on a third-party presidential fringe presidential candidate. Quarry ponders the money, but decides he is retired from that life and turns it down. Quarry also explains that, with a political hit, like Oswald, you are never safe. You are a loose end that someone has to deal with.
Seeing a car parked nearby with a lone man sitting in it, Quarry realizes that he may have turned the job done, but he is now a loose end that must be dealt with. He is now being hunted by those who would have hired him.
Quarry then puts the clues together and heads to the Quad Cities area of Iowa/Illinois to find out who has put the hit on him.
Although the idea of Quarry doing a political hit makes the book sound hokey, it is actually another great work in the Quarry line with Quarry playing detective to find out who is behind it in the complicated political world of third-party politics.
Along the way, the story is told with typical Quarry dead-pan humor that makes it an absolute pleasure to read.
Quarry is like a one-man army invading a political war camp. No one is who they seem in the Quad Cities and they are all inter-connected.
Primary Target (Quarry's Vote) is followed by short pieces. One of these pieces involves Quarry, retired, hanging in a bar with a old buddy from Vietnam, who jokes that they are now in the same business. Quarry, who had been drinking a bit, starts at that, wondering if his buddy is also an assassin, but his buddy merely meant the motel business. This piece is so familiar that I think Collins incorporated it into a later Quarry novel. I just can't remember which one.
All of the pieces in this collection are worthwhile. Highly recommended. Indeed, I recommend each and every book in the Quarry series.