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Hit Man Mass Market Paperback – Feb 5 2002
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A man known only as Keller is thinking about Samuel Johnson's famous quote that "'patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel'... If you looked at it objectively, he had to admit, then he was probably a scoundrel himself. He didn't feel much like a scoundrel. He felt like your basic New York single guy, living alone, eating out or bringing home takeout, schlepping his wash to the Laundromat, doing the Times crossword with his morning coffee... There were eight million stories in the naked city, most of them not very interesting, and his was one of them. Except that every once in a while he got a phone call from a man in White Plains. And packed a bag and caught a plane and killed somebody. Hard to argue the point. Man behaves like that, he's a scoundrel. Case closed." But Lawrence Block is such a delightfully subtle writer, one of the true masters of the mystery genre, that the case is far from closed. In this beautifully linked collection of short stories, we gradually put together such a complete picture of Keller that we don't so much forgive him his occupation as consider it just one more part of his humanity. After watching Keller take on cases that baffle and anger him into actions that fellow members of his hit-man union might well call unprofessional, we're eager to join him as he goes through a spectacularly unsuccessful analysis and gets fooled by a devious intelligence agent. We miss the dog he acquires and loses, along with its attractive walker. Like Richard Stark's Parker, Keller makes us think the unthinkable about criminals: that they might be the guys next door--or even us, under different pressures. For a small selection of the many Blocks in paperback, try Coward's Kiss, A Long Line of Dead Men, The Sins of the Fathers, Such Men Are Dangerous, and especially When the Sacred Ginmill Closes. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
For some years now, Block's been chronicling the adventures of fatalistic hired assassin J.P. Keller. Now Block (The Burglar in the Library, p. 912, etc.) has revised and collected ten stories showing Keller doing what he does best. As he sallies forth from his First Avenue apartment to one American city after another at the behest of the old man in White Plains, Keller ponders whether he can kill a man he's grown to like, mops up after hitting the wrong target, serves as cat's-paw for killers initially more clever than he is, and agonizes over which of two clients who've paid to have each other killed he's going to have to disappoint. In between his methodical executions, he also checks out real estate in Oregon, consults a therapist, takes up stamp collecting, wonders if learning more about flowers would enrich his life, buys earrings for the woman who walks his dog, and worries how much of a commitment he can make to either the woman or the dog. It's the combination of the many things Keller ruminates about and the many things he tries not to (``This is the wrong business for moral decisions,'' the old man's secretary admonishes him) that gives him his melancholy fascination. Is the result a novel or a cycle of stories? Block's ravenous fans--delighted to see at least three masterpieces (``Keller on Horseback,'' ``Keller's Therapy,'' and ``Keller in Shining Armor'') gathered in one volume--won't care any more than Keller would. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
In the professional ranks, everyone has cut outs. Keller gets his orders for an old man in White Plains. That man in turn accepts orders from other trusted brokers. No one knows who paid for the hit.
The terms? Half down and half on success. The amounts are a little vague but it seems more than adequate because Keller can live a carefree life without other forms of employment by working on only 8-10 jobs a year.
The hits take Keller away from his Manhattan home (near the U.N.) to some pretty obscure places. Sometimes those visits are a distraction and he hangs around to imagine what an ordinary life would be in the vicinity.
But when it comes to his work, Keller is unsentimental, creative and quick.
But occasionally something comes up that confuses matters . . . like the time he is ordered by two targets to kill each other. What to do?
The strength of the story is in taking us out of our lives to see the world through Keller's eyes. The only person he can talk openly to is Dot, the old man's assistant. The rest of the time is pretty lonely. That leads him to become a dog owner, after a strange series of events. But he travels a lot, so someone has to walk the dog. Keller doesn't want to leave the dog in a kennel so he finds a dog walker. One thing leads to another. How close can Keller get to someone else?
Keller is aware that his work has taken over whoever he was when he started. And he doesn't quite understand the process . . .Read more ›
I found that each time I started to empathise with Keller I was jolted by the realisation that - hang on, the man is a heartless murderer! It was quite a difficult hurdle to overcome. What was even harder for me to reconcile was the humorous mood of the book that dealt with the murders as quickly and efficiently as Keller himself did. This was probably the tone and the effect that Lawrence Block was hoping to achieve, but it was unsettling all the same.
Now, having expressed the aspects of the book that made me uncomfortable, I should point out that I found it very compelling reading and could virtually not put it down. A bit like driving past a road accident I suppose. Lawrence Block manages to portray the anti-hero very well in many of his books and almost pulls it off again here. When Keller's not working you could almost class him as a nice guy.
But Keller is dead serious about his work, and thus neurotic about the details and nuances of what he does. He meticulously plans his 'hits,' often adding a personal flare to his execution methods. Why use a bullet when you can make a death look accidental? And in a perverse irony, Keller has a strong sense of right and wrong, and sometimes improvises on an assignment to improve a conflicted situation as a result of his deadly deed. What a guy.
HIT MAN is the premiere episode of another Lawrence Block book series. It is slow out of the blocks, using valuable prose to set the stage for future installments. The humor gets lost in the mechanics, which is a shame as HIT MAN's sequel, HIT LIST, is a knee slapper. This inaugural episode is worthy of a pass, while the Keller series itself is shaping up to be a fun, clever and humorous look at the life of a 'thoughtful' paid assassin.
Most recent customer reviews
The book was written well by the author but only in his use of words. I felt by the limited experience of the author it really didnt do the subject matter justice. Read morePublished on May 12 2004
Entertaining and fast-paced - the character of Keller is very well done. Block manages to seamlessly incorporate humor and humanity with the macabre responsibilities of a hit man. Read morePublished on Feb. 3 2004
This book is easy to read, with lots of conversation. It did hold my interest. I felt like I was reading Lawrence Block's fantasies, which they clearly are. Read morePublished on April 25 2003 by Kris
Keller is a character that you want to like...and after the first chaprter you do. He's Mr. Anybody, maybe like you and me, except, that is, what he does for a living. Read morePublished on April 21 2003 by M. P. Procter Sr.
I just finished this book, and I was simply blown away. Great writing, as well as a love/hate him protagonist, puts this novel at the top of my list. Read morePublished on July 26 2002
I enjoyed this book for its page-turning aspects and the high caliber of writing. It was fun to read and the characterizations were good. Read morePublished on Oct. 28 2001 by Fairbanksreader
I'd never read any Lawrence Block before, and picked up "Hit Man" on a whim. What I found was an author who could write circles around a lot of his peers. Read morePublished on Aug. 16 2001 by Tracy Rowan