Book: Hit Man by Lawrence Block

Unusual and pretty good crime novel

Lawrence Block
Hit Man
HarperCollins, 1998
ISBN: 0-380-72541-X
309 pages

Hit Man is an unusual crime novel. The main character, John Keller, is, well, a hit man. But he's not a scarily-smart criminal mastermind. He's a very ordinary guy in most ways. Maybe even blow-average in some respects. He lives alone in an apartment in New York and, from time to time, he gets a call summoning him to visit an old man in a big house in the town of White Plains, an hour's train ride north of the city. Then he goes to some other city and kills someone.

In a more usual crime novel, we'd follow the assassin as he plans one crime in great detail and then commits it. In Hit Man, we see Keller do half a dozen or so murders, none of them in great detail. The book is more like a fictional memoir than a tightly-plotted procedural novel. At one point, Keller gets a significant amount of a poison in a city he's pretty new to without much trouble and we don't find out how he did. That's not a criticism, it's just an indication of what sort of book this is. The book is also rather episodic. That's not a criticism either, though the acknowledgments in the front of the book suggest that it was at least partly assembled out of shorter works.

What we do get from Hit Man is a memoir of solitary Manhattanite who's pretty ordinary apart from his unusual job. He goes to a therapist for a while like many New Yorkers, he meets a woman who's a little ditzy and a Buddhist., and so on. But of course, everything he does is colored to one degree or another by his choice of occupation. And that makes things that would otherwise be rather ordinary interesting to read about. In addition, Mr Block has imagined Keller in a thorough and convincing way. Keller is a persuasive and interesting character and that makes the book an interesting and fun read.

Posted: Thu - November 30, 2006 at 07:03 PM   Main   Category: