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?
Source: Barrie Trinkle, Amazon.com.
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.