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HIT ME by Lawrence Block: Book Review

It can’t be easy to make a hired killer, an assassin, a sympathetic character to the reader.  But Lawrence Block has been doing it for more than twenty years.

Hit Me is a collection of several short stories following Keller, now known as Nicholas Edwards.  He and his wife Julia have relocated from New York to New Orleans with their toddler daughter Jenny, and Keller thought he was out of the killing business permanently.

In the first story he gets a call from Dot, the woman who gives Keller his assignments, asking about his interest in going to Dallas to eliminate a man.  Dot, like Keller, thought she had retired from the business, but when she reentered it she phoned Keller to find out if he too has had a change of heart.  It seems he has, as his formerly flourishing rehab business in the Crescent City has slowed considerably due to the economic downturn.  In addition, Keller has been planning on traveling to Dallas to attend a stamp collecting auction.  When Dot hears this she calls the coincidence “the hand of Providence.”  Well, I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.

Hit Me takes Keller all over, from New Orleans to Dallas to New York City to an ocean liner in the Caribbean to Denver to Cheyenne and finally Buffalo.  It seems that the business of killing people is as remunerative as always, especially for a man who knows his work.

Of course, Keller’s victims are always unpleasant people, although it may be a stretch to say that they all need to be killed.  But a man has to do what a man has to do, doesn’t he?

In the third story in the book, “Keller at Sea,” Keller’s wife Julia becomes an accomplice in her husband’s line of work.  She has obviously suspected something about what he does when he’s away from home, and now it has become clear to her.  But as she tells him, “I know what you do, and I don’t entirely know how I feel about it, but I don’t seem to mind.  I honestly don’t.”  Keller obviously picked the right woman to marry.  And help him she does.

Lawrence Block is an incredibly prolific author.  Although he has written only four previous novels featuring Keller, he is the author of eighteen Matt Scudder novels, ten Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries, eight Evan Tanner books, four featuring Chip Harrison, plus stand-alone novels, short stories, books for writers, and a memoir.  And that’s not the complete list of his works.

I read in a recent article that Mr. Block is contemplating retiring from the writing profession.  Let’s hope he, like his protagonist Keller, has a change of heart.

Spending the day with a hit man may seem like a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure it is.  Lawrence Block’s writing grabs you and doesn’t let you go.  You certainly wouldn’t want to meet Keller on a professional basis, but in a book he’s fascinating.

You can find out more about him at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.

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