Written by Lawrence Block — Hit Me is the fifth collection featuring Block’s stamp collecting professional hit man, Keller, and the author has been talking about a special, philatelic collector’s edition. That special run of 500 copies has been put together by Mysterious Press but we, sadly, only got to see the book on Kindle. Most books in the series are comprised of episodic vignettes, essentially Keller’s greatest hits, and Hit Me follows that structure.
The book picks up where Block’s only full-length Keller novel, Hit and Run, left off. At the end of that book, our anti-hero had to leave his native New York and go on the run. So here we find him living in New Orleans under the assumed name Nicholas Edwards, married to Julia and with a daughter called Jenny. How very un-assassin-like. He’s working in the construction industry as a developer fixing up and selling on properties damaged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Having given up the killing business, he has to think again when the economy tanks and the construction industry is the first to feel the hit. All it takes is a call from long time middle-man Dot and Keller is back in business.
There are five jobs for Keller in the book, each a vignette in the style of Block’s Keller titles prior to the novel Hit and Run. Keller in Dallas starts us off with the philosophical hit man mixing business with pleasure, combining a stamp collector’s conference with offing a cheating husband. Keller’s Homecoming sees him return to whack an abbot who knows where too many political bodies are buried. The problem Keller faces is that his target knows he’s in the firing line, and how do you kill someone surrounded by monks who won’t leave his priory?
Keller’s Obligation finishes the book with a dilemma. He has never accepted hits on children before. He’s taken the job before finding out the target is a young lad and a fellow stamp collector to boot. His solution hints at a different way to take the character forward should Block decide to write any more stories.
The way the book is structured works for me. Being split into different assignments allowed me to dip in and out of the book, and I think that’s how it’s best appreciated. Keller as a character doesn’t have the depth of Scudder, another Block mainstay, and a whole novel might be too much.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to enjoy. As ever the author’s dialogue is delightful. The back and forth between Keller and Dot is full of little tangents that Block exploits for maximum comic effect. I enjoyed these as much as trying to work out how Keller will solve the puzzles Block sets for him. All in all, Hit Me isn’t a major book from Block, but Keller is still the most fun assassin to spend time with. It’s released 14 February in the UK.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars