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Amber's Thoughts

Reviews and updates from Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin Psychic Mystery Series

 

 

Dark Humor

Hit Parade - Lawrence Block

What a strange book. It’s not a mystery. We know who done it. Keller, the protagonist, is a professional hit man. It’s not a thriller. There’s suspense, but there are few details of his hits. In fact, most of them take place offstage, and if they’re described at all, it’s through Keller’s conversations with his booking agent (I don’t know what else to call her) Dot, after the fact. Block transitions skillfully in and out of scenes that show Keller traveling to each job, planning, scouting, and then debating whether or not to do it, and scenes that show Keller in conversation with Dot about the job once it’s been completed.

 

There’s a current of dark humor that keeps the story from feeling entirely realistic. The plot is built around Keller’s desire to retire. His first hit is a baseball player who needs to retire. As Keller progresses through his hit parade, he explores his loneliness, his stamp collecting hobby, and his occasional wish that he could be a sociopath so the job would be easier.

 

Block never gives us a description of Dot or Keller, which I’m sure is intentional, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks with the possibility that anyone, any face on the street, could be someone in this business and you’d never know it. Their personalities are vivid and yet incredibly ordinary. Their friendship, as partners in murder for hire, is also quite normal. That’s part of the bizarre charm of the book. I usually try to include a “who would like this” line in a review, but I’m not sure. I have enjoyed books that have a protagonist on the wrong side of the law, such as Martyn V. Halm’s intense and gripping Amsterdam Assassin Series, and J. Michael Orenduff’s intelligent and humorous Pot Thief Mysteries. Those series are on opposite ends of the law-breaking protagonist spectrum. Block’s Keller sits somewhere in the middle. His job is the same that Halm’s Katla does, but the tone of the book is almost as amusing as Orenduff’s. Go figure. I’m not sure who would like this book, but I did. Oddly enough, it makes you think about right and wrong and the way we bend our minds around our lives to make our transgressions and ethical lapses acceptable.