Between his trips out of state to kill people, Keller spends his days just like you and I would. Going to therapy, collecting stamps and ordering takeout. Oh? You want to hear more about how he kills people? Well, you’re in luck. In “Hit Man”, Lawrence Block collects the first ten tales from the world of Keller – assassin for hire.
As a self-proclaimed “large fan of Lawrence Block”, you’ll have to forgive the fact that outside of his infamous detective series featuring Matt Scudder, I haven’t checked out any of his other series. Well, after reading the first Keller book, that’s likely not going to be a problem for much longer.
Being a reader of noir for several years, I’m already used to rooting for the bad guy at this point. With Keller, it doesn’t take too much on the part of the reader to drop their proclivity to cheer for the good guy. Sure, Keller does some reprehensible stuff, but it’s clear he isn’t doing it with malice. He’s very much a blue collar guy punching the clock although instead of say, hauling bricks, he’s breaking necks.
As with most of Block’s work, the true joy doesn’t come from the violence, but rather the characters and their relationships. Much of the killing is reserved for quick, one-sentence scenes where Keller is done before you know it (the work that goes alongside with setting up a hit is much more intricate and focused). The rest of the story is populated by Keller’s meetings and long conversations with Dot, the lady who works in the house in White Plains where all of Keller’s work originates from and by moments in his personal life and the women he goes to bed with.
It’s rare that I ever have anything but a great time reading whatever Block writes and John Keller is proving to be no exception. Hit Man lays the groundwork for a truly interesting series that I cannot wait to explore.