Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Stamp Collecting Hit Man Returns

Hit Me  

by Lawrence Block

Mulholland Books

Reviewed By Kemper
4 of 5 stars.

Back at the beginning of this series, professional hit man Keller would often fantasize about retiring and buying a house in one of the cities he visited while on the job, and circumstances beyond his control eventually pushed into that very situation.  When we last saw him, Keller was living in New Orleans under a new name and with a new job that didn’t involve murdering people for money.  It seemed as if Lawrence Block had written a happy ending for the guy, and it was a very satisfactory way to close out Keller's story.

So I was a little nervous when I heard that Block had a new Keller book coming out. It felt like there was a lot of potential to screw up an ending that I liked a lot. I should have had more faith in the writer who has brought Matt Scudder back from apparent conclusions several times.

Keller is happy in New Orleans with his wife and infant daughter. The construction business he got into has taken a hit with the housing bust, but he still has enough money banked to make ends meet.  Of course, a serious philatelist like Keller could always use more money for his hobby, and when an opportunity to resume his former job in Dallas coincides with a stamp auction he wanted to attend, Keller finds himself back in the murder-for-hire game.

Like most of the other Keller books, this is really a series of long short stories about different jobs that Keller works. (Note to TV executives, if you’re looking for another book series to adapt, check this out.  Each Keller’s story could be an episode.  I have some ideas.  Call me.)  In addition to his Dallas trip, Keller also takes a cruise, makes a homecoming trip to New York and tries to work a job around his appraisal of  a large stamp collection.

While this is as entertaining and engaging as the other Keller books, I gotta say that I was a little depressed while reading it.  Keller enthusiasm for his work always waxed and waned, but there was always the feeling that he was working towards getting out someday.  Seeing Keller back on the job when he really doesn’t need the money saddened me a bit.  I feared that it was making him seem more selfish and unfeeling than he’d been previously.

Fortunately, Block deals with this directly, and I still thought that Keller is a petty decent guy despite what he does by the end of the book.  It’s a testament to Block’s skill in crafting such a great character that I think I’d be more than happy to read another book if it was just Keller’s adventures in stamp collecting with absolutely no murder-for-hire.

Also posted on Goodreads.

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