I’m completely embarrassed to say that I’ve read this one before, somehow, in some form. One would think I’d remember a book called Hit Man. Alas, I’m getting old. So what did I do when I discovered my little error? Keep on reading, of course, because I could only vaguely remember details and it is a fast read. What I have to say about memory is that it’s very odd to read one long deja vu, and somewhat disconcerting to realize my memory had inserted another chapter. Perhaps I was channeling Block. More likely, I read the next book and forgot most of the specifics. Now, if only I can get my subconscious to review it…
Block does it again, creating sympathy and a multifaceted character in that most staple of thriller tropes, the assassin. The book is written as a series of loosely connected shorts that cover episodes in Keller’s life as he goes through his routine at home in NYC and on the road plying his trade.
This assassin is definitely a little different. As he follows his mark around the small town of Roseburg, Oregon, he starts to fantasize what living there would be like. Perhaps he’ll take his savings and buy a ‘starter home.’ Perhaps he’ll start his own business, do some printing. However, the job ends, the fascination passes, he comes back to his life in NYC. Not for long, however; soon he is on his way to Martingale, Texas, carting along a paperback he hasn’t read on the strength of the line “he rode a thousand miles to kill a man he never met.” In a boozy barroom, he listens to stories about cheatin’ hearts and naturally, meets a woman looking for a good time.
Back in NYC, he shares a dream about mice with his therapist. Long before Tony Soprano sat with Dr. Melfi, Keller was sitting with Dr. Breen. That doesn’t work so well, but soon he’s moving on to his new dog, followed by a dog-walker, because after all, an assassin’s got to travel. Then he and Dot have some trouble at the agency with the man upstairs (literally).
Overall, a fun, fast read and an unusual character study. I found myself discovering sympathy (likely for the second time) for the hit man, who has so badly actualized himself. These books are–in the wise words of Trudi–potato chip reads; you might only mean to read a few pages, but soon you’ve downed the whole bag.