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    HIT LIST by Lawrence Block

    William Morrow, November 2000

    Keller kills people for a living. It isn't a bad living--the hours are good and the pay is enough to finance his stamp collection, but things do occasionally get tricky. Somehow, many of the jobs Keller is assigned don't go quite right. Several victims die before Keller can get to them. Another job is cancelled, after Keller completes his work. At first, Keller puts it down to luck--but gradually he realizes that there is someone behind his problems. A killer is stalking and eliminating his competition and Keller is high on the list.

    Keller is an interesting character. He treats his profession matter-of-factedly. He just happens to kill people. When a girlfriend tells him that he has a murder's thumb, he becomes obsessed with both the thumb and the psychic consequences of being marked from birth with such a sign. Still, he is perfectly capable of putting his obsessions down and concentrating on the next job.

    Between jobs, Keller chats with Dot, picks up girls, serves on a jury, and generally behaves like a normal guy. While some readers may be put off with this day-in-the-life routine, I found it made Keller more approachable. Unfortunately, the end is somewhat disappointing. Keller's trap is not especially clever and the resolution seems a little unclear. Still, overall, the novel is quite strong.

    It is hard to identify with a professional killer, but Lawrence Block does an excellent job making Keller both convincing and sympathetic. Keller's sense of humor and vulnerability attracts the reader at the same time as it repells him/her. Block is a long-time master of the mystery genre. While HIT LIST may not be the best of Block, it is certainly worth the read.

    Three Stars

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