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    Review of HIT PARADE by Lawrence Block (see his website)


    William Morrow, July 2006

    Professional killer John Keller isn't a sociopath. He's pretty sure of this because he does have some feelings. And he never had experience torturing animals, wetting his bed, or setting fires. But he's good at killing, and he's not getting any younger. Starting a new career at his age, and with his lack of things to put in his resume (you really can't list dozens of professional hits) just doesn't appeal. Still, it would be nice to have someone to talk to, to explain his problems to. Still, Keller's problems with a former (and late) psychologist don't bode well for that kind of honesty.

    Although Keller may angst about his career, he has a stamp collection that demands new feedings and the offers just keep coming in. So, he goes about his job. A ball-club realizes that it made a mistake paying an aging free agent millions of dollars and opts for the permanent retirement plan. A businessman wants to disolve a business partnership but lacks the funds to buy his partner out. 9-11 happens and Keller takes some time out to volunteer at the soup kitchens, but the demand for murder doesn't stop. Still, what happens when Keller actually likes a client? And what happens when an apparently simple case of a dog-killing dog takes un unexpected complications. Keller has to keep in mind his need to feed the stamp collection and find a way to struggle on, killing because that's his job.

    Author Lawrence Block (see more reviews of novels by Block) somehow manages to make a cold-blooded professional killer sympathetic and interesting--and even darkly funny. Keller works with his victims, finding ways to arrange their murders so they'll be seen as natural causes or unexpected muggings. He waits, sometimes for weeks, for the moment when the killing seems appropriate rather than simply a meaningless death. He cleans up after himself, even if that means occasionally killing where he doesn't even get paid for it. When he decides he has had enough, the only way he can see to get out is to kill even more people, even faster.

    HIT PARADE is not a comfortable book. Keller may have his moments of existentialist angst, but he is not concerned with the morality of his killings. In some cases, the victims deserve what they get, in other cases, not-so-much. Still, Block manages to involve the reader, make us wonder how Keller is going to manage the next death, how he's going to deal with his own issues, whether he really is going to pull off his planned retirement. One thing for sure--I'm definitely de-motivated to go into the murder for hire business.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 10/22/06

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