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Monday, March 18, 2013

Hit Me

Lawrence Block’s Hit Me is the fifth in the Keller series. It has been five years since our last installment of Keller. Keller is a hit man and this is one of my favorite characters. There is a Tarantino quality about Keller. Start with his name, Keller, a killer. He is inventive as we see in his style of murder. He is thorough. He is a thinker. He is a stamp collector. Matt Scudder is fine, even Bernie Rhodenbarr can be funny in the face of murder, but Keller is a killer character.
So here is Keller pulling all sorts of tools from his clothes to measure stamps and their perforations and sizes before he buys. He has determined that he wants to buy these rare and exotic stamps, but he has to kill someone to afford them. Keller is back!
Not so fast. He is in New Orleans with a family, a wife, Julia, and a daughter, Jenny. Dot is in Arizona. Everything changed five years ago. He met Julia in Central Park, five years ago. He saved her life by killing the rapist/murder who was assaulting her. Dot, his handler, has approached him about a job and after he takes and executes the job in Dallas, Keller tells Julia what he does. It was a great relief to her, because she thought he was involved with another woman. What he does turns her on. We learn more about the world through his hobby, stamp collecting. Just as my grandfather used to regale me with history lessons as we worked on his stamp collection, Keller shares his knowledge with Jenny. We are learning more about Keller the father, husband, and philatelist, than about Keller the killer.
Julia is hilarious. Dot is too. Julia gets mildly involved in one of the jobs, but once is enough they both agree. What I like about this installment is Keller is more of a complete man. He spends so much more time with the stamps and we learn lots. He is interacting with people more and better. We know Keller from before and recognize how he will accomplish his hits with style and without any celebrated panache. Businesslike, simple, direct, and clean without any traces to him and make it look as it should so he gets paid with a possible bonus when available. It’s good to have Keller back and better as Nicholas Edwards with a wife and daughter. So much better as we know in the end he will figure something unique and appropriate to solve his final problem and insure the preservation of a young stamp collector and fulfill his obligation. A very satisfying story.

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