Block, Lawrence. Hit and Run.

NY: HarperCollins, 2008.

John Paul Keller has been a very professional and very independent hit man for a couple of decades now. He’s quiet, understated, self-analytical, and methodical, and he gets the job done. Sometimes he flies into a city, kills his target, and flies back to New York within a few hours.

Other times, he has to spend a few days, maybe as much as a week, solving the problem of how to get access to the target, but he nearly always manages. His “arranger” is a motherly sort of woman in White Plains named Dot, and she’s the only person he can really talk openly to. But since 9/11, security has tightened up all over the country, plus Keller himself isn’t getting any younger. And the work he does has begun to be more of a strain, psychologically. But Dot tells him (rather to his surprise) that, thanks to her talented management, he now has a couple million dollars tucked away in the Caymans. So just one more job, he decides, and that’s it. Then he’ll pack it in and devote himself to his stamp collection full-time.

So Keller finds himself in Des Moines, waiting for a go-ahead to take out a man, and while he waits, he visits a stamp dealer. And while he’s in the shop, a news bulletin on TV announces the assassination of the governor of Ohio on a visit to Des Moines, and Keller instantly knows it’s all too much of a coincidence. Within hours, his photo is all over the media and Keller is on the run. Not only that, he finally comes to realize that his old life is also gone. No more comfortable New York apartment, no more stamp collection. No more Dot, either — she’s apparently dead in her burned-out house.

But that’s only the first third of the story and we follow Keller as he drives semi-aimlessly around the country, waiting for the heat to die down and trying to work out what to do next. And so he ends up in New Orleans. And everything in his life abruptly changes. For the better? That depends.

It’s evident that Block — who also isn’t getting any younger — is gradually retiring all his main characters. (His Matthew Scudder series has begun reaching back into the protagonist’s earlier career.) And it’s kind of too bad, because this is probably the best of any of the four books featuring Just Plain Keller.

Published in: on 29 November 2012 at 7:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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