Calling Mr. King

Calling Mr. King

5.0 2
by Ronald De Feo
     
 

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Long considered cool, distant, and absolutely reliable, an American-born hit man, working throughout Europe, grows increasingly distracted and begins to develop an unexpected passion for architecture and art while engaged in his deadly profession. Although he welcomes this energizing break from his routine, he comes to realize that it is an unwise trajectory for a

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Overview

Long considered cool, distant, and absolutely reliable, an American-born hit man, working throughout Europe, grows increasingly distracted and begins to develop an unexpected passion for architecture and art while engaged in his deadly profession. Although he welcomes this energizing break from his routine, he comes to realize that it is an unwise trajectory for a man in his business, particularly when he is sent on the most difficult job of his career.
   Set in London, Paris, New York, and Barcelona, Calling Mr. King is at once a colorful suspense tale, laced with dark humor, and a psychological self-portrait of a character who is attempting, against the odds, to become someone else.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An assassin buckling under the demands of his profession develops an appreciation for art in De Feo's dark debut. The assassin, a crack shot known by the alias Peter Chilton, has grown weary of trailing targets through a blur of cosmopolitan cities and finely appointed country estates. It is not the moral burden of his accumulated crimes that tires him but the vapidity of the endless hunt. Yearning for an education, Peter begins to cultivate a taste for architecture and painting, interests that distract him from his work, and after he screws up a job, Peter is sent to New York City to rest, allowing him to further indulge his emerging cultural appetite and a growing resentment of his working-class roots. But his vacation is brought to an abrupt end when he is dispatched on a critical assignment that will change his life. It's an engrossing story, persuasively depicting an angry, obsessive man as he comes to a greater awareness of the world around him. And though Peter's pursuits—of art, enlightenment, his targets—begin to feel monotonous in their relentlessness, De Feo's master strokes are in creating a remorseless psychopath you'd enjoy spending time with, and in resisting the easy temptation to bring Peter to a moment of emotional deliverance. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“Whether pretending to be a British aristocrat in New York or unsentimentally confronting his dismal childhood, De Feo’s hit man is extremely liable, and the novel emerges as a study of the delights and dangers of reinvention.” —New Yorker

“Prepare to be unsettled, but take our word: De Feo’s concise voice and compelling characterization make this one worth it.” —Daily Candy

“It’s an engrossing story, persuasively depicting an angry, obsessive man as he comes to a greater awareness of the world around him…De Feo’s master strokes are in creating a remorseless psychopath you'd enjoy spending time with.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“De Feo is definitely a newcomer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“It’s J.J. Connolly’s Layer Cake (with its anonymous hit man, dreams of retirement dancing in his head) with an icing of Fodor's Barcelona. This quirky, promising debut novel argues that assassins are people, too, and sometimes, like it or not, that means they're aspiring art wonks.” —LibraryJournal.com

Calling Mr. King is an entertaining tale built on what happens when a high-end hit man begins to feel the awakening of an intellectual life. Ronald De Feo invites the reader to play for a while in a seldom-explored part of the borderland between sanity and insanity.” —Thomas Perry, author of The Butcher’s Boy
 
“Ronald De Feo’s Calling Mr. King is the smartest novel I’ve read in years with a hit man in the leading role. His hit man, a very original, quirky hit man, takes us on an amazing side trip of the world’s capitals, the world’s art and architecture, which makes this knowledgeable hit man irresistible.” —Barbara Probst Solomon, US cultural correspondent of El País

Kirkus Reviews

A hit man discovers his inner aesthete. Uh-oh.

From childhood on, John Cole hated his old man with a passion. The permanently angry blue-collar worker would go into the woods outside their Hudson River town and shoot everything in sight. Cole inherited his father's expert marksmanship; he left home before they shot each other. Unemployed, he was hired to put his skill to good use...on a human target. He had found his profession. Word of his expertise spread. He moved to London to work for a world-wide conglomerate known as the Firm; he never missed his targets. But when we first meet the 33-year-old Cole, he has the nagging feeling that he's off his game. A quick job in Paris has taken a whole week, and he almost botches his next job, outside a Georgian house in the English countryside. He gets his man but is forced to shoot a bystander as well, breaking a cardinal rule. This is a terrific start. First-time novelist De Feo hooks us as he describes Cole tracking his quarry. These are clean kills; there is no splatter. The author also has a great premise: that a hired gun's need for a career change might take him in a wholly unexpected direction. That beautiful Georgian house has sparked Cole's imagination. Why couldn't he be the owner? He buys books on Georgian architecture. An escapist fantasy becomes a scholarly pursuit. The Firm sends him to New York to lie low after that countryside mess. Here the novel stalls; De Feo doesn't know what to do with Cole except have him buy more books and visit museums. He becomes a bore, moaning about his miserable childhood on a pointless visit to his hometown. By the final segment in Barcelona, Spain, scene of Cole's new assignment, his transformation is complete. The hit man, in denial, has become a student of Spanish architecture.

Though character development is a real problem, De Feo is definitely a newcomer to watch.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590514757
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
08/30/2011
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

They didn’t tell me much. They never do. But they did say that the mark would be on a business trip. Well, what kind of business was all of this? As the time went by, I became absolutely convinced that he knew his days were numbered. And since he knew, he wanted to get a lot of living done before the end. What I was watching then, all of this peculiar energy, was very simply a pathetic attempt at a last fling.
   In my line of work you can’t feel sorry for anyone, and I didn’t feel sorry for him. In fact, I began to resent him. He was aware of me—not me specifically, of course, but the idea of me in general, a stranger out there who was going to take his life. And he decided to toy with his killer, go out with a certain dignity and courage, throw his zest for life in my face, so to speak. What a fool. There was nothing to prove here, nothing to win at this point. He had lost the moment they had taken out a contract.
   Maybe he was just plain stupid. I’d dealt with stupid marks before …But this man in Paris was something else again. He had a certain bearing. Thin, trim, with a healthy head of perfectly cut gray hair. You couldn’t miss it. It gleamed in the sun like polished silver. You could see he had taste and style—finely tailored, a different outfit each day. A real Continental. A killer with the ladies. Probably a killer, period. There was a certain intelligence, an alertness about him. Yes, this man knew exactly what he was doing. And although he seemed a bit past his prime now and rather harmless, I bet he’d been one clever, nasty bastard in his heyday. After all, they don’t want you dead for nothing.

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