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Hit and Run (Keller Series #4)
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Hit and Run (Keller Series #4)

4.0 27
by Lawrence Block

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Keller's a hit man. For years now he's had places to go and people to kill.

But enough is enough. He's got money in the bank and just one last job standing between him and retirement. So he carries it out with his usual professionalism, and he heads home, and guess what?

One more job. Paid in advance, so what's he going to do? Give the money back? In Des Moines


Keller's a hit man. For years now he's had places to go and people to kill.

But enough is enough. He's got money in the bank and just one last job standing between him and retirement. So he carries it out with his usual professionalism, and he heads home, and guess what?

One more job. Paid in advance, so what's he going to do? Give the money back? In Des Moines, Keller stalks his designated target and waits for the client to give him the go-ahead. And one fine morning he's picking out stamps for his collection (Sweden 1-5, the official reprints) at a shop in Urbandale when somebody guns down the charismatic governor of Ohio.

Back at his motel, Keller's watching TV when they show the killer's face. And there's something all too familiar about that face. . . .

Keller calls his associate Dot in White Plains, but there is no answer. He's stranded halfway across the country, every cop in America's just seen his picture, his ID and credit cards are no longer good, and he just spent almost all of his cash on the stamps.

Now what?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

While in Des Moines for one last job in MWA Grand Master Block's solid fourth Greatest Hits thriller (after Hit Parade), hit man John Paul Keller takes to the road. He's been accused of assassinating the governor of Ohio, who was in Iowa preparing for a presidential bid. By the time Keller gets back to his New York City apartment after too many days of fast food, his prize stamp collection has been stolen. With the governor's real killer still hot on his trail, Keller travels to New Orleans, where he rescues a woman, Julia Roussard, from a rapist in a local park. As Keller and Julia's relationship develops, he considers leaving the old life behind, but knows he must clear his name and settle the score. Block's trademark blend of humor and violence is a good fit for the deadpan Keller. While some fans may be disappointed to see Keller headed toward retirement, hope remains that this won't be the last outing for one of the crime genre's most unusual antiheroes. (June 24)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

He leads a sedate life-bounded by his own apartment with its state-of-the-art TV and TiVo, the newsstand with the Times every morning, and his stamp albums all arranged on their shelves. When his neighbors come to be questioned by the police-and they will-he'll be described as "a quiet kinda guy. He kept to himself." The life of a hit man's not an easy one, and it's never seemed tougher than in this latest appearance (following Hit Parade) of premier hit man Keller. Although he's looking forward to a well-deserved retirement, Keller just can't say no to a job in Des Moines, of all places. While he's there, the governor of Ohio is assassinated in town, and the evidence points to Keller. He's been set up, and despite having millions in a bank account, he doesn't have the cash to buy clean underwear and has to drive a hot car toward New Orleans with a Homer Simpson cap pulled down over his face. What a way to spend the golden years. Before it's all over, though, the old guys (both Keller and Block) show they've still got what it takes to teach the youngsters a thing or two in this brisk, suspenseful, and funny romp. A sure bet for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/15/08.]
—Bob Lunn

Kirkus Reviews
John Keller-the philosophical hit man who's brightened the pages of many a short story and a quasi-novel cobbled together from stories (Hit Parade, 2006)-finally gets a proper novel of his own. The assignment, set up by a client named Al who paid cash in advance, seems routine: Fly to Des Moines, wait for the high sign to kill Gregory Dowling, go back to New York. But the days pass without Keller being turned loose. Not until after he's finally given the go-ahead does a news broadcast tell him he's been set up. Stranded in America's heartland with no contacts, precious little money and a bogus identity that's about to blow up in his face, and sought by every cop in the nation for a murder he didn't commit, Keller can think of only one goal: getting back to his hometown. He's almost made it, courtesy of an impressive variety of tricks he's improvised along the way, when he realizes that Al has made New York just as dangerous as Iowa. Keller's only chance is to say goodbye to his old life and rebuild himself from scratch. Block treats both his unlikely hero's initial flight and his attempt to establish a new identity in such painstaking detail that they become riveting. Only his climactic search for revenge against Al feels ordinary. From the first, Keller assumes this hit will be his last case. Readers can only hope it isn't so.
Daily News (Iron Mountain-Kingsford
“Block keeps the readers on edge.”
Daily News (Iron Mountain-Kingsford))
"Block keeps the readers on edge."
Daily News (Iron Mountain-Kingsford)
"Block keeps the readers on edge."
Philadelphia Inquirer
“With Lawrence Block, one of the most prolific mystery writers alive, it’s always been plotting, and a clever ear for dialogue, that illuminates the inner regions of his characters’ souls.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“One of the best novels of the summer season. Block remains a true master of the crime genre.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“If there is one crime writer currently capable of matching the noirish legacies of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, it’s Lawrence Block.”
Charlotte Observer
“As entertaining as we’ve come to expect from Block’s books.”
Florida Times-Union
“Against all odds, Block will have you rooting for the professional killer.”
Boston Herald
“A knockout. . . . Block delivers a one-two punch of humor and introspection.”
Tampa Tribune
“Lawrence Block’s crime fiction stands out because of his ability to create interesting and likeable characters....[Hit and Run] is no exception.”
Deseret News
“Crazy, good fun, crafted by an experienced mystery writer who should never put down his pen.”
San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle
“An odd and appealing combination of the hard-boiled, the surreal and the whimsical. Keller grows on us.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“[An] engrossing thriller”
New York Sun
“The wry observations throughout, uttered by Keller as well as the other two main characters, will keep you smiling until your cheeks hurt.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Keller Series , #4
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Hit and Run LP


Keller drew his pair of tongs from his breast pocket and carefully lifted a stamp from its glassine envelope. It was one of Norway's endless Posthorn series, worth less than a dollar, but curiously elusive, and missing from his collection. He examined it closely, held it to the light to make sure the paper hadn't thinned where a hinge had once secured it to an album page, and returned it to the envelope, setting it aside for purchase.

The dealer, a tall and gaunt gentleman whose face was frozen on one side by what he had explained was Bell's palsy, gave a one-side-of-the-face chuckle. "One thing I like to see," he said, "is a man who carries his own tongs with him. Minute I see that, I know I've got a serious collector in my shop."

Keller, who sometimes had his tongs with him and sometimes didn't, felt it was more a question of memory than seriousness. When he traveled, he always brought along his copy of the Scott catalog, a large 1,100-page volume that listed and illustrated the stamps of the world from the very first issue (Great Britain's Penny Black, 1840) through the initial century of philately and, in the case of the British Empire, including the last of the George VI issues in 1952. These were the stamps Keller collected, and he used the catalog not only for its information but as a checklist, deliberately circling each stamp's number in red when he added it to his collection.

The catalog always traveled with him, because there was no way he could shop for stamps without having it at hand. The tongs were useful, but not indispensable; he could always borrow a pair from whoever had stamps to sellhim. So it was easy to forget to pack tongs, and you couldn't just tuck a pair in your pocket at the last minute, or slip them in your carry-on. Not if you were going to get on an airplane, because some clown at Security would confiscate them. Imagine a terrorist with a pair of stamp tongs. Why, he could grab the flight attendant and threaten to pluck her eyebrows . . .

It was surprising he'd brought the tongs this time, because he'd almost decided against packing the catalog. He'd worked for this particular client once before, on a job that took him to Albuquerque, and he'd never even had time to unpack. In an uncharacteristic excess of caution, he'd booked three different motel rooms, checked into each of them in turn, then wound up rushing the job on an impulse and flying back to New York the same day without sleeping in any of them. If this job went as quickly and smoothly he wouldn't have time to buy stamps, and who even knew if there were any dealers in Des Moines?

Years ago, when Keller's boyhood stamp collection rarely set him back more than a dollar or two a week, there would have been plenty of dealers in Des Moines, as there were just about everywhere. The hobby was as strong as ever these days, but the street-level retail stamp shop was on the endangered species list, and conservation was unlikely to save it. The business nowadays was all online or mail order, and the few dealers who still operated stores did so more to attract potential sellers than buyers. People with no knowledge of or interest in stamps would pass their shop every day, and when Uncle Fred died and there was a collection to sell, they'd know where to bring it.

This dealer, James McCue by name, had his store occupying the ground-floor front of his home off Douglas Avenue in Urbandale, a suburb whose name struck Keller as oxymoronic. An urban dale? It seemed neither urban nor a dale to Keller, but he figured it was probably a nice enough place to live. McCue's house was around seventy years old, a frame structure with a bay window and an upstairs porch. The dealer sat at a computer, where Keller figured he probably did the greater portion of his business, and a radio played elevator music at low volume. It was a peaceful room, its manageable clutter somehow comforting, and Keller picked through the rest of the Norway issues and found a couple more he could use. "How about Sweden?" McCue suggested. "I got some real nice Sweden."

"I'm strong on Sweden," Keller said. "At this point the only ones I need are the ones I can't afford."

"I know what that's like. How about numbers one to five?"

"Surprisingly enough, I don't have them. But then I don't have the three skilling orange, either." That stamp, cataloged as number 1a, was an error of color, orange instead of blue green, and was presumably unique; a specimen had changed hands a few years ago for three million dollars. Or maybe it was euros, Keller couldn't remember.

"Haven't got that fellow," McCue said, "but I've got one through five, and the price is right." And, when Keller raised his eyebrows, he added, "The official reprints. Mint, decent centering, and lightly hinged. Book says they're worth $375 apiece. Want to have a look?"

He didn't wait for an answer but sorted through a file box and came up with a stock card holding the five stamps behind a protective sheet of clear plastic.

"Take your time, look 'em over carefully. Nice, aren't they?"

"Very nice."

"You could fill those blank spaces with these and never need to apologize for them."

And if he ever did acquire the originals, which seemed unlikely, the set of reprints would still deserve a place in his collection. He asked the price. "Well, I wanted seven-fifty for the set, but I guess I'll take six hundred. Save me the trouble of shipping 'em."

Hit and Run LP. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Lawrence Block is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery genre. He has been named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. He received the Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association—only the third American to be given this award. He is a prolific author, having written more than fifty books and numerous short stories, and is a devoted New Yorker and an enthusiastic global traveler.

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Hit and Run (Keller Series #4) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But I didn't like glorifying a hit man.
OdysseusUlysses More than 1 year ago
While buying some official Swedish reprint stamps, and on a job in Des Moines, the merchant turns up the radio to reveal that the Ohio governor has been shot! Talk about professionalism, hit man John Keller blows his cash and buys the stamps anyway. It gets worse from there, easily eluding the police and the people that hired him; who really had set him up to take the fall for the real gunman. He then instantly kills a rapist in New Orleans and the grateful victim welcomes him in to her fathers' home. They fall in love and he becomes a construction worker "just look at the morons that make a living at it." With a hunch from his New Orleans Cher, who urges him to find the people who hired him, and "fix things" so he won't have to be on the run for the rest of his life; he easily knocks off the man at the top and gets away Scott free, with his stamp collection, and his share of the money; that his partner has been "saving" for him; guess this suggest there is honor among criminals. Oh well there's 8.5 hours gone forever.
MikeDraper More than 1 year ago
In Lawrence Block's "Hit and Run" we have John Keller making a return. He is working as a hit man and flies to an assignment. He's met at the airport by his contact and shown two weapons. He looks them over, picks one, puts the other away and is dropped off at his motel. The next day he reads that the governor of Ohio has been assassinated. The killer used a Glock automatic, the other weapon Keller checked out. His preminition becomes real when he sees his photo on CNN. Now he knows he's part of a sophisticated set-up. He steals a car and returns to New York. There he finds someone has broken into his apartmentm, stolen his money, his computer and his stamp collection. Next he learns that his friend and associate, Dot has apparently been murdered. Needing a place to hide out he picks New Orleans. It's still the time not far from herricane Katrina and the city is rebuilding. He thinks he can get a job and lay low in the city. When he arrives, he hears a woman's scream. His first thought is to get away from any legal involvement but he moves to the sound and sees a woman about to be raped. He deals with the rapist and saves the woman, Julia Russard. Julia recognizes Keller from the news but doesn't care. He tells her he needs a place to hide out and she offers him the apartment in her home. She also becomes intimate with him and they begin living together. Unexpectedly, Dot reappears. She knew they would be coming after her once Keller's photo was on the news. Opportunity knocked when a woman from Jehovah's Witnesses came to her door. Dot killed the woman who by chance wore dentures. Dot also used dentures and she put her's in the dead woman's mouth and burned the house down so the woman would be identified as Dot by her dental records. (Come on, two people just happen to have false teeth???). This narrative story has good dialogue. However, there is a distinct lack of action compared to the other novels where Keller is the protagonist. He shows his bravery and integrity by saving Julia and Julia shows that by her faith in Keller, there may be a reason to leave his life of killing behind.
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This is the fourth book in the Hit Man series, it was as good and different as the other three. I can only hope that Lawrence Block writes more in the Series. You find yourself pulling for the bad guy, though he doesn't seem to be a bad guy until he kills someone. His outlook on life is almost ordinary unless he's thinking or talking about his "profession".
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Kaos5 More than 1 year ago
John Keller is a great character and following him as he tries to get out of this mess makes for great reading. A masterful plot.
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KenCady More than 1 year ago
This was my first Keller book, and I agree with the other reviewers who say it didn't come alive until he hit New Orleans. Who wants to read about some guy staying at cheap motels? But pick up it did, and I enjoyed the story after that. The idea of a stamp-collecting hit man didn't strike me as cute as it might have, but it did serve to make him a more normal guy. And that's important when otherwise you just go around killing people because someone paid you to.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read the previous Keller books. It would be best to back track and read his other books either before you read this one or soon after. Keller has become one of my favorite characters. Not easy considering he is an assassin. None the less he has wit, a dry sense of humor and a laid back approach to most things in life. He wants to retire and play with his stamps. This book while enjoyable is not Keller at his best. It bogs down early not coming to life until he hits New Orleans. From that point on the Keller I like reappears. I hope Mr Block continues this series but I have my doubts.