Hit List (Keller Series #2)

Hit List (Keller Series #2)

3.7 23
by Lawrence Block
     
 

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Keller is a regular guy. He goes to the movies, works on his stamp collection. Call him for jury duty and he serves without complaint. Then every so often he gets a phone call from White Plains that sends him flying off somewhere to kill a perfect stranger. Keller is a pro and very good at what he does. But the jobs have started to go wrong. The realization is slow

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Overview

Keller is a regular guy. He goes to the movies, works on his stamp collection. Call him for jury duty and he serves without complaint. Then every so often he gets a phone call from White Plains that sends him flying off somewhere to kill a perfect stranger. Keller is a pro and very good at what he does. But the jobs have started to go wrong. The realization is slow coming yet, when it arrives, it is irrefutable: Someone out there is trying to hit the hit man. Keller, God help him, has found his way onto somebody else's hit list.

Editorial Reviews

John Keller first cropped up in Playboy, where most of his exploits were chronicled in Lawrence Block's short stories. In this book, Keller travels the country knocking off people he's paid to knock off, and occasionally makes stops along the way to do some shopping or to look for stamps to add to his collection. And he's always checking in with and talking to Dot, the woman who is his job broker. This is the first true Keller novel—last year's Hit Man was in fact a collection of the short stories in which Keller appeared. The longer form should allow Block to stretch and develop Keller more, but what he does instead is give us more of the same. Much more. If I never read about stamps again, or have to read through another scene where there's a pitcher of tea to get through while characters talk it empty, I'll be just fine. What Dot and Keller figure out is that a hired assassin is out there killing his colleagues, eliminating the competition and raising the price. They attempt to trap the killer—whom they call, affectionately, Roger, though they have no idea who he really is. In the meantime, Keller does get involved with a woman, has his fortune told and spends a lot of time serving jury duty. I loved reading the book but was irritated with its many tangents—it often felt like a short story that couldn't figure out how to stop itself.
—Randy Michael Signor
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
John Keller, whom Block introduced in Hit Man, is a killer for hire, with a difference. He's thoughtful, even broody, tends to take a liking to some of the towns where he goes to do his work, dreams of perhaps settling down in one of them one day and collects stamps in his spare time, of which there's plenty. It's a novel idea, and it carried an excellent group of stories in the previous book. A whole novel about Keller, however, who after all walks a very delicate line between likability and horror, is more than he can readily bear, and, almost unknown in Block's work, there are longueurs here. The plot is wryly serviceable--a rival is attempting to corner the market by getting to some of Keller's intended victims first, and clearly has to be disposed of--but about halfway through a certain unease creeps in and won't let go. For all Block's usual great skill with goofy dialogue (here between Keller and Dot, the intermediary who takes the orders for his jobs), it's difficult to indefinitely enjoy jokes about the violent deaths of a number of people who, for all Dot and Keller know, are harmless, perhaps even good citizens, but whom someone is willing to pay to remove. Apparently mindful of this, Block keeps the killings mostly offstage, or with a minimum of graphic violence. But an affection for Keller is an acquired taste, and here it proves difficult to acquire. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
With Hit List, the usually reliable Block misfires. The character of Keller is back from Hit Man, and he still seems like a normal guy until he gets a call from his boss to complete an assignment. Being a hit man, his job entails killing total strangers. Things start to go wrong, however; it seems that somebody is beating him to his kills. It also seems that this someone is looking to eliminate Keller. What should have been exciting instead reads like a print version of My Dinner with Andre. There are never any direct action scenes; events are merely discussed after the fact. Keller collects stamps, and many pages are devoted to his hobby, which is fine if you collect stamps. But to be honest, collecting dust would be more appropriate for this book. Purchase only if you need all of Block's novels. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/00.]--Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Fresh from his triumphant star turn in the short-story cycle Hit Man (1998), Block's reflective professional assassin John Keller finally fulfills his fans' dearest wish by getting a novel of his own.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061802331
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/13/2009
Series:
Keller Series , #2
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
41,793
File size:
0 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Keller, fresh off the plane from Newark, followed the signs marked Baggage Claim. He hadn't checked a bag, he never did, but the airport signage more or less assumed that everybody checked their luggage, because you got to the exit by heading for the baggage claim. You couldn't count on a series of signs that said This is the way to get out of this goddam place.

There was a down escalator after you cleared security, and ten or a dozen men stood around at the foot of it, some in uniform, most holding hand-lettered signs. Keller found himself drawn to one man, a droopy guy in khakis and a leather jacket. He was the guy, Keller decided, and his eyes went to the sign the man was holding.

But you couldn't read the damn thing. Keller walked closer, squinting at it. Did it say Archibald? Keller couldn't tell.

He turned, and there was the name he was looking for, on a card held by another man, this one taller and heavier and wearing a suit and tie. Keller veered away from the man with the illegible signwhat was the point of a sign that nobody could read?--and walked up to the man with the Archibald sign. "I'm Mr. Archibald, " he said.

"Mr. Richard Archibald?"

What possible difference could it make? He started to nod, then remembered the name Dot had given him. "Nathan Archibald," he said.

"That's the ticket," the man said. "Welcome to Louisville, Mr. Archibald. Carry that for you?"

"Never mind," Keller said, and held on to his carry-on bag. He followed the man out of the terminal and across a couple of lanes of traffic to the short-term parking lot.

"About the name," the man said. "What I figured, anybodycan read a name off a card. Some clown's got to figure, why take a cab when I can say I'm Archibald and ride for free? I mean, it's not like they gave me a picture of you. Nobody here even knows what you look like."

"I don't come here often," Keller said.

"Well, it's a pretty nice town," the man said, "but that's beside the point. Which is I want to make sure I'm driving the right person, so I throw out a first name, and it's a wrong first name. 'Richard Archibald?' Guy says yeah, that's me, Richard Archibald, right away I know he's full of crap."

"Unless that's his real name."

"Yeah, but what's the odds of that? Two men fresh off a plane and they both got the name Archibald?"

"Only one."

"How's that?"

"My name's not really Archibald," Keller said, figuring he wasn't exactly letting state secrets slip by the admission. "So it's only one man named Archibald, so how much of a long shot is it?"

The man set his jaw. "Guy claims to be Richard Archibald," he said, "he's not my guy. Whether it's his name or not.

"You're right about that."

"But you came up with Nathan, so we're in business. Case closed. It's the Toyota there, the blue one. Get in and we'll take a run over to long-term parking. Your car's there, full tank of gas, registration in the glove box. When you're done, just put her back in the same spot, tuck the keys and the claim check in the ashtray. Somebody'll pick it up."

The car turned out to be a mid-size Olds, dark green in color. The man unlocked it and handed Keller the keys and a cardboard claim check. "Cost you a few dollars," he said apologetically. "We brought her over last night. On the passenger seat there you got a street map of the area. Open it up, you'll see two spots marked, home and office. I don't know how much you been told."

"Name and address," Keller said.

"What was the name?"

"It wasn't Archibald. "

"You don't want to say? I don't blame you. You seen a photo?"

Keller shook his head. The man drew a small envelope from his inside pocket, retrieved a card from it. The card's face displayed a family photograph, a man, a woman, two children and a dog. The humans were all smiling, and looked as though they'd been smiling for days, waiting for someone to figure out how to work the camera. The dog, a golden retriever, wasn't smiling, but he looked happy enough. "Season's Greetings . . ." it said below the photo.

Keller opened the card. He read: ". . . from the Hirschhorns--Walt, Betsy, Jason, Tamara, and Powhatan."

"I guess Powhatan's the dog," he said.

"Powhatan? What's that, an Indian name?"

"Pocahontas's father."

"Unusual name for a dog."

"It's a fairly unusual name for a human being," Keller said. "As far as I know it's only been used once. Was this the only picture they could come up with?"

"What's the matter with it? Nice clear shot, and I'm here to tell you it looks just like the man."

"Nice that you could get them to pose for you."

"It's from a Christmas card. Musta been taken during the summer, though. How they're dressed, and the background. You know where I bet this was taken? He's got a summer place out by McNeely Lake."

Wherever that was.

"So it woulda been taken in the summer, which'd make it what, fifteen months old? He still looks the same, so what's the problem?"

"It shows the whole family."

"Right, " the man said. "Oh, I see where you're going. No, it's just him, Walter Hirschhorn. just the man himself."

That was Keller's understanding, but it was good to have it confirmed. Still, he'd have been happier with...

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

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