by Lawrence Block; narrated by the author
I was worried Block’s voice would get on my nerves, as it has a raspy, gravelly quality that could have been disaster. Instead, it grew on me quite a bit, and I fear I will miss it in future.
The book read like a series of short stories about a hit man — and in reading reviews, it turns out it is a series of short stories loosely collected into a novel. In that regard, it works well. Keller, the everyday hitman who really likes stamp collecting, is a likeable fellow with a strange sense of honor/ fair play/ morality. He’s not a sociopath, but spends time pondering how it would be convenient if he were. I won’t spend too much time on the stories except to say they’re quite good and you should read them.
The morality of the tale, on the other hand, is interesting. This book is a prime example of the power narrative has to adjust our sense of good, right, etc. Keller regularly kills people the book has revealed to be pretty decent, he hardly minds at all (though we learn he does regret it a little), and neither do we. I spent much of the book wondering how I could like Keller in the same way I like Leon (from The Professional). You’ll remember that Leon only kills people who deserve it (in the movie, anyway). Keller kills pretty much anybody. And bystanders, if they get in the way.
My favorite story is one of the last ones, in which Keller is hired to kill a fellow stamp enthusiast and finds himself in an awkward friendship with the man. Delightful.