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Book Review: Hit and Run by Lawrence Block

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Before Dexter, the OCD killer with a conscience, there was John Paul Keller (or Keller as he is familiarly known), hit man for hire, but a nice, ordinary guy most of the time.

Because he’s written by Lawrence Block, famous for his one-liners, sarcastic wit, and characters you love in spite of themselves, Keller is a lot funnier than Dexter, far less angst-ridden, and a quick, fun joy to read. Block (prolific does not being to describe him) has written a slew of books, including three thriller “series:” the dark Matthew Scudder novels about an ex drunk turned private eye, the Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries, which center around a burglar who just happens to own a book store, and the four Keller books, the last, perhaps, of which is Hit and Run.

Keller, who was doing his last job in the last book, is doing it again: Taking the final hit that will plump up his bank account enough so that he can retire and pour over his expensive and copious stamp collection.

But, as it will, something goes terribly wrong. The hit he was assigned never takes place; instead, a popular political candidate is assassinated and Keller is set up to take the fall. Yeah, he should have listened to his intuition.

Left without money or resources, and sure that his friend and hit assignee Dot has been murdered by the guys that set him up, Keller begins a cross country odyssey that he hopes will lead him back to New York and his comfortable apartment where he can hole up and let things settle down.

Fat chance. His face is all over the news, his apartment is being watched, and so, once again, he heads out, and ends up in New Orleans. He rescues a fair damsel from distress and….I won’t tell you more because it would spoil the lovely plot twists and turns. Suffice it to say that Block never disappoints and never allows himself to succumb to a dark or unhappy ending. Although he doesn’t go for the cheap and easy “and they all lived happily ever after,” either.

Lawrence Block is a more than serviceable writer and his plotting is all that one could wish for. I began this novel late in the evening and finished it after 2 a.m., telling myself I would read just one more chapter.

Once again, Block, as he does consistently and wittily, delivers a roller coaster ride of a thriller novel, with an unlikely hero and a cast of supporting characters that are so weird and fun that one must believe.

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