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Hit Me (A John Keller novel) Hardcover – February 12, 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 180 customer reviews
Book 5 of 5 in the Keller Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Aficionados of Block’s stamp-collecting contract killer will remember that in Hit and Run (2008), Keller was set up to take the fall for the assassination of a charismatic governor who was bidding to become president of the U.S. Life, as Keller knew it, was over, and Block ended the book with Keller foiling an attempted rape in New Orleans. Hit Me picks up the story several years later. Keller is married to Julia, the woman he saved from being raped. He is father to Jenny and co-owner of a small company that has done well rehabbing homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina. But the Great Recession has flattened his business, and Keller, somewhat reluctantly, returns to his lethal-but-lucrative former trade. His first assignment is to do away with the arrogant abbot of a monastery in Manhattan, whose testimony will convict a pack of corrupt Jersey pols. Keller, however, seems to have lost his murderous mojo to the simple joys of family. It’s easy to imagine Block grinning as he reinvents his always fascinating character. Keller 2.0 is also more passionate about his hobby, and Block writes so appealingly about the world of philately that some fans might decide to take up stamp collecting. Hit Me is a delightful change of pace. --Thomas Gaughan


"Block plays like a master on the consciences of his readers, raising moral dilemmas and then whisking them off behind a diverting bit of dialogue or drama."―The Columbus Dispatch

"In the hands of a lesser writer, the philately passages would be insufferable, but Block makes them interesting in their own right as well a window into the soul of a hit man who can dispatch innocent bystanders without remorse but won't cheat on his wife and insists on being scrupulously honest in the buying and selling of collectible stamps."―Associated Press

"It's a mark of Block's storytelling skill that he can make lengthy philatelic interludes as fascinating as cloaks and daggers ... It'd be a shame to hear no more from one of the most entertaining and unusual characters in the history of crime fiction, now that he's back on the job."―The Times-Picayune

"A fine finale for a writer who never stopped growing, and who allowed some of his series characters the same privilege of changing."―The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"Despite claiming he's retired, Lawrence Block can't seem to resist taking a few swigs from the poisoned cup ... Aside from their ingenious methodology, what makes these amuse-bouches so delectable are the moral dilemmas Block throws up to deflect his philosophical anti­hero from a given task."―Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

"In the fifth entry in the Keller series (after Hit and Run), the appealing antihero with his own moral code continues to dig into the motives of his distant employers and make his own decisions about who deserves to die. But stamp collecting is more than just a secondary theme here, and Block's discourses about the history behind stamps are vivid enough to pique the interest even of those not at all inclined toward the hobby. Master mystery writer Block is at the top of his form here."―Michele Leber, Library Journal (starred review)

"It's easy to imagine Block grinning as he reinvents his always fascinating character [Keller]. Block writes so appealingly about the world of philately that some fans might decide to take up stamp collecting. HIT ME is a delightful change of pace."―Thomas Gaughan, Booklist (starred review)

At times casually ruthless in snuffing out targets, Keller is also honest and ethical in his business dealings. A final assignment involving a child suggests that Keller may even play an unfamiliar white knight role, hopefully in the near future."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"Block is a mesmerizing raconteur ... elegiac ... a lament for all the old familiar things that are now almost lost, almost forgotten."―New York Times Book Review

One of the finest in the entire Scudder series ... highly recommended."
Entertainment Weekly

"A Great American Crime Novel ... good to the last drop. Totally gripping. The perfect introduction to Scudder's shadow-strewn world and the pleasures of Block's crisp yet brooding prose, [and] a bracing distillation of Block's powers."

"Moving ... elegiac ... right up there with Mr. Block's best."
Wall Street Journal

"Sometimes you open a novel and you just know you're in the hands of a master. In the case of Lawrence Block's latest Matt Scudder mystery, the tipoff is a brazenly simple plot premise, faultlessly executed...Like a lot of great mystery fiction, A Drop of the Hard Stuff is also a ghost story. Matt's attempt to exorcise his phantoms results in a classic tale about the stubborn persistence of memory and regret."
--- NPR

Product Details

  • Series: A John Keller novel (Book 5)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books; 1st edition (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316127353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316127356
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lawrence Block (b. 1938) is the recipient of a Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and an internationally renowned bestselling author. His prolific career spans over one hundred books, including four bestselling series as well as dozens of short stories, articles, and books on writing. He has won four Edgar and Shamus Awards, two Falcon Awards from the Maltese Falcon Society of Japan, the Nero and Philip Marlowe Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and the Cartier Diamond Dagger from the Crime Writers Association of the United Kingdom. In France, he has been awarded the title Grand Maitre du Roman Noir and has twice received the Societe 813 trophy.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Block attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Leaving school before graduation, he moved to New York City, a locale that features prominently in most of his works. His earliest published writing appeared in the 1950s, frequently under pseudonyms, and many of these novels are now considered classics of the pulp fiction genre. During his early writing years, Block also worked in the mailroom of a publishing house and reviewed the submission slush pile for a literary agency. He has cited the latter experience as a valuable lesson for a beginning writer.

Block's first short story, "You Can't Lose," was published in 1957 in Manhunt, the first of dozens of short stories and articles that he would publish over the years in publications including American Heritage, Redbook, Playboy, Cosmopolitan, GQ, and the New York Times. His short fiction has been featured and reprinted in over eleven collections including Enough Rope (2002), which is comprised of eighty-four of his short stories.

In 1966, Block introduced the insomniac protagonist Evan Tanner in the novel The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep. Block's diverse heroes also include the urbane and witty bookseller--and thief-on-the-side--Bernie Rhodenbarr; the gritty recovering alcoholic and private investigator Matthew Scudder; and Chip Harrison, the comical assistant to a private investigator with a Nero Wolfe fixation who appears in No Score, Chip Harrison Scores Again, Make Out with Murder, and The Topless Tulip Caper. Block has also written several short stories and novels featuring Keller, a professional hit man. Block's work is praised for his richly imagined and varied characters and frequent use of humor.

A father of three daughters, Block lives in New York City with his second wife, Lynne. When he isn't touring or attending mystery conventions, he and Lynne are frequent travelers, as members of the Travelers' Century Club for nearly a decade now, and have visited about 150 countries.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Keller is back - and he's up to his old tricks. Still living in post-Katrina New Orleans with his wife and little girl, our supposedly-retired hit man has more time on his hands than he would like. The legitimate construction business that did so well for him following the devastating hurricane that was Katrina is now on the skids. Keller's good friend and business partner has taken a job with another construction outfit while Keller happily spends his days with his family - and his beloved stamp collection.

But Keller really hates to tap too deeply into his savings and, because he has spotted some stamps he would really love to add to his collection, when his longtime partner in crime calls, he is ready to listen. Dot, like Keller, has been forced to create a new identity (and life) in order to avoid the repercussions of their last escapade, but now she is ready to earn a little extra cash. The timing of her call could not have been better.

Before he knows it, Keller has accepted, survived, and highly profited from five assassinations that take him to Dallas, New York, a Caribbean cruise, Colorado, and Buffalo - where someone is willing to pay big bucks to have a 14-year-old boy killed. And, believe it or not, you're going to be rooting for Keller the entire time.

Lawrence Block, probably best known for his Matthew Scudder novels, is one of the more prolific writers out there these days. Hit Me is, in fact, the fifth book in what Block calls his "Keller's Greatest Hits" series. The first three books are short story collections, the fourth one (which I loved) is the first novel in the series - and this new one feels at times more like a chronological presentation of short stories than a novel.
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Format: Hardcover
This collection of short stories masquerading as a novel will disappoint those looking for thrills--there are none--but will thrill stamp collectors, because of its loving detail about the stamp trade. Block is a major mystery writer and his prose is very good and he is frequently wryly funny. However, the bad guy as hero works by Thomas Perry and Richard Stark provide much more uncertainty and excitement--as did Block's previous Keller novel. The kills come much too easily; Keller never faces danger or a formidable adversary; and the stories barely build upon each other.

Block is a much better writer than Lee Child and the other super hero vs. super villain writers, but I prefer to see Keller have to break a sweat, not just crack a joke.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you're starved for a Keller story this is OK.
It certainly is not one of Block's best efforts. The story is a bit contrived
but the dialogue holds up well.
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Format: Hardcover
In Hit Parade, Keller had supposedly retired from the business, taken up the identity Nicholas Edwards, and settled down to the quiet life with Julia. Now they live the anonymous life in a place they call home in New Orleans, and daughter Jenny makes three. But it doesn't take much to call him out of quietude and back into the assassin business. In Hit Me, Keller does jobs on a sequestered monk in an upscale midtown monastery in NYC, a government witness on a West Indies cruise, and settling a stamp collector's widow's collection in Cheyenne while he works out the logistics of a hit job a hundred miles away in Denver. Keller manages the dispatches with accustomed cool, while pursuing his passion, stamp collecting. Each vignette reads as a stand-alone story, so the novel comes off episodic, each section coming to an abrupt halt once the job is done. Hits occur offstage, and the new Keller makes a point of fidelity to his wife and daughter, so Block takes the discretionary route and keeps it relatively clean.

I have long been a fan of Lawrence Block, ever since I started reading his Writer's Digest columns on craft. I follow several of his series and enjoy his wit and storytelling. It seemed Block was ready to retire his characters when Keller settled down and Scudder too took to the quiet life. It's no surprise Dot calls and Keller doesn't brush her off. After all, what's a Keller to do? Is the new material compelling? Sure. Does it go new places, explore different themes? As Keller would say, "Well..."

Surprisingly, Keller is a work in progress, and old ways can be bent in new directions. The domestic life has shaped his perceptions enough that the impersonal killer still has things to learn, and places he hasn't been, speaking beyond locales and destinations. It seems Keller has a heart and actually wants to make something more of his life than the business of ending others, sans conscience and motive delving.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read most if not all of Lawrence Block's books. It seems he has mellowed with age and he spends more time on pontificating on getting old. In this series versus his other characters we've seen Keller as a killer with a passion for stamp collecting. First of all I was a stamp collector so can understand the nuances of the intricacies and joy of collecting stamps but in this book it becomes the central theme and if you're not a stamp collecter you may find it boring or too obtuse. Mr. Block bring back some of your prior flare. Please I love your books but I think this one misses the mark.
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