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Hit and Run (Keller Series) Mass Market Paperback – June 30, 2009
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
“A knockout. . . . Block delivers a one-two punch of humor and introspection.” (Boston Herald)
“One of the best novels of the summer season. Block remains a true master of the crime genre.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
“If there is one crime writer currently capable of matching the noirish legacies of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, it’s Lawrence Block.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“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....From the first, Keller assumes this hit will be his last case. Readers can only hope it isn’t so.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Brisk, suspenseful, and funny.” (Library Journal)
“Block’s trademark blend of humor and violence is a good fit for the deadpan Keller. . . . One of the crime genre’s most unusual antiheroes.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The wry observations throughout, uttered by Keller as well as the other two main characters, will keep you smiling until your cheeks hurt.” (New York Sun)
“An odd and appealing combination of the hard-boiled, the surreal and the whimsical. Keller grows on us.” (San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle)
“[An] engrossing thriller” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
“Crazy, good fun, crafted by an experienced mystery writer who should never put down his pen.” (Deseret News)
About 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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Top customer reviews
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Until I read HIT PARADE, Block had been my favorite living crime fiction author. I had recommended 2 of his short stories about Keller to at least a dozen friends. In HIT PARADE, Keller came across as far smaller, both mentally and morally, than he'd been in most of Block's stories about him which I'd read previously. A second bit of good news about the novel HIT AND RUN is that, to some extent, Keller "regrows" morally after hearing a pretty woman's cry for help in a New Orleans park a night.
The A-to-Z plot of HIT AND RUN involves Keller's being framed for the assassination of a politician (which totally overturns his life and that of Dot, his friend and handler) and the revenge Keller and Dot seek against their powerful and dangerous enemy.
The weaknesses of HIT AN RUN are at least fourfold: (1) we learn that Dot has recently done 2 despicable acts, and these seriously undercut the good feelings readers are likely to have about Keller's slight moral regeneration; (2) many of the scenes are "corny," "trite," "sentimental," "slack," and/or "unbelievably lucky"; (3) the novel as a whole, which is 287 pages long, often seems to be padded out; (4) the final face-to-face confrontation between Keller and the millionaire who had him framed is "rushed," "underdone," and very unsatisfying.
In my judgment, HIT AND RUN deserves a "C+" grade at most (3 stars). While making this judgment, I was NOT comparing Block's book with world-class grade-"A" books by Dante, Melville, Tolstoy, and Faulkner. Instead, and more appropriately, I compared it with crime novels I greatly admire. HIT AND RUN most resembles Geoffrey Household's man-on-the-run novel ROGUE MALE (1939), which I rate worth a "B+". Crime fiction that I rate as deserving "A" grades includes Grant Allen's AN AFRICAN MILLIONAIRE (1897), Eden Phillpotts' THE RED REDMAYNES (1922), Philip MacDonald's THE RASP (1924), Arthur Upfield's MR. JELLY'S BUSINESS (1937; aka MURDER DOWN UNDER) and THE BACHELORS OF BROKEN HILL (1950), Robert Van Gulik's THE CHINESE NAIL MURDERS (1961), and Rex Stout's GAMBIT (1962). Block's novel HIT AND RUN comes nowhere close to the fine qualities of any of these works, but it is better than the "D"-grade work of Hugh Pentecost's DEATH AFTER BREAKFAST (1978), Robert B. Parker's aptly titled BAD BUSINESS (2004), and Peter Turnbull's FALSE KNIGHT (2006).
POSTSCRIPT: In case anyone wishes to read FAR better stories about Block's hit man, try "Keller's Therapy" (PLAYBOY, May 1993; awarded an EDGAR in 1994), "Keller's Karma" (PLAYBOY, Feb. 1995), and "Keller on the Spot" (PLAYBOY, Nov. 1997; awarded an EDGAR in 1998), at least 2 of which are available in several "Best of" anthologies. In these stories, Keller basically comes across as a deeply thoughtful and genuinely moral person who takes his profession seriously.
It certainly is, and this effort provides a good sampler of his talents. First, his hero, known only as Keller, is a highly skilled killer-for-hire who always gets away with it. We are thus already in an alternate universe. He leads a quiet, normal life, and collects stamps for a hobby. He has a administrator/sidekick, Dot, who "runs" him and acts as a confidante and balance wheel.
This outing demonstrates Mr. Block's talents as a master of the twisted plot. Keller is routinely engaged to eliminate an obscure businessman for an obscure reason, but as he is preparing to do so, someone assassinates the Governor of Ohio. Far worse, the plotters intentionally steer suspicion toward a man who looks very much like Keller and play his picture on every television in the state. Keller is suddenly a highly visible fugitive, a completely new experience for him. He is virtually without resources, having just spent his trip money on a tempting set of stamps, and he completely loses contact with Dot. The rest of the tale tells of his efforts, over months, not only to evade capture but find out why he was entangled in the first place.
Everything works out, but the suspense is delicious. Read, and join the choir. Five stars.
Unlike most contemporary writers, Block uses violence sparingly - many of Keller's hits occur "off camera." But when Block does indulge, it serves as a reminder that despite his gentle nature and generic demeanor, Keller is a contract killer.
And maybe it's just me, but Block has some truly wonderful and thoughtful reflections on life and death, marriage and family, America and Americans - no doubt the bonus that comes with living a reasonably long life.
I do hope that Keller isn't permanently retired.