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Review: Hit Me, by Lawrence Block 2013

Block, over a long career, has created at least three main characters who have stood the test of time, but none is more unusual (strange, weird?) than Keller. Keller is a contract killer who is also a dedicated philatelist and a generally nice guy.
When Keller was a young lad in New York city, he fell in with a crowd of more or less bad guys, doing penny ante bad stuff. But the boss of the bad guys saw some potential in young Keller and, without Keller ever realizing it, turned him into a stone killer, a man who could kill without compunction and who trained himself to erase the memory of the killings from his mind.
Keller, over the years, has worked with a woman named Dot who handles all the assignments. Dot phones up and tells him where to go and who to kill and he does it. Generally there is a lot of planning involved and a brief recounting after the deed is done. There’s never any time spent on the actual killing, which somehow makes it more believable when Keller slips back into his role as a nice guy with no real interests outside of collecting stamps.
In this latest Keller novel, the nice guy persona is reinforced by the fact that circumstances have forced him to move to New Orleans, where he marries a lovely young woman, has a cute little baby and starts a construction business. Mr. Normal Guy all the way.
But then Dot phones, out of the blue, and wants to know if he’d like to get back into business. Turns out he does. There are some stamps he’d like to buy and killing people is an excellent way to make the money he needs to indulge his hobby.
So there is a contract killing, and then another one and then another one . . . all very clean and professional. But something has changed. This is not the old Keller; this is Keller the family man? Can Keller balance the two?
The subtext throughout is this conflict between the killer and the family man and Block handles it in a way that is subtle enough that it is always just under the radar, niggling away in the reader’s mind. Will Keller make the right decision about his life and who he wants to be? Only the final chapter will tell.
Good book. Watch out for the endless descriptions of stamps.

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