Plot or Premise
Keller is a hitman. The contracts come from White Plains, from an unseen man upstairs and the man’s assistant named Dot. He gets the jobs and he does them. A pro…no mistakes. Life is good. And every time Keller goes to a new town, he gets real estate agents to show him houses he’ll never buy. Then he kills the target and goes home. And goes to therapy, gets a dog, gets a girlfriend, meets an agent from the government, and generally cruises through life piling up bodies. But there are always little problems — like the man who hires him through a front and then neglects to pay the second half. Or the two rivals who both hire Keller to kill the other and he has to choose which one. Or the three “innocents” that the government has him kill. In the end, he decides to retire. And find a hobby. And even that doesn’t work out as planned.
What I Liked
The character is interesting and business-like. He has trouble killing a man he likes because he knows the man is waiting for it and Keller had saved his grandson from drowning, so he is somewhat conflicted. And the search for explanations about his life and his past are at once both deep and superficial — deep questions that Keller can turn away from anytime he wants and simply shrug. And mean it. On the lighter side, he uses various identities when he travels, identities of real people. So, just for fun, he occasionally calls the wives from the hotel he is staying in so that when the couple complain to American Express that they weren’t there, the call appears to be them to their own home, just to mess with them. But then he feels guilty, so he sends the wife flowers from the husband – charged to the husband’s card of course. And his depictions of some places in New York City were a nice “”homecoming”” since I was there a while ago and know all too well the places he was describing. Favorite lines:
- “Keller, what difference does it make how Lyman Crowder pronounces his last name?” “I just wondered.” “Well, stick around for the funeral. See what the minister says.”
- There were eight million stories in the naked city, most of them not very interesting, and he was one of them.
- “He had killed a thousand miles to ride a woman he’d never met” (A deliberate misquote of a Louis L’Amour advertisement: “He rode a million miles to kill a man he’d never met”).
- It was an unusual experience for him to travel under his own name and use his own credit cards. He sort of liked it, but felt exposed and vulnerable. Signing it at the restored downtown hotel, he wrote down not only his own name but his own address as well. Whoever heard of such a thing?
What I Didn’t Like
Some of the chapters seem somewhat disjointed, which is likely a reflection of the fact that many of the chapters appeared “as is” in Playboy magazine as short stories. The only other complaint is that in a couple of places the story jumps back to New York City a little too fast and the reader is left wondering exactly what happened and how he killed the target. Particularly for the guy who initially stiffs Keller on the second half of his fee — there is no explanation whether Keller kills him or not. He plans it but then has to go back to New York City suddenly. No explanation. A good set of stories overall, although its hard to get into the character since the character is presented rather cold and superficial. Almost like a description of someone’s life in the past, it’s hard to feel tension or great interest in the day to day happenings.
The Bottom Line (★★★☆☆)
Maybe you’ve met a hitman and didn’t know it.