Monday, March 12, 2007

I'm just gullible.

Warning: Spoiler details ahead. Don't read if you care about being surprised.

I've read a few of Lawrence Block's books about Bernie Rhodenbarr, the burglar who also runs a book shop, and they're pretty entertaining. Block's writing doesn't captivate me the way, say, Leslie Glass's does, and his books don't read as literature the way someone like Elizabeth George's do, but his situations merit a second look, and he has a sense of humor. So when I saw the book on CD about his hit man, Keller, I looked forward to a good time.

The author narrates it, and I like his deadpan style. I was both intrigued and repelled by the idea of hit man as protagonist. Block has Keller do his antisocial (to say the least) job within a code of honor, and much of the time he's thinking not about how to kill people, but about his stamp collection or about baseball or about retirement. He has an interesting relationship with his agent, Dot, who seems like a regular person except for the fact that she arranges people's murders.

About three quarters of the way through the book, against his better judgment, Keller gets to know one of his targets and befriends him. Keller develops serious doubts about whether to kill him, and develops a complicated scheme to help the target fake his own death. Then, after the suicide note has been written and all the other preparations made, Keller kills him after all, and it turns out to have been a big con. Keller is uncomfortable with this, and says that he could never be a con man on a regular basis, because it involves betrayal.

But I realized by the end of the book, when Keller has not changed at all, but continues to be an amoral killing machine, that in fact the whole book has been a big con.

I know what you're doing, Lawrence Block, and I don't like it.

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