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Hit Parade    by Lawrence Block order for
Hit Parade
by Lawrence Block
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Lawrence Block - a widely recognized author of mysteries and short stories - has won numerous awards including the Edgar and Shamus. He's written more than fifty books, with series focused on characters like Bernie Rodenbarr (burglar with a heart of gold), insomniac CIA agent Evan Tanner, Matt Scudder, and John Keller. Hit Parade is the latest in the latter series and follows the day-to-day life of John Keller, an ordinary middle-aged guy who does mostly ordinary things - including his stamp collecting hobby. He also makes a pretty good living as a contract killer, a business he's been in for a long time because he happens to be very good at it.

As he did in Hit Man and Hit List, Block presents a collection of intersecting, loosely linked stories of assignments arranged for Keller by his wisecracking, pragmatic agent and go-between Dot. Here are a few of my favorite stories. In Keller's Designated Hitter, Keller does his research by taking in baseball games around the country to get a feel for a minor league player someone wants dead, but he can't bring himself to do the job until the player makes it into the Hall of Fame. Keller's Adjustment sees him actually contemplating buying a retirement home in Arizona, and in Keller By A Nose he agrees to snuff a jockey, but only if the guy wins the fixed race. Keller the Dogkiller sees the hit man tapped to do in a killer pit bull named Fluffy but there's a satisfying and surprising twist that you won't see coming.

Hit Parade is filled with great dialogue and situations as well as humor, both light and dark. Keller's often ironic view of his life and his profession rings true, as does the obvious mid-life crisis he's experiencing - you get so caught up in his observations and introspections it's easy to forget just how Keller makes his living. But this aspect of his career hits you square between the eyes every time he and the irrepressible Dot discuss business as if they're simply making plans to get together for coffee and a piece of pie. A quirky premise, quirky situations and an even quirkier main character in John Keller make Hit Parade another winning combination.

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