From master black comedian Friedman (The Collected Short Fiction. . . , 1995, etc.) comes a dry, mordant take on the old story of the reluctant hit man. William Binny, a middle-aged widower and father, is an unemployed poultry worker in an unnamed town that could be Little Rock, Arkansas. Binny spends a lot of time reading big books--Thackeray, Emerson, Gibbon's Decline and Fall--yet he remains a simple, not very bright guy who can only land a job turning on the timers at a suntanning salon. Extremely protective of his 11-year-old daughter, Binny longs for security and ""something useful"" to do. Enter Valentine Peabody, a mysterious Brit who claims that he works for a reclusive multinational billionaire named Gnu, a sensitive man who'd been tormented by childhood bullies and now wants revenge against his tormentors. Peabody thinks that Binny would be the perfect assassin--a quiet, efficient Vietnam vet, completely unknown. Binny, when presented with large sums of money, at first hesitates, then takes on the challenge of becoming a hired killer. Friedman proceeds to take us on a very silly ride--first to Miami, where Binny deals with gangs of retired Catskills comics, a bald model, an Arab who plays bar mitzvahs, and a target already more dead than alive. Binny next goes to Tokyo, where he stumbles on a parade of factory workers all brandishing inflatable penises. And he ends up in New York, where his daughter is sucked into the world of movie production. This simple hero takes it all in with an unflinching wonder, and as he bumbles about, Friedman manages to suggest that it might actually be possible to be both a (somewhat inept) assassin and a really nice guy. Not his heaviest, deepest work, but Friedman's satiric eye is keenly focused in this pleasant romp about the limits of a father's love.