Haas (The Silver Bear, 2008, etc.) brings his cold, canny professional hit man back in this cold, canny thriller.
The author opens with his lethally efficient Columbus, aka the Silver Bear, secluded in an Italian seaside village, hoping to retire from his lucrative work as a hired killer. Risina, his lover, who knows how to cook as well as kill, has “shown him what life could be without a Glock.” Of course, in the thriller genre, a killer's retirement means that another bloody junket awaits. And indeed, on a visit to a nearby city, Columbus confronts a man who had been following him. The man, Smoke, hands Columbus a note: “Bring Columbus home,” it demands. “Or you’ll get Grant back in a way you won’t like.” This threat against Grant, the Bear's boss, sends Columbus into a maze of fast kills and treachery. At his side follows Risina, insisting she can learn to kill as ruthlessly and remorselessly as Columbus. Her subsequent trial by blood and terror largely defines her, an aspect some readers will find thin, if not objectionable, characterization. Following a trail that leads to Chicago, Kansas City and Connecticut—and to a man who uses skulls as bargaining chips—Columbus demonstrates his deadly touch, his asides to Risina and to himself constituting a primer on how to excel at the fast kill. He’s particularly masterful at ferreting out wedges that get people to worm on their associates. In one of the book’s more affecting passages, he strong-arms a woman to recall her life with a man she never suspected was a pro killer. When a falling scaffolding takes Smoke’s life, Columbus knows the collapse was not an accident. Connecting clues from the accident and from the woman’s narrative, he realizes he faces “dark men,” a particular kind of foe he’s not used to fighting.
Intricate and fascinating. Heartless Columbus offers cold comfort on dark nights.