Hit man John Keller, the pro’s pro, returns in a volume that makes gestures toward being a novel but is mostly a cycle of ten stories, half of them reprints.
How can a man root for the Yankees, collect stamps and worry about the fate of fictional bunnies while he’s making a living killing strangers? Keller, wondering if he’s a sociopath, decides at length that he’s not, because the brutal implications of his profession wouldn’t bother a sociopath, and it truly bothers Keller to kill a friendly acquaintance who’s just made him a generous gift. Several of his current adventures concern relatively routine assignments: an aging baseball player on the brink of two big records, an amateur basketball player whose associates plan more murders than his, a jockey who threatens to upset a race. The most resonant stories mingle problems in the contracts—Keller’s difficulty adjusting to 9/11, his halfhearted attempt to drum up some business on his own, his apprehensions about his legacy—with his deepening reflections on his own mortality.
Most of the stories don’t expand the territory mapped out in Hit Man (1998) and Hit List (2000). But one of them, in which Keller is hired to kill a dog and ends up killing four people along the way, is worth the price of admission.