Sunday, April 18, 2010

Review of Killer

Here is my long delayed review of Killer. It's the book I was reading when I had the fire. For some reason, I've been unable to pick it up again until recently.

Dave Zeltserman concludes his "Man out of Prison" trilogy with Killer, a much more subdued take on the story than his previous efforts, Small Crimes and Pariah. Where the first two novels were bloody messes all the way through, Killer is a much subtler affair. Leonard March was a hitman for the Lombard crime family for a long time, but when he finally got caught committing some non-murderous crimes, he managed to cut himself a deal with immunity before confessing to twenty-eight paid killings for crime boss Sal Lombard.

For his deal, March gets fourteen years in prison, and when he walks free, he tells himself he's going to go straight and live a quiet, anonymous life. Of course, it's not easy to live a quiet life when you've got a list of enemies as long as your arm, and March doesn't make it any easier on himself by inviting publicity when he foils a liquor store robbery.

Killer, while an entertaining novel, lacks the punch of Pariah. Pariah was as close to perfect as a novel can get, so comparing the two may be unfair. Still, Killer, feels almost perfunctory when compared to either of his previous studies in evil. March isn't as compelling as either Joe Denton or Kyle Nevin, both of whom were real pieces of work, and the story ends a little abruptly. It feels a bit rushed at the end, which is disappointing because so much of the novel is setup. Zeltserman also picks up a couple of plot threads that never really go anywhere, which isn't like him.

As I said, though, Killer is a letdown only when compared to Zeltserman's previous efforts. As an author, you're in a pretty good shape if the only competition you have is yourself. Taken on its own, Killer is still very good. It's just not great, and not a great introduction to Zeltserman's work. It would be possible for a reader to pick up this novel and wonder what all the fuss has been about. Do yourself a favor and read one of the first two novels in this trilogy before approaching Killer.

1 comment:

DTK Molise said...

I read some of Zeltserman's short stories that he published for free on his website and was relatively impressed. I wanted to then look at one of his novels and now know where to start!

Just a comment...doesn't his plot for Killer sounds very similar to the plot of A History of Violence (both graphic novel and movie). Bearing in mind that was a pretty well known film with a central character whose past catches up with him after foiling a robbery seems a bit derivative. Saying that a similar idea was also explored in Out of the Past in 1947 too!