cover image Hit Parade

Hit Parade

Lawrence Block, , read by the author. . Harper Audio, $39.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-089792-5

Block's latest collection of darkly funny, morally ambiguous short tales featuring the philatelist–hit man John Keller and his wisecracking "manager," Dot, is being called a novel. This disingenuous designation is clarified in the published version by separate story titles, which are missing from the otherwise unabridged audio version. The loosely linked stories are flowed like a continuous novel, but one with plot line and characters shifting without much warning. It's an unnecessary distraction from Block's brilliantly twisted tales, otherwise happily enhanced by the author's droll, surprisingly effective narration. Not only has Block created one of crime fiction's more remarkable protagonists—a hired assassin who is somehow likable without the need of redemption by penance, charm or even regret—he proves to be an excellent audio interpreter of his antihero's sometimes hilarious homicidal capers. The author's voice is reedy and a bit nasal, but he knows his characters and his timing is impeccable. The best episode (identified in the print edition as "Keller the Dogkiller") is so cleverly and wickedly convoluted, with the Keller-Dot recaps so deliriously funny, that it alone is worth the price of the package, especially with Block's distinctive voice taking us through every hairpin twist and turn with an air of sublime nonchalance. Simultaneous release with the Shaye Areheart Books hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 13). (May)