cover image The Killer Is Dying

The Killer Is Dying

James Sallis. Walker, $23 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8027-7945-8

In this hallucinatory, almost visionary novel of suspense set in Phoenix, Sallis (Drive) focuses on three people of vastly different backgrounds and situations%E2%80%94Christian, a gun for hire, who's suffering from a mortal ailment; Jimmie, a boy of about 13 who's been abandoned by his parents and whose dreams inexplicably tap into the contract killer's consciousness; and Sayles, a cynical, lonely, burned-out detective, whose wife is dying in hospice. When another assassin steps up and takes out Christian's quarry, Christian goes after the guy who beat him to it. Unknown to Christian, Sayles is also on the killer's trail. Meanwhile, Jimmie survives in his parents' house by selling stuff on eBay, waiting for the authorities to notice he's all alone. Through no-nonsense staccato chapters, with minimal action, Sallis does a superb job exploring the workings of his characters' thoughts and motives. The September release of the film adaptation of Drive, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, should help propel sales. (Aug.)