The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning
Review: Croatian-born Tomislav Bokšic is a placeni ubojica. In America, he is Tom Boksic, a hitman, known within his sphere simply as Toxic. But he's no longer in America, exiled — somewhat by chance — to Iceland. He tells his tale of a year in the Nordic country in The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning, a stand-alone novel by Hallgrimur Helgason, his first to be written in English and later translated into Icelandic (by the author), who published it in 2008 as 10 ráð til að hætta að drepa fólk og byrja að vaska upp.
Toxic is very good at his job. More importantly, he enjoys it. And he fancies himself an environmentalist, using the minimum number of bullets needed to accomplish the task at hand — almost always just one — which has the added benefit of helping reduce noise in an already noisy New York City. But he's not perfect, and he's killed an FBI agent, raising his profile well above that required by his employers. So he's decided to return to Croatia. But while waiting to board his flight he sees Federal agents heading towards his gate. He ducks into the men's room, where he happens to see someone of a similar appearance to his own, and always the quick thinker, assumes his identity … after killing him, of course. He is now David Friendly, the Rev. David Friendly, on his way to Iceland to spread a bit of the gospel cheer, or so he assumes.
To put it simply, The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning is a very odd crime novel. Not necessarily "odd" in a negative way, but "odd" in unusual. It's also incredibly uneven, both in narrative style and pacing. It's written in first person from the perspective of Toxic, but he frequently shifts into third person when referring to himself, the pluralis maiestatis, as it were. No doubt intentional on the part of the author, but it doesn't come across as natural as it is probably intended. More problematic is the shift between native English and non-native English, the former often erudite, the latter stereotypical of foreign speakers; think sentences missing the word "the". It's hard to imagine Toxic speaking this way.
What the book does have going for it is that it is replete with wry humor; when he's on point, Toxic does know how to turn a phrase. And then there's the whole highly imaginative setup of a hitman portraying a holy man, residing on a "Gun-Free Island" with a near-zero homicide rate, depriving him of practicing the only talent he's good at. Of course he finds a way to be involved, as it were, putting himself in a series of awkward, if generally humorous, situations.
Acknowledgment: Wunderkind PR provided a copy of The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning: Iceland
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The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning by Hallgrimur Helgason
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: January 2012
List Price: $14.95