Sunday, August 28, 2011

Books: The Killer is Dying by James Sallis (Walker & Company, 2011)

The Killer Is Dying: A NovelThe Killer Is Dying: A Novel by James Sallis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While James Sallis ostensibly writes crime novels, the crime itself becomes almost incidental to the haunted and melancholy lives of the characters he composes. Christian is a hit-man, someone who takes pride in a clean kill. He also slowly dying of an unnamed disease, taking his faculties bit by bit. When the man he is hired to kill is attacked by another pro, Christian makes it his final mission to find out who and why. Jimmie is a teenager, living by his wits in his house after being abandoned by his parents, and falling through the cracks of the school and government systems, he makes a living and pays bills by buying and reselling online merchandise. He also begins to have strange dreams which turn out to be incidents from Christian's past. Finally, Detective Sayles is trying to track down the attacker while grieving for his dying wife who has left him for hospice care. Reading about the intertwined lives of these three men would seem like a depressing endeavor, and there is indeed a palpable sense of melancholy that runs through the book, but it is Sallis' mastery of storytelling and the sheer beauty of his prose that keep things fresh, mysterious and compelling. We know little of the lives of these men before we meet them, and some background information is given, but the book is a meditation on loneliness and the desire to be part of a larger community, whether that is traditional family, online or through work relationships. The book is beautifully written in spare, clean prose and the story is deeply thoughtful and memorable. The Killer Is Dying -

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