Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson and Rachel Willson-Broyles (translator)

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Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson and Rachel Willson-Broyles (translator)

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The third time this author strikes us with a rarely unusual circumstance doesn't completely follow through with novelty of plot, nor loveable characters.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 384 Date: April 2016
Publisher: Fourth Estate
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780008152079

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There's feeling on edge, and there's feeling on edge. Per is a hotel receptionist partly because his father and grandfather didn't give him a better destiny, and partly because he was working there when it was a shoddy knocking joint. He's feeling on edge because someone has decided to live there, in room seven, and proudly announced that it's about the first place he's had as an adult to live in that isn't a prison – the man, Hitman Anders, has killed three people in separate fits of rage. And now Per is feeling even more on edge because Johanna, a woman in a dog-collar has turned up, tried to blag twenty kronor for a badly-worded prayer in Per's favour (even though she's been sacked as a priest and is in fact a rampant atheist), and has now colluded to jointly with Per become Hitman Anders' criminal hit-job agents. But could anything make a newly rich Per – and Johanna – feel more on edge, than Hitman Anders gaining a conscience…?

Well, that's for you to learn, but what you will have gathered is that this is a quite unusual plot. There really does seem no way to pin this down as being akin to anything else. Drink, lapsed religious types, vengeful gangsters and people permanently out of their comfort zone are all ripely given by Graham Greene's entertainments, but this doesn't read like them. It has the warm clarity, gentle character of comedy and over-arching humanist tone of Mitch Albom, but again the style isn't correct. This might well only be categorisable as a Jonas Jonasson book – this being the first of his three I've read I really couldn't properly say.

It's also a bit awkward to say why I didn't quite find favour with the book. Notwithstanding the turn the book makes in the run-up to the halfway point, which turned it into something I didn't really want, I just didn't find the book as good as hoped. Yes, it had a levity, but beyond a couple of surprising turns of phrase and comical beats it didn't really make me smile. Yes, it bore a quirkiness, but one lacking the necessary charm to make me really happy with everything. The style was a bit clunky as well, and didn't help by mostly naming Per and Johanna by their job title, thus referring to a receptionist and a priest that are the opposing gender to my typical mental image. If you turn to Hitman Anders as a character to more easily latch on to, you find him a bit too broadly-drawn, and far too silly – failing even with relevant tattoos on his thumping hands to work out which is left and which right.

Now, the relevant part of that may be the bit about what I wanted. But I could only see flashes of why this author with his whimsy is a success, and why foreign rights sell as soon as the dust is settled in his native country. He has a dryness to his droll sense of humour which I can see as appealing – it just didn’t come across as often as I wanted here. And again, if you are on board with the second half more than I was – if it didn't strike you as not too 'been here, done that, just can't quite put my finger on who did it better', and basically far too long and woolly – this may be a book to admire. I still don't think it will be a book to love, for these several flaws, but I will concede to perhaps being in a minority when it comes to giving this author's third outing some esteem.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

I can see The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood appealing to Jonasson fans – and many other people. Rachel Willson-Broyles also translated The Boy in the Shadows by Carl-Johan Vallgren.

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Buy Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson and Rachel Willson-Broyles (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson and Rachel Willson-Broyles (translator) at Amazon.com.

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