Killer by Dave Zeltserman

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Killer by Dave Zeltserman

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Iain Wear
Reviewed by Iain Wear
Summary: As per usual from Zeltserman, a well-written and exciting plot, realistic characters and refusing to conform to the clichés. Given how good Zeltserman is, though, this was disappointingly brief.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Serpent's Tail
ISBN: 978-846686443

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Here at the Bookbag, we've been very impressed with Dave Zeltserman's work thus far. He uses a wonderful noirish narrative that takes you straight to the heart of the story. His story telling is very straightforward, not weighing down the story with too much style, but sticking to the substance and delivering a hard-hitting work every time. With Killer, he has done the same again.

Leonard March is walking free after fourteen years in prison. Formerly a hit man for mob boss Salvatore Lombard, March has been vilified by the public during his time inside after details of the twenty eight murders he committed for Lombard were leaked to the press. March leaves prison a changed man; his wife, the only person who stood by him, has died and his children have abandoned him. All he wants is a quiet life in his small flat and his janitor's job.

Unfortunately, quiet is the one thing March's life is destined not to be. He worries that he is being followed, possibly by members of Lombard's organisation. He has several lawsuits to defend and many who disagree with his actions are determined to take issue with him over them. He is also hounded by people who want to tell his story, be they journalists or writers seeing a book deal. This attention only intensifies when he becomes a hero after foiling a robbery.

Zeltserman's style here is a little less straightforward than usual, mixing March's past life with his present actions to try to paint him more favourably. March shows very little remorse, but he tries to distance himself from his past and the two ages of his story do paint a kinder figure, even if his lack of emotion doesn't exactly make you like him. This helps lull the reader into a false sense of security and clouds the image you have of March in a way unusual for Zeltserman's writing.

The narration is typically excellent, though. March isn't a terribly educated person and isn't trying to make himself out to be anything other than a former mob killer. The first person narrative helps him tell his story without embellishment and in plain language. This makes the book typically readable and given the size, it's one you can get through in a single session, as I did. Twice. The first time, I simply didn't know quite what to expect next, but the second time around when I did, my enjoyment wasn't greatly lessened.

Again, as is Zeltserman's style, the story isn't terribly visual with only things that catch March's eye getting a mention. This allows for women being described in more detail than men, but most situations are described in terms of the memories they evoke in March rather than what he sees. After a murder, he's more likely to describe the victim's bullet holes than their features. It's a refreshingly gruesome stylistic device I shouldn't admit to enjoying in polite company, but that doesn't stop me enjoying it. The other rare result of this is that it allows the more mundane parts of life to come through in the story, such as where March plans a bus journey to get somewhere, which is an unusual sight in the pages of a crime novel that only makes him seem more realistic.

Indeed, my only complaint with the book is that it's so very short. With some books this can be a blessing, but Zeltserman's writing is so good that you want it to go on forever. Admittedly, in this case that may have been stretching the story a little too far, which would also have been a tragedy. The story has found its own length and finishes when it's ready, but it's always a pity when you reach the end of something you wish would carry on forever.

I love Dave Zeltserman's work and Killer hasn't lessened my appreciation of him in the slightest. It may not seem quite as good as Pariah, but Zeltserman's work will only fail by comparison with itself, never with anything else. Rarely do you find an author where you could simply sit down with all of their books and be completely content. For me, Zeltserman is that find.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy this kind of story, I thoroughly recommend Zeltserman's other two novels in this series, Small Crimes and Pariah.

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Buy Killer by Dave Zeltserman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Killer by Dave Zeltserman at


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