Reviewer Janet Walker: Janet is the author of Colour To Die For, first of the Fee Weston Mystery Series. Janet lives in Australia and when she is not writing about P.I. Fee Weston's fight for truth, justice and a livable cash flow, she writes articles for magazines and fund raises for Australia's wildlife carers - heroes of the bush. For more about Janet and Fee visit Janet's WEBSITE
Author: Hallgrimur Helgason
At a guess, I would say
I’m not in the age range of readers that the publishers of, or
author, Hallgrimur Helgason envisaged would read The Hitman’s Guide
To Housecleaning. I don’t think the book was targeted at a middle
class, middle aged, middle of the road female (me). It was
though an interesting, lol, confronting and sometimes sad journey
that I went on with this book.
Hallgrimur Helgason, an award winning Icelandic artist and writer, has had two previous novels (101 Reykjavik, Stormland) filmed. The Hitman's Guide To Housecleaning, has been staged in Europe and is being filmed as well. Helgason wrote the book in English (his other novels were translated from Icelandic to English) which accounts for the book’s unusual turn of phrase; either funny with a creative use of English or a little strange. As he was born and lives in Iceland it’s probably okay for Helgason to poke fun at the names of Icelandic people. One of the main characters, Sigrudor becomes ‘Sickreader’ which, no matter how many times I read it still made me smile. The author also has fun with the main character, Tomislav Boksic, a Croation hitman’s understanding of Icelander’s accented English – they say ‘heresy’ he hears ‘hairy sea’.
Tomislav or Toxic as he
becomes known after being employed in the US as a hitman for the
Croation Mafia has a problem – he hit the right guy who turned out
to be the wrong guy; an undercover employee of the FBI. The FBI, not
pleased at losing a team member, put the heat on Toxic’s gang and
he is supplied with a one way ticket to Zagreb and told to get lost
for a while - quite a while. Upset at leaving behind his luscious
girlfriend, Munita, Toxic follows the boss’s orders and is about to
board a Belgrade flight when he spots the FBI at the gates. This
calls for drastic action and Toxic exits fast. Hiding in the men’s
washroom, he kills a bald headed man and steals his clothes and
identity. The dead man was headed for Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik.
Toxic shaves his head and joins the flight queue for Reykjavik.
The discovery that the guy he is impersonating is Reverend David Friendly, from the state of Virginia, does give Toxic pause for thought – he’s never killed a holy man before. Met at the Reykjavik airport by two television evangelists, Toxic decides, without luggage (it’s circling Belgrade Airport baggage claim) or any visible means of support to accept their offer of board and lodging. The evangelists ‘Goodmondoor’ and ‘Sickreader’ welcome him into their home and he is persuaded to make an appearance on their television show. A success on the show, Toxic looks set for top billing but is unhappy at having to forsake his professional hitman career. Proud of his curriculum vitae - 65 worry free hits (except maybe for his victims) he is annoyed the 66th turned sour. Naked without a gun, any gun will do, he settles down to the life of a gun deprived visiting Christian celebrity.
The plot twists and turns as Toxic’s cover is blown and he narrowly escapes a visit from the ‘white hats’, Iceland’s police force. Hidden by the evangelists, who look on saving his soul as a challenge worthy of their calling, Toxic is shocked to learn his NY girlfriend has been iced – her severed head is cooling in his New York apartment’s refrigerator. This leaves the way open for him to start an affair with Gunhildur (Gun) the daughter of Goodmondoor and Sickreader. Toxic, on his way to being saved, by day, washes dishes and helps out in a church, by night, he canoodles with Gun.
There’s plenty of ‘language’ in this book which I would normally find offensive, but as most of the characters are from backgrounds that don’t bear thinking about, it does read as natural speech patterns. Throughout the course of the story there are flashbacks to Toxic and his family’s roles in the chaotic, savage ethnic cleansing that occurred in the recent Serb/Croat war. These passages are effective and tragic; perhaps the author’s intention was to create a satirical anti war novel.
Don’t want to spoil the plot points and the suspenseful ending – read The Hitman’s Guide To Housecleaning, it might be outside your comfort zone but it’s also funny and thought provoking.
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