Tuesday, April 04, 2006

#24 - The Ethical Assassin

David Liss is hardly a household name, but I think maybe he should be. I've read three of his books now, and I've sincerely enjoyed each one. The first, The Coffee Trader, I found fascinating because of all the historical information, but it was also about the early days of the stock market, which isn't as boring as it might sound. The next, A Conspiracy of Paper, was also good, but not as engaging as The Coffee Trader. Liss's latest book The Ethical Assassin, isn't an historical novel per se (it's set in Florida in the early 1980s, which is not contemporary but not the 17th century either), but it's a great read regardless.

The Ethical Assassin tells the story of Lem Altick, a teenaged door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time while trying to raise enough money to go to Columbia. Lem gets mixed up in the middle of a drug operation, witnesses two people being murdered by the so-called ethical assassin, and winds up on a rollicking adventure that inevitably leads to more crime, redemption and a new girlfriend. I guess you can call it a coming of age tale, a sort of buldingsroman wrapped up in a noir-ish crime novel. But it's also funny and suspenseful (Liss does that whole end the chapter on a 'dum-dum-dum' note that Dan Brown should patent), and really well written.

While the book is mainly about Lem and his dealings with this ethical assassin, Liss manages to incorporate a number of interesting themes in the novel. Crooked cops, backwater crime and the typical bullies aside, the reasons behind the crime behind the crime (the murders) are all tied in some way to animal rights, and Liss is very adept at weaving the socio-political philosophy into the story in an interesting and not remotely pedantic way. All in all I really enjoyed this book, as I have been with many of the more serious (read, non-chicklit) books I've been plugging through.

I'm back on the Book A Day track now. And seeing as I'm spending the better part of the next three days at various different doctors's appointments (super-fancy disease doctor, family doctor, eye doctor, naturopath), hopefully I'll be able to get a lot of reading done.

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