Set in the 1980's, Lem Altick has just graduated high school and desires nothing more than to escape the cultural vaccum that is Florida by going to college at Columbia. That Lem is actually a nice guy is pretty surprising given the hand that life has dealt him so far: a deadbeat dad who stopped calling ages ago, a mother so zoned out on pills that she naps all day and only awakens to prepare meals and clean house, and a verbally abusive step-father who has reneged on his promise to help Lem pay for an Ivy league college. Lem's carefully constructed plan for his future begins to fall apart when an assassin walks into the trailer where Lem is about to close his last encyclopedia sale for the day.
There were so many great places Liss could have taken the idea of an ethical assassin - someone who kills people who do, in fact, deserve to die because they are evil.
There wasn't anything in the book that I didn't already know nor was the discussion of the morality of our civilization new to me. The central character develops from a real loser into someone who will make it a little too fast & far for me. The POV is interesting, but also had a big flaw, IMO. I doubt anyone else in the family will be interested in reading it, either. The book was hyped to me, I think mostly because of the Animal Rights angle - not reason enough, IMO. It's OK & I think 3 stars overall is as generous as I can be.
One day, while trying to sell his wares to the inhabitants of a dingy trailer somewhere in rural Florida, Lem witnesses a double assassination. To unravel the mystery and save himself, Lem must descend deep into a bizarre world he never knew existed, where a group of desperateand genuinely derangedschemers have hatched a plan that will very likely keep Lem from leaving town alive. The more you read the clearer it gets, like a jigsaw puzzle which you try to assemble without looking at a model pic. Lem is our usual ingénue who grows up while solving a mystery and saving his life but he is not one of these too stupid to live boys/girls who must be led by a hand and constantly watched over by an older mentor. It is true that Melford shoves him towards the right direction from time to time but overall the boy can think and take decisions on his own, mainly because he has been forced to do so from his childhood. His actions will make you change your mind more than once but you will enjoy reading about him. Compared to two leads, mentioned above (Lem and Melford) the ladies are simply pale and insignificant. Final verdict: David Liss is mainly known as the author of Conspiracy of Paper series (if you can call it that) , three great historical fiction novels which I enjoyed very much. I recommend this book to all those who like intricate mystery thrillers which focus not only on a simple whodunnit but also on more serious issues like animal rights.
That being said, I am impressed that Liss has the ability to go from historical fiction and such protaginists as Benjamin Weaver and take us to mid 80's Florida with Lem Atlick as our schmuck lead character. Liss book, but if his goal is to make his readers think, it worked for me.
This smart and very suspenseful read has Hiaasen-esque, quirky secondary characters and is very unlike Liss' previously published historical novels.
To stay alive he has to stay one step ahead of: -2 crooked cops -1 half of a Siamese twin -A encyclopedia pyramid sales team -Residents at a trailer park -A Don Johnson styled crime boss -a love interest -and a violent animal rights assassin who waxes western philosophy.
The assassin, Melford, is a post-Marxist, animal rights activist, who claims that he only murders those who deserve it, explaining why he chose to spare Lem. At the beginning of the novel, Melford poses a question to Lem, asking him why the prison system remains the same, despite knowing that on the whole, it turns those who are incarcerated for petty crimes, into career criminals. In the novel, Melford explains to Lem that every person in the world sees things through their own ideology. The average person accepts the fact that criminals go to prison as an axiomatic truth, as due to the ideological veil, they have no reason to question this system. Following the climax of the novel, Lem espouses his findings on the question of prisons to Melford. Lem tells Melford that prisons dont exist in spite of their turning people into criminals, but because of it. This is why, Lem explains, the prison system exists to turn potential revolutionaries into criminals, rather than exist in spite of it.
They are set in 18th century London and feature Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish former pugilist, thief-taker for hire. Weaver will be back in 2009 with The Devils Company, but hes featured in a new short story, The Double Dealer in the anthology Thriller , edited by James Patterson.