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The HITMAN'S GUIDE To HOUSECLEANING  
Hallgrimur Helgason

The author is an Icelandic citizen who currently lives in Reykjavic. He is well known as an author in Iceland
and is popular in Europe, particularly Germany, but this is the first of his books to be translated into English.
I could have retyped his bibliography but to save time and to give credit to, I have cut and pasted the list from
Wikipedia. This is it below:

The HITMAN'S GUIDE To HOUSECLEANING  - My Review (Chris)

When I saw the title of this book I was immediately intrigued because for so long, and like so many people, I have
stories inside me that I would like to write. So far I have only put one into print (No Loose Ends available from
Lulu.com) but the more I read crime tales the more I have wanted to write a story from the viewpoint of the assassin
or "hitman". I saw this title and thought that I was going to read the story that I want to tell, or at least a good part of
it. I was mistaken!

Not long ago I read Stieg Larssen's trilogy that begins with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and so I was already
in the mindset for more Northern European action.   The name The Hitman's Guide to Housekeeping is a misnomer,
for apart from the fact that this phrase is mentioned once there is little to do with cleaning (the term used to describe
an assassin's work) or cleaning (the term used to describe making something less dirty) so I assume the cleaning is
meant as a metaphore (though in my opinion a poor one) for the changing of the hitman in question's life.

I am not even sure what genre to put this book in. Obviously there is a crime element as murder is included in the tale,
but then there are several attempts at humour, mainly the mispronunciation of Icelandic names which at first bring forth
a little chuckle but very soon are over used, like a comedian telling a joke and then having to explain it, and the joke is
lost.

The story begins with a Croatian hitman called "Toxic" (nickname derived from Tomislav Boksic) who is trying to leave
the United States of America after killing an FBI agent. We learn that he killed the correct mark and that at the time of
the contract the victim wasn't known to be an undercover agent. But now with the FBI after him he is on the run. We also 
learn that the company for whom he works is also after him for bringing the heat down on them even though it was them 
who gave him  the target. At the airport Toxic sees the feebies heading for his departure gate so he detours into the lavatory 
where he luckily finds one occupant, a short, bald, plump Reverend. Being a short, bald, plump hitman, Toxic kills the Holy
Man and takes his identity, becoming Father Friendly on his way to Iceland.

Waiting for him in Iceland is the God Squad, a husband and wife team who are deeply religious and who run a local TV
evangelist station, and of course, Reverend Friendly is going to Iceland to appear on their show. The couple take Toxic
(Father Friendly) into their home and begin to tell him about themselves, Iceland and their views on Religion, which he is
supposed to support - which is the reason they invited him to come to Iceland. Toxic meets their daughter, Gunhilda, who
is not at all interested in conversing with him until she learns what he actually does for a living at which she invites him into
her bed, and their "son" whose name Toxic interprets as Torture (and who is in fact Gunhilda's boyfriend not brother).

The story is all told from Tomislav's thoughts and memories - he remembers America and  Croatia, he remembers fighting
in the Croatian Army. he also remembers his brother dying in the war and he remembers accidentally killing his own father.
He also has a photographic memory of every murder he has committed, adding it to the 60+ he killed in the war thus bringing
the total of deaths attributed to him at over 120. He also has this amusing mental processing when he sees a woman, rating
them according to what day he would feel like having sex with them if he and they were alone on a deserted island.

All the bases for an action adventure story are covered but for me the problem is that Tomislav Boksic or Toxic is totally
unbelievable and incompetent, both as a character and certainly as a hitman with over 60 successes to his name. A killer
with that sort of pedigree would need to be cold, calculating, clever and able to think on the spin. Toxic panics, kills a dog
for no reason other than because he can, and it makes for an "aaaw" moment in the tale, and he runs out into the icy cold street
with no shoes like a man who has just stirred up a Hornet's Nest.  Okay he had just learned that his girlfriend in the USA has
been found mutilated (her head in his refrigerator) so it wasn't nice news, but the reaction was one of a regular guy, not
a seasoned murderer.

He steals an ice-cream van, breaks into a house, and fools the police who are looking for a short, bald, plump man who is
not a native of Iceland, by splodging a drop of paint on his face and telling them he is decorating for the house owners who
are (conveniently) on vacation. The Police apparently then give up on their hunt for the murderer as there is no more mention
of them in the rest of the story. Having broken free from the hold the religious family had on him, Toxic goes back to them.
By now they know who he is, but being good religious folk they don't turn him into the police; instead they decide to turn him
into a Christian, mainly through the use of starvation (nothing but water for a week) and torture, physically beating Christ, God
and the Bible into him. 

After living in Iceland for a year - we know this because when he arrived the entire country were watching the Eurovision Song
Contest and on this specific night the entire nation is once again sat in front of their en masse favourite programme - we read that
Toxic has got two girls pregnant, one being Gunhilda and the other we only hear about as an aside when Toxic is being taken to
his place of execution by two of his ex-buddies from America. Being competent assassins the two Croatian mafiosi fail to notice
that Toxic is walking with a limp - there is no mention of him limping but I am pretty sure anyone who is walking on a Walther PP9,
hidden in his shoe would be limping - and then they let him get the drop on them and shoot each of them twice, once each in each
arm. Toxic also takes a bullet.

Not long after this the book abruptly ends. The finale is not a cliff-hanger nor is it a particularly satisfying ending. In fact I felt rather
disappointed, though possibly not as disappointed as I would feel if I heard there was going to be a sequel. 

The HITMAN'S GUIDE To HOUSECLEANING  is a series of starts for mini stories without actually concluding any of them. For
me it is, sadly as I was really looking forward to reading it, a non-event about a nonentity.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015