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KILLING QUARRY by Max Allan Collins

Quarry’s back! And this time HE’S the target.

And boy, his face is red! He just wants to make sure that remains a figure of speech.

For the last few books, Quarry has been using a Kill List he got from his old boss (may he rest in peace) to drum up business for himself. He’s out of the killing business—well, not entirely—and into the hero biz—as long as there’s a payday.

That comes to an end when he finds out his life is the latest life he’s going to save. All bets are off as Quarry scrambles to kill those who are out to kill him. In the process, he discovers how much his cushy life owning an easy-going lodge/diner means to him.

I love the Quarry books. There’s something about the easy narrative that just streams throughout the story. The novels are always equal parts action, introspection, and smart-assery. Quarry’s sense of humor is notable, and not always appropriate, but this story is set in the 1980s and things weren’t as politically correct in those days.

The appearance of Lu, a hitwoman who has crossed paths with Quarry before, is a welcome addition to the narrative. Quarry and Lu are quite the package when they’re together, and I enjoyed watching them work and play off each other throughout the story.

As always, Collins weaves in social politics and history into the narrative, and even though the Playboy Club in Chicago didn’t end up getting used as it was in the book, it’s still amusing to think what-if. Collins is a great what-if author.

Collins’s wry observations of life then and now are spot-on and cutting, and they always give me something to think about because those years were formative for me in a lot of ways as well. Reading the Quarry books is like having that sarcastic older brother I never had, the one who would egg me on to enjoy life and not take things too seriously—until the bullets started flying. And even then, life’s a little more exciting and fun.

The Quarry books are a guilty pleasure for me, and I suspect they are for Max Allan Collins as well. They should be.

This book ends the “hit list” sequence of Quarry novels, so I wonder where the author will end up next with the series. I don’t think Collins, or I, have seen the last of Quarry. At least, I hope not.

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