The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning

The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning

A mixed review
One thing I am tired of is the trope of "the assassin who grew a conscience." You have seen this story over and over again: the cold-blooded assassin finally has his heart broken, and learns to love again, but also has to do one more kill, which is meaningful because this time he really feels bad about it. This trope lets the reader have their cake and eat it too. The basic structure has been successful since St. Augustine's time, and it continues to be trotted out today in movie after movie, book after book.
 
Except this one.
 
For that reason alone, I respected The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning. The main character, a Croatian hitman nicknamed Toxic, is pretty much unrepentant. He admits to having been affected by some of the deaths, but for the most part, it's just a job to him. Toxic never really undergoes the moral revitalization we have come to expect from this sort of story, which may leave some readers feeling unfulfilled.
 
I liked the overall concept of the novel, although I felt that in some areas the execution (ha) was lacking. The novel revolves around an incident which essentially leads to Toxic being banished to Iceland for the time being. The author is Icelandic, and I had hoped for a bit of armchair tourism, essentially. But I was left with only the barest impression of Iceland. The set dressing is thin. This isn't a fault - in many ways it can be seen as a benefit. But it left me somewhat disappointed.
 
More serious, from my position, was the excessive amount of time Toxic spends wondering what he should do. Too often when this happens in a novel, it is simply a manifestation of the author's own uncertainty. Either we should be clear that the book knows what the character should do even if he doesn't, or the character's uncertainty should be edited out in future revisions. 
 
Basically, I have a very limited tolerance for a character who wanders aimlessly wondering what to do next. Either the novelist or the character needs to be decisive; they can't both just keep rambling in circles without a clue.
 
In many ways, for better and for worse, this novel reminded me of the works of Chuck Palahniuk. If you have enjoyed Chuck's novels, then it's definitely worth the time to snack on this slim, dark-humored book about an assassin who finds himself homeless, gun-less, and job-less in Iceland.