Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Calling Mr. King, by Ronald De Feo ($14.95)

This book is somewhat of a one-trick pony. It would have made a fabulous short story with a Saki-like ending, but instead it's a 291-page novel. Against the odds, I liked much of it.

When the phone rings for "Peter Chilton" and the voice on the other end asks for "Mr. King," it means the man, who is neither Peter Chilton nor Mr. King, must go to work. He is a hitman and an excellent one to boot.

One day, Peter becomes distracted while waiting for his mark to arrive. He begins to notice buildings -- in fact, eventually becoming quite enamored with Georgian architecture in England. Horror of horrors, soon he messes up a hit. His employers place him on hiatus in New York. At first resentful, Peter soon begins to relax and haunts bookstores, picking up weighty works on architecture. He begins to notice people, other than the ones he has been hired to kill. His world begins to tilt and he dreams of retiring from the business. But how to extract himself. And, anyway, can he ever really be a normal guy?

It's not the story that fascinated me but the intensity of Peter's interest in architecture and art. De Feo gives us short lessons in what-is-what and it's fascinating, especially when he describes Gaudi's art when Peter is sent to Barcelona.

Art appreciation disguised as a mystery? Why not?

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