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The Killer Is Dying

3.41  ·  Rating Details ·  408 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
A hired killer on his final job, a burned-out detective whose wife is dying slowly and in agony, a young boy abandoned by his parents and living alone by his wits. Three people, solitary and sundered from society.
In what is at one and the same time a coming-of-age novel, a realistic crime novel and a novel of the contemporary Southwest, "The Killer Is Dying" is above all
ebook, 192 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by Walker Books Ltd (first published 2011)
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Sep 07, 2014 Bandit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My second read by the author and once again I'm struck by just how much I like noir when it's Sallis' noir. And this book is difficult to like, or at the very least difficult to recommend, due to its overwhelmingly bleak nature. Then again what would one expect from a title like that. The other narrative lines are from a cop trying to find the killer and a kid (absolutely terrific character) who is inexplicably linked to the killer through dreams. There is a stunning, dark, haunting sort of beau ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Kaisu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Einsam, interessant, verworren, dunkel, zwielichtig, traurig, diese Worte beschreiben das Buch ganz gut.

Philly, les das Buch, ich hab Fragen :D
Tim Niland
Aug 28, 2011 Tim Niland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
While James Sallis ostensibly writes crime novels, the crime itself becomes almost incidental to the haunted and melancholy lives of the characters he composes. Christian is a hit-man, someone who takes pride in a clean kill. He also slowly dying of an unnamed disease, taking his faculties bit by bit. When the man he is hired to kill is attacked by another pro, Christian makes it his final mission to find out who and why. Jimmie is a teenager, living by his wits in his house after being abandone ...more
Brad Hodges
The Killer Is Dying, an unsatisfying bit of hard-boiled noir by James Sallis, is all atmosphere and no terra firma. The story of a hit man who has a terminal illness, it departs from the usual mystery by being written in a highly literary style, with multiple narrators and a lot of interior monologues. But this ain't no Raymond Chandler.

For one thing, I read the book and I don't even know whodunit. The hit man, who is called Christian, has a target, but someone else tries to kill him before he d
Owain Lewis
Jun 21, 2012 Owain Lewis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meandering, medetative and unselfconciously modern. I can't think of any more words beginning with M to describe this but it was brilliant. Just the kind of terse, punchy prose that I love. Thin on plot and big on story/background but you never feel like you're being lead around the houses. Everything feels neccessary. There are cops and there is a killer but it's not about catching the bad guy. Instead Sallis pulls the crime/thriller genre inside out, replacing tension and action with a contemp ...more
Jul 16, 2016 Tomo20 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novellas
Three or four books in for me and Sallis's prose continues to be wonderful. For mood and intelligence, style and a hard boiled poetry, I can't find fault. I don't mind the lack of focus on the plot but in this case the lack of focus in the plot works less well for me.

It's an oblique examination of three men at different stages of life and their own lives, marooned in different though equally bleak ways. There is far more musing on life and philosophy than there is action or crime solving and whi
Gloria Feit
Dec 26, 2011 Gloria Feit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first thing one perceives on reading the first pages of James Sallis’ new novel is the literal accuracy of the title: The man who calls himself Christian is a contract killer, a Vietnam vet now terminally ill, on his last job. A few pages later, something goes awry as the man he has been watching, who he has been hired to kill, is suddenly shot - - by someone else. And Christian is not sure how he feels about that.

The second character to whom the reader is introduced is Jimmie, a precocious
Sep 11, 2011 Marian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
James Sallis continues to amaze me. Year after year, the tomes of some authors get larger and larger. However James Sallis produces these slim novels of fiction that are terse, poetic and defy categorization. The latest have been shelved on the mystery shelf at my library but they would fit just as neatly on the general fiction shelf. I hope that mainstream readers are wandering over to the mystery shelves or better yet finding this on the "New" book shelves that have no category. If you want to ...more
This book is shorter than it appears on the account that the chapters are concise and that it's one of those novels that has to start a chapter on the right side. So while I did find it to go pretty quickly, it was not because of any invigorating page-turning events.

It seemed promising at the beginning: three different perspectives of guys living in the same town trying to figure things out in life. One's a hitman, who by the word of the title, is dying and is confused after finding out that som
Nov 23, 2011 Johnny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Sallis writes beautifully. He creates characters that breathe filled with flaws and doubts and life. Anyone who has read the Lew Griffin series knows what he is capable of.

THE KILLER IS DYING is beautifully written with living characters, and that appears to be the function of the book. It is not the story. The story is simple, very thin, merely a frame to follow the three main characters. It's a conscious choice, so not a fault, but by doing story the book lacks a certain momentum.

The mos
Ellen Dunne
Jul 09, 2015 Ellen Dunne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Oh so bleak. This book is full of lost souls, disconnected and without the hope for redemption, scarred by loss no matter their age and some beautiful writing. A terminally ill professional killer, the policeman who hunts him is losing his wife to a hospice and a teenager fending for himself after being left by his drifter parents.
As mentioned, this is great, beautiful writing with loads of space for emotion and imagination. Still. A bit too much blackness and slowness and hard-to-believe story
Mar 17, 2014 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Almost poetic. A meditation on death and those left behind. The writer makes the lasts days of a mercenary hitman sympathetic.
John Cooke
Feb 27, 2016 John Cooke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed THE KILLER IS DYING. James Sallis writes well, and his writing style reflects his generation (the one that came of age in the 1960s). Sometimes his writing reminds me of the more recent work of Stephen King, even though their books have next to nothing to do with one another's. The book cycles around between the points of view of three main characters and a few minor ones. Because of Sallis's poetic writing style, this sometimes makes it a strain to figure out the differences between t ...more
Sid Nuncius
Dec 21, 2015 Sid Nuncius rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this a remarkable, haunting and extremely rewarding novel. I hadn't come across James Sallis before so didn't know what to expect and a description of the book might well have put me off. There is very little action but there is a mystery to be solved by both a contract killer in the last stages of terminal illness and a policeman whose wife is also about to die. We also see things from the point of view of a young teenage boy who has nothing whatsoever to do with the case, never meets o ...more
Aksel Dadswell
I'm usually a fan of Sallis, but The Killer is Dying left me flat.

On one hand, this book is well written and has some often beautiful introspective passages, but really that's all it ends up amounting to. It feels like it’s trying so hard to find some sort of human poetry in the narrative (which, admittedly, it does succeed at, if at the expense of other elements) that it forgets about anything concerning a plot. The introspection and quiet quality to the story would have been great if intersper
Oct 25, 2012 Ctgt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-noir
This was my first Sallis book and it was definitely not your typical crime novel. Once I realized itwasn't a traditional mystery/crime novel I really enjoyed the story. Trying to figure out how these three different POVs would intersect kept me going when the overall story seemed to stagnate. If you slow down and enjoy the thoughtfulness of his writing I think you will enjoy this tale.
Jerry Ghazali
James Sallis tampak seakan gemar bercerita perihal lelaki kesunyian dan hero yang tidak didendang seperti juga protagonis dari filem Drive lakonan Ryan Gosling yang juga diadaptasi daripada novel beliau.
Sep 26, 2011 Corey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sallis is pretty much the high-water mark for contemporary noir, to my way of thinking. If there is someone better please tell me.
Drayton Bird
This was a bit of letdown for me - good, but not that good.

I had read "Drive" which was so good, so tight that I thought "At last! A worthy successor to Elmore Leonard" - as if such a person could exist.

This was equally well-written, but I found it rather obscure and hard to follow. And I didn't really relate to any of the characters.

I suspect anyone who likes some of the Scandinavian writers might enjoy it. I did, but not that much.

There were the worn-out detectives, the depressing cityscape (
Jul 17, 2016 Cateline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Killer is Dying by James Sallis

The story, such as it is, is told by really four narrators. The killer himself, a young boy that is living by his wits, and two policeman with their own problems. How Sallis intertwines those lives is fascinating. With barely an actual meeting between them, physically, they combine to tell a story of identity, love, and letting go. As always, Sallis's prose is magnificently descriptive, and evocative of time and place.

Highly recommended.
3.5 instead of 4. I've been playing a lot of Hotline Miami lately, so I figured I'd revisit James Sallis, given that the film adaptation of Drive was such a big influence on the game. After a few rocky chapters, I found myself happily immersed in Sallis's bleak but evocative vision of contemporary Phoenix, Arizona.

The novel mostly follows three male characters whose lives briefly intersect. There's 'Christian,' a killer-for-hire who is trying to complete one last hit before dying of a vague illn
Nov 29, 2011 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Someone kills Christian’s target. He is one of the best and suddenly someone else is doing his jobs. Detectives Sayles and Graves buried in their own personal issues are tracking the killer but are they really? Jimmie is a virtual orphan. Mom left the family early-on and Dad follows in a few years, leaving Jimmie alone but pretty darn self-sufficient. He reads every read to folks in a home every week (sometimes kid’s books, sometimes not) has everyone fooled except the neighbor who made him earl ...more
Dec 20, 2014 Flannery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a strange book. Is it a crime novel? Somehow, it is, but somehow it is not. Without expecting much, I was very surprised and I really liked it.

The book features three perspectives: an old killer, two detectives and a young boy whose parents left him all of a sudden. The killer tries to kill someone (well, obviously, its his job), but someone gets there first. The rival killer fails and the victim is still alive. Our killer is troubled. What happened and why? The detectives try to solve
Dec 14, 2011 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is hard to categorize, not a conventional crime novel in any sense. It is three interwoven stories, tied together by dreams, geography and Sallis' poetic language.

Christian is a hit man, on his last job. He is mortally ill, and failing fast. When someone else botches the murder of his assigned victim, Christian wants to find out who, if not why. Sayles is a Phoenix police detective whose wife is in a hospice, near death from cancer. He wants to find the person who did the botched shoot
Rob Kitchin
I found The Killer is Dying a curious read. It's elliptical, layered and somewhat ponderous, seeming to almost skirt around the edges of what might be considered the main story (the attempted killing of Rankin). For a short book, it's full of asides and tangent observations. The reader is given entry ways into the lives of the three main characters, small samples of their back stories, but it all remains a little bit elusive and enigmatic. One part of me liked this as it invited the reader to wo ...more
Sep 10, 2011 Marilyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Deep Thinkers
Shelves: first-reads
I enjoyed reading this book and couldn't put it down, BUT I didn't like the book. I know this sounds stupid, but it is the truth. Let me explain...

The book reads very smoothly, the poetic rythmn lulls you into going on and on. The premise of the book is that there are three diverse people who are linked together without knowing it. The characters are fascinating, especially the killer. I think that if Mr. Sallis had finished the book differently it may have worked. However, the ending left me hi
Sallis, James. THE KILER IS DYING. (2011). ***.
I had to start this novel twice. The first time I got to page 45 and had no idea what I was reading. The second time, I took it more slowly and realized that this was not a typical Sallis novel. For him, it is a leap into an experimental form. There are three main characters – though they are not parts of the same story. At the end, when the three stories start to come together, it begins to make sense. The only thing that these three have in commo
Aug 07, 2013 DR rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m belatedly getting to this author, who has lots of chops in the crime-fiction genre but hasn’t been on my radar until recently. After total immersion in THE KILLER IS DYING, I’m glad to have finally made his acquaintance.

The plot is deceptively simple: a veteran hit man, terminally ill and hunted by two Phoenix homicide cops, struggles to fulfill a final contract after his target is unexpectedly shot by someone who jumped the queue ahead of him. Oh, and a resourceful adolescent inexplicably a
Jan 28, 2013 Haley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are many good books out there but very seldom do I find one that is just plain perfect: pace, craft, story, characterization and amazing depth coupled with transcendent prose. Jimmie, Christian and Detective Sayles all have pretty serious situations to address. Phoenix, AZ is the setting, but it is their inner dialogue that proves most intriguing while showing each man's evolution. Although they never meet, the overlap between their collective humanity moves them along their respective pat ...more
Oct 03, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This entire books feels almost like a poem. In fact, I think it would perhaps get a better reception in that section than in the crime fiction section. If you've read Sallis in the past, than that previous sentence probably makes sense. If not, well, I can only recommend you try Sallis sometime, but just don't go in expecting a traditional crime book. Sallis only wears the trappings of crime because he must find it convenient. He seems most interested in the philosophy of the human condition, ho ...more
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James Sallis (born 21 December 1944 in Helena, Arkansas) is an American crime writer, poet and musician, best known for his series of novels featuring the character Lew Griffin and set in New Orleans, and for his 2005 novel Drive, which was adapted into a 2011 film of the same name.
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