Michael's Reviews > The Ethical Assassin: A Novel

The Ethical Assassin by David Liss
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's review
Dec 30, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: audio
Read from December 20 to 30, 2010

** spoiler alert ** What is it about Florida that attracts all of the quirky suspense plots? I was not what to expect when I started The Ethical Assassin. I was hoping for something along the lines of Carl Hiassen or Tim Dorsey. I was not disappointed.

The novel follows hapless Lem Altick, a nebbish kid selling encyclopedias door to door to raise money so he can go to college (and escape Florida). In a profound example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time he just happens to be in a trailer trying to close a sale when the ethical assassin of the title walks in and kills the white trash occupants. Over the course of the next two days Lem is dragged into a zany world of door to door sales, meth cookers, corrupt cops, pig farming, and extreme animal rights activism.

I really enjoyed this book. There are three things which might give others pause. It takes place in the 1980s, which is pretty minor. Most of the novel is presented 1st person form Lem's point of view. Occasionally it switches to third person, but this is addressed early on (in an aside which is quite amusing). There are also portions in which Melford, the vegan, animal rights activist, reporter, assassin has philosophical debates with Lem. These last two could be clunky and annoying, but I think Liss handled them well.

Wiliam Duris does an excellent job of narrating the audio version. Each character is distinct and recognizable, even when they are trying to disguise their voices. He really captures Lem's emotional state as well as the changes the character undergoes.

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