hitman“You know, it’s a lonely business being single.”

So here I am, back in modern London, happy to be breathing in the post-Industrial-Revolution air and not worrying about the mood of the governness. Of course, it’s not all plain sailing this side of history and in this novel, I fell in with a very difficult crowd indeed – hitmen.

Ian Bridges is a hitman, which is a job that definitely has its perks. He can work his own hours, the jobs are few and far between, they pay well, and he can get a new car whenever he wants. However, he isn’t happy – not by a long shot. After a stretch in prison, he emerged to find that he really wanted someone to settle down with. He’s been there and done it with prostitutes and one night stands and how he wants a wife, a woman he can love and spend the rest of his days with. However, with a job like his, most of the women he meets tend to wind up dead, and the ones that don’t probably won’t be too thrilled when they hear about his profession.

The novel opens with him on a date with Janet, although she’s a little overweight and by the time she’s eaten her own dinner and finished his as well, he’s decided that she probably isn’t the one for him. Outside, he offers her a lift home, but he is accosted by an angry man and his wife who claim that Ian spent the whole meal staring at them. Ian has a simple solution to the problem – he shoots the antagonistic pair in the head. Janet claims she won’t tell a soul what happened, which he ensures by shooting her too. He now has to get rid of the bodies, but not before he’s managed to rub out every witness that saw anything that evening. And it’s not an easy job.

Ian keeps meeting charming women, but every time, something comes up, usually the woman’s number. Eventually he has to surrender as he is given the task of training wannabe hitman Craig into becoming as ruthless and talented as him. The pair have little in common, but the relationship soon opens new doors, and Ian finds himself on a date with the charming and so far not-dead Adelaide. What could possibly go wong?

Despite the fact that this is one long narrative from a man who kills for a living (and shows almost no remorse for doing so), it’s actually a genuinely funny book and Ian is above all a really nice man. There is a certain irony about how all he wants is a woman to look after and care for, but he spends the rest of his time shooting anyone who gets in the way of his employers – JB and Logan. He seems honestly desperate with a lack of understanding as to why women don’t like him – he’s clean, sober and “works with computers”. He’s entirely non-threatening! Unless he’s got a Glock to hand, of course.

The deaths are chalked up in interesting detail and generally with a thick slice of comedy, as Ian describes the murders as if giving instructions on how to lay paving slabs or something equally mundane. The witnessed death toll is one of the highest of any books I’ve ever read, but it’s interesting and a funny look at a somewhat strange occupation.

Moving, with a surprisingly (but sincerely) sympathetic protagonist.