KILLING QUARRY by Max Allan Collins – review
KILLING QUARRY by Max Allan Collins. Hard Case Crime, 2019.
Max Allan Collins is a mystery novelist with amazing comics credentials. Collins was writer on the Dick Tracy newspaper strip, and he also wrote novels featuring the character. In 1998, the comics adaptation of THE ROAD TO PERDITION demonstrated that crime comics can transcend genre conventions, attaining real literary value while remaining a great read.
Likewise, Collins’ novels featuring hitman Quarry are all great reads, but the Quarry novels don’t transcend the genre conventions.
They do something better.
The Quarry novels utilize genre conventions to craft a character study of the protagonist. For example, Quarry narrates the action in a series of written monologues, a standard device in crime novels past and present. Quarry makes reference to his creation of a written record of his life, stressing that he’s not creating a confession, he just wants to set the record straight, to show that he was a professional killer but not a homicidal maniac.
In fact, Quarry is the Killer With A Code, a figure populating genres from crime to Westerns. Sometimes, Quarry does things that are downright honorable – when it doesn’t conflict with his survival.
This is much in evidence in KILLING QUARRY, in which Quarry discovers that he himself has been targeted for death. In order to survive, Quarry must solve the mystery of who ordered his death, and why – so that he can eliminate all potential threats, permanently. As Quarry digs deeper into the mystery, he encounters Lu, a hit-woman from his past, now involved in the plot to kill him.
The story that grows out of these events is tautly plotted, moving swiftly from one action-filled scene to another. The style is somewhat spare, minimalistic, but readers of the QUARRY series will recognize the subtleties that characterize Quarry’s narrative voice : his relaxed, confident tone and his sense of humor predominate. Newcomers will find Quarry likeable, even charming, but not in an oily, sociopathic way – if you had to know a killer, you’d want it to be somebody like Quarry.
In short, KILLING QUARRY is a great read, with a memorable lead character. I recommend it unreservedly to all fans of the mystery and crime genres, in whatever medium.
Another thing. The QUARRY novels could be considered “crime procedurals,” because Quarry goes through all of the steps that he took to bring his problem to successful resolution. This is a mirror image of the well-known police procedurals, which take readers through all of the steps that fictional police investigators use to solve crimes.
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Last but not least, I’d like to once again thank the Seattle Public Library, which in 2019 provided my family with many thousands of dollars worth of books, e-books, CDs, DVDs, songs on mp3, and even home internet access via hotspot. Personal favorite : streaming digital comics from Hoopla Digital.
KILLING QUARRY, the latest novel in the Quarry series, is both compelling crime drama and appealing character study – and it’s always a great read. This time around, Quarry himself has been targeted for death – and if he wants to survive, he has to find out who wants him dead.