on 11 March 2012
I wanted to like this book having bought it on the strength of a preview of a couple of chapters and to be sure, it was littered with clever little plays on words which were mostly humorous. My problem lies with the story arc which just went nowhere...very slowly. Hitman hides out in iceland and gets to know the country and a few of its people. And that's pretty much it. The anti-hero is as sociopathic as you'd expect and his back story is interesting if a little uninvolving. Ergo, I came to the end of this story thinking "so what?" and coming to the conclusion that it wasn't a good book. OK, but not good.
Hallgrimur Helgason is an Iclandic writer and this book was originally in that language. He's tranlslated it into English himself, and very well.
Our antihero, Tomislav, is a Croatian, scarred by the wars in the Balkans. He goes to America where he becomes a hitman for the mafia. He's given a contract, only to find the deceased was a member of the FBI! Tomislav has to run, and run fast. Stealing a priest's identity (by killing him) he ends up in Iceland. Eventually his past catches up with him and he's on the run again.
This is a quirky tale, but none the worse for that. I found myself reluctant to put it down. Although Tomislay is a stone killer it's hard not to warm to him and care about what happens.
I recommend it.
on 3 February 2012
New York Croatian Mafia hitman "Toxic" (Tomislav Boksic) kills an FBI man in error and flees, ending up in Iceland having changed places en route with an American televangelist - who, unfortunately, he has to kill - on his way there to support a fringe Icelandic religious group. Hallgrimur Helgason wrote this novel in English before translating it into his native Icelandic, but it has only now, thanks to AmazonCrossing, found an English-language publisher. It is the second of - according to the Icelandic press - 12 Icelandic novels to be published in English by AmazonCrossing; I enjoyed the quite different first one ("The Greenhouse" by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir) and if they're all as good as these first two they'll be well worth watching out for.
Once in Iceland, Toxic has to pretend he is Father Friendly to maintain his cover, his quick wit saving him hilariously from all sorts of misadventures as he tries to keep in character. It turns out the religious types are not always so holy after all, and Toxic makes a half-decent televangelist when he puts his mind to it. His cover is soon blown, but his religious friends, instead of turning him in, hide him in exchange for his agreement to undergo a strict regime aimed at making him a new man and purging him of his sins. As the book the progresses, the jokes become less knockabout, and the tone becomes more serious as we discover that Toxic's problems stem from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, when he lost his family and fiancée; you begin to feel sympathy for him despite the way his life turned out, and root for him as he tries to turn himself into a (fairly) respectable member of Icelandic society,with a (sort of) nice girlfriend who's keen to marry him - knowing all along that, in today's world, "they all lived happily ever after" is no more than a pipedream.
This is certainly a dream of a book, best described perhaps as a dark comedy: it's certainly NOT a thriller so steer clear if that's what you want. Helgason constantly subverts your expectations so that while you expect him to vilify everything and everybody in the novel, in fact he has great sympathy for most of his characters, faced with the rotten world they have to inhabit. Helgason's English is delightful, very readable but at the same time quirky, often using English very funnily in a way a native English speaker probably wouldn't.
A very funny, and ultimately very thought-provoking book that can be wholeheartedly recommended.
on 26 July 2013
Hardened in the crucible of the 1990’s Croatian – Serbian conflict, Tomislav Boksic graduates through the Croatian Mafia to be a top contract killer – 66 professional hits and counting. And, taking a pride in his work, he is counting. Unfortunately #66 turned out to be an undercover FBI officer and the agency is turning New York upside down to find the killer.
His cover blown and feds all over the airport, he takes refuge in the gents and emerges with #67’s clothes (including dog collar), passport and flight tickets to Iceland. His hopes of a low profile arrival in Reykjavik are dashed by a welcoming committee of local Christians expecting the Reverend David Friendly, the famous (in their circles) US evangelist with his own TV show.
Cultural misunderstandings abound as the peaceful Icelanders and the Christian do-gooders get to work on redeeming the soon unmasked Croatian hitman, whose name has not been abridged to “Toxic” without reason. More effective are the attentions of the young, sexy, “butter-blonde” Gunnhildur, who is strangely attracted to the middle-aged, balding, overweight criminal; (it must be the glamour of notoriety or else subconscious wish-fulfilment from Helgason).
Can the leopard change his spots and become a fluffy white polar bear? Can this Icelandic refuge indefinitely shelter him from the FBI and his old Mafia bosses?
The Icelandic Helgason wrote the book in English, and it bobs along easily enough. There is some black humour, some farcical moments and much use of the F word. My interest flagged in the middle as credibility stretched and empathy with Toxic evaporated. However the finale had tension and pathos giving a glimpse of what the novel might have achieved.
In my view the book it suffers from a lack of identity: not funny enough for a farce; too light–hearted for a thriller; unbelievable as a romance; and lacking the weight to be redemptive. Other than that it was OK.
[See my weekly reviews each Friday on abibliodyssey.blogspot.com]
Tomislav Boksić is a Croat, who survived the Bosnian War but was severely scarred by it. Then he went to America to work as a hired killer, before a hit went bad, and he had to flee, ending up in Iceland where the bulk of the book is set.
I am really struggling to review this. I don't really understand what it is supposed to be. Is it a foul mouthed `smart' thriller in the mould of Tarantino, or a thoughtful reflection on the impact of war on people, or a meditation on what it is to be Icelandic. There is some strong perceptive writing here, and the book does chug along for the most part. However it is certainly not a thriller, my main worry was that it was suddenly going to go all religious on me. The story is told in the first person, and none of the other characters are any more than lighty sketched. Even the lead is rather unconvincing, reeling off a list of Icelandic crime writers, but never remarking on the lack of trees in Iceland.
Skimming other reviews it is clearly too violent for some, though probably not violent enough for those that like that sort of thing. I found it wryly amusing, rather than hilarious. The ending just seemed to arrive rather suddenly, and I am not sure whether it was a masterly piece of bold modernism, or a bit of a cop out.
Each to their own, this is certainly not rubbish, but nor would it be to everyone's taste.
GOOF - an experienced Customs officer would be able to tell the difference between a spent and unspent bullet.
on 19 January 2014
You would think that a character who claims over 120 killings, including 67 contract killings, is someone that you would feel no sympathy for. Yet this is the number of killings claimed by Toxic who is the central character in this book, which is the story of how Toxic's life changes after he kills a federal agent and flees the USA.
There is a dark humour to this book. We learn about how Toxic hides the truth about himself behind a wall of fictions. You have to wonder if this hitman suffers from OCD especially when he tells us "I may be a sociopath, but I like my place in order."
There is more to say but I would risk spoiling the plot of this well written and very enjoyable book.
This is not a book for the squeamish or those who are easily offended. There is graphic violence, sex scenes and bad language in this narrative. However, none of this is out of place in the gritty, unpleasant world that Toxic lives in. This is Toxic's world and Toxic's story. Enjoy.
I finished reading `The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning' to honour my commitment to Vine - but I didn't enjoy it! The language was too extreme - for the first time ever I read a 3 word sentence with 3 f***s in it! This is unfortunate as the plot is skilfully angled with elements from the Balkan war, the Mafia and religion, intermixed with shrewd commentary linked to the main setting of Iceland. From a horrific barbarous background emerges as reasonable a conclusion as can be expected with perhaps even some sort of redemptive feature to the hitman. `The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning' is black comedy and certainly it is full of humour as appropriate quick witted puns and quips, together with clever accounts such as the hitman's sex rating system for women. However it borders on pornographic, its level of violence reaches excruciating brutality, and what may have been intended as gritty is gruesomely gory. If that's what you like - fine - but `The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning' is not for me.
on 18 February 2012
This is the Icelandic author's first novel written in English.
It is narrated in the first person by Tomislav Boksic(Toxic).
The Croatian,Toxic,hardened by fighting in the Balkan conflict
in former Yugoslavia,becomes a ruthless hitman in New York,but
when he kills the wrong man,he has to flee USA ,and ends up in
Reykjavik disguised as an American evangelist,Father Friendly.
Toxic is faced with considerable culture shock in Iceland,apart
from the landscape,weather, and language people do not carry guns,
and there is no place for his singular 'skills'.Whilst being
perused by local police and enemies from USA ,local evangelists
are engaged in saving his soul. Against this backdrop,Toxic,with
his new girlfriend ,Gunnhildur(Gunholder)comes to face his past,
and forge a new identity.
This original novel is not a conventional crime novel,rather a darkly
humourous satirical tale,with much to enjoy.
on 16 November 2015
I was drawn to this book by the interesting and confusing title.
Its a well written very violent (in places) and very funny (in places) novel well worth the read.
Based in the United States and Iceland the author gives a good outline of the characters of his home country Iceland, interestingly showing the Icelandic views on immigrants, which i have witnessed in other murder mystery books by Icelanders, and could do without the lecture.
on 18 December 2013
I bought a new Kindle and Amazon offered this book for £0.99 so I bought it. What a load of rubbish. When I found I was skipping more pages (good for learning how to use my new Kindle) I knew this book wasn't for me. Bad language, detail that added nothing to the story. Unbelievable story. One to avoid.