Review: Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All

2017: 22
5 of 5 stars
Published September 2015

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson (translation from Swedish to English by Rachel Willson-Broyles)

Another hit from Jonas Jonasson! I always know I’m going to read one of his books with a smile and this is no different. His books are quirky and off the wall. The book cover itself calls the adventure “madcap” and yes, yes it is. The humour is wry and dry and there’s always a satisfactorily happy ending.

This book tells the tale of a homeless hotel receptionist, Pers,  who lives in a cheap hotel that used to be a brothel, a defrocked female Protestant Vicar, Johanna, who doesn’t believe in God anymore and a violent criminal,  Anders,  who breaks bones for money who find themselves in the business of formally organizing the criminal’s daily attacks, paid for, not just by other criminals, but by anyone that wants to teach someone a physically painful lesson. They draw the line at murder for money but are not adverse to more broken bones. But when Anders the criminal finds God, an inadvertent result of conversations with the priest, he doesn’t want to hurt people anymore. Pers and  Johanna have become accustomed to the dirty money and have to come up with another plan.

Their plan is to start a church, the church of Anders, cashing in on Anders’ newly baked obsession. In his newly benevolent state, Anders has gained a lot of positive publicity in the tabloid press by giving away a lot of the money he made for the revenge hits, including money he took but didn’t do the jobs at all. As a result, Stockholm’s criminal element are looking for him. The new church might bring in the krone, but it might also be the death of them all.

These adventures and more are recalled in the book. It’s about money, charity, stupidity and even love. It’s about overcoming the expectations of your family and finding who you really want to be. And it’s about taking charge and changing your life. As are all his books!

Review: Hit & Mrs. by Lesley Crewe

2017: 20
Rating: 2.5 stars
Published: September 2009

The first Lesley Crewe book I read was Amazing Grace (review on Goodreads here) which I really liked so my cousin lent me a stack of paperbacks by her. Amazing Grace was published a couple of years ago. Hit & Mrs. is one of her earliest books, if not her first, published in 2009. They are very different in tone. AG is more serious, about dealing with the past and how it has affected lives and family in the presenet. H&M is all about the humour. You could use adjectives like “zany”, “madcap”, “romp”, and “crazy” and they’d all apply. I’m not adverse to an all out mad adventure but there were things in this book that did put me off.

We have four long time friends living in Montreal, all hitting the age of 50. Four different lifestyles. Bette has never married and has been burdened with running the family business and looking after her aging Jewish parents who are always arguing. Gemma is married to an Italian, with a mother-in-law who hates her, with a house full of children and a husband who loves her. Augusta is a widow with two teenage girls. Linda has recently split up from her husband who has run off with a young woman half his age. They decide to take a holiday to New York City using Linda’s ex’s credit card and that’s where it all falls apart.

After a luggage mix up in a ladies’ room and an accidental killing of what may or may not be a cab driver, there are incidents, accidents, mix ups, coincidences, cross communications and a lot of bad luck and the four women have more adventure than they ever expected or wanted. You get to the point where you aren’t surprised anymore, you just wonder what else could go wrong because you know it’s not at an end yet.

The things that I found difficult were the ethnic cliches. Bette is Jewish and her parents are written as the most stereotyped Jewish parents you’ll ever come across. The way they speak, “You want I should…”, that sort of thing. You can hear it in your mind playing out like a bad Woody Allen movie. I really don’t think people talk like that anymore. Maybe they do if they’re New York natives, but I’ve never heard anyone speak like that in Canada. I may be wrong. I haven’t heard every Jewish person in Canada speak but I found it a bit annoying. Gemma’s Italian mother-in-law wears black and hates her, undermines her, insults her, preys on her son’s good nature and putting him squarely in the middle and he, of course, never stands up for his wife. Between the relatives, and the non-stop shenanigans that happen to the four friends who run afoul of drug dealers and the mob, this might be a story you could picture as a movie made with some of the comedy stars of the day but though it might work on screen, I found it a bit harder to read.

This isn’t to say it’s written badly. The four friends are all well written and you can believe that they, as different as they are from each other, could still be friends. Together, they are strong, they are supportive and they are engaging. They are not helpless in the face of adversity, they just can’t deal with the problems in their own personal lives. I think I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if the tedious cliche families had not rubbed me the wrong way. I could accept the cinematic madcap-ness in New York, definitely played for dark humour type laughs otherwise.

Really, though, it’s meant to be a fun read, and it is. Even though parts of it were annoying to me, I still wanted to know what was going to happen next to the women. Is it silly? Yes, but it’s supposed to be. Is it predictable? Yes and that’s possibly not the intention, with the ending wrapped up very neat, tidy and quickly. What rubbed me the wrong way might not bother others. The ending for each woman was also relatively predictable although one thing I was afraid might happen, thankfully did not.

I’m not about to give up on Ms. Crewe. Some of her other books seem a bit less frantic and I know she’s a very good writer because I loved Amazing Grace. I also want to support her because she’s from Nova Scotia, like me and we have some very talented writers here.