A corker of a book this! You’ll either love it like I did or be totally uninterested in the fate of a Croatian hit-man on a forced sabbatical who finds himself in Iceland! But somehow I find that hard to believe 😛
So we have Toxic the Hitman, who wonders whether it was him that poisoned his name or the name that poisoned him! Yup! He is quite the philosopher is our Toxic! Perhaps that is just what endears him to me, in addition to Helgason’s brilliant writing and original concept of course 🙂 Toxic has just had a goof-up of sorts in his chosen profession and has been asked to leave NYC and lie low by his Boss. Things get a little complicated however and through a set of ‘unavoidable circumstances’ so to speak, he ends up in Iceland instead of his beloved fatherland Croatia. What follows is a wild ride, both for Toxic and the reader, as he attempts to maintain a LPP (Low Public Profile) in this country of endless summer light and deals with its weirdly wonderful and accepting people, their tongue-twisting language and their perfectly peaceful existence!
This is Helgason’s first book written in English but nowhere does it seem tentative. If anything he is innovative with his wordplay, coining phrases like ‘thrust-trust’ with panache 😉 He knows what he wants to say and he finds the perfect voice and vocabulary for Toxic. With lines like “I’m an environmentalist. I don’t want to add an unnecessary gunshot to the already noisy city.” and “I see myself as a hunter. I shoot pigs for a living.” he sets the darkly humorous tone of the book and makes Toxic one of the most fascinating characters I’ve come across in fiction recently. And although the entire premise is fantastical and the characters over-the-top, Helgason keeps it real with his witty, pithy and seminal writing! I found it hard to stop once I got started! It’s clever writing too. Every time I thought Toxic was settling down into one way of life, something happens – an event, an action, a thought – that shows me otherwise and warns me that you can get a man to stop killing perhaps, but you can’t quite get the killing out of the man! There’s a particularly chilling scene with a dog that left me gasping in horror at the event and in awe at his writing skills!
And yet Toxic manages to come across as strangely endearing. I found myself rooting for him even while I was horrified of the things he was capable of. Perhaps it’s because of his past in war-torn Yugoslavia, where as a young boy he has witnessed and committed atrocities of the worst kind. Perhaps it’s his wicked sense of humor, or the fact that he is honourable towards women, or his willingness to accept his crimes and even repent given the right circumstance! It’s hard to explain because nowhere does he come across as a softie. Perhaps it’s that all that Icelandic love that has rubbed off on me 😉 Whatever it is – there’s a definite, undeniable connect between Toxic and the reader that enhances the reading experience. Like I said – clever writing!
I enjoyed the Icelandic setting since it’s a country I know next to nothing about! Suddenly I feel the urge to up and away to this mystical Island, with its lunar landscape and population of Day 3 Girls, its citizens with friendly round faces and pebble eyes; where no one walks the roads, where there are no wars, and where the biggest event on TV is the Eurovision singing contest! An ideal retreat for retired hit men 😉 A fast-paced, easy flowing book that is a delightful refreshing read. Another great find while browsing Amazon 🙂
The quotes in the book quite understandably make more sense in context but there are a few that are just too hilarious not to share here!
“The Balkan animal, which is my soul, is always hungry for prey.”
“Stupidity is no disguise for the stupid.”
“He who kills a man of the church will be killed by a church.”
“Tasteless dressing and tasteful jokes. That’s Seinfeld for me.”
“Icelandic names are like Scud missiles. Their trails linger in the air long after they’ve reached their target.”
And my very favourite, “As with all his colleagues around the world, he speaks in Airish, the incomprehensive language of the skies.” This while referring to the Captain’s in-flight announcements 😛