This post is part of the October 2012 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “NaMoReMo (National Mock Review Month)”.

The Accountant and the Assassin
Altos Wexan
421 pages, hardcover
First Edition (August 21, 20XX)
ISBN-10: 223405857-X
ISBN-13: 942-449758221-X
Retrograde Triton Press (domestic printing)
Kyoto Processed Ricepaper Concerns Press (international printings)

There’s definitely no false advertising in this yarn, out earlier this year from Retrograde Triton. Wexan’s book dutifully serves up the collision between a staid accountant and a high-stakes assassin in an Manhattan-in-all-but-name metropolis. One might feel from such a title that the broad outlines of such a tale are obvious, but Wexan is able to lob a few inventive curveballs.

His accountant, for example, is a sunshiny eternal optimist to the point that his oily, more accountant-like cohorts call him “Pollyanna” to his face and heap their worst clients (like a young Paris Hilton soundalike) on his desk. The collision between this bumbling, upbeat character and the dour world of professional contract killing provides the majority of the book’s humor (which is frequent enough, especially near the beginning, that the book could almost be called a comedy).

The comedic pratfalls, including a daft inversion of the usual action movie car chase, are where the book is at its best. Attempts to wring tension out of the basic setup, as in an apartment standoff involving multiple identities and double-crosses, fall flat and are enough of a tonal mismatch that the book at times seems schizophrenic. The titular assassin, a few mild twists aside, is a stock character and despite some teases she and the accountant never seem to click. The villain, a psychotic assassin “competitor,” is written with gusto but seems to lack any real motivation.

Wexan has succeeded in writing a yarn that satisfies some of the old action cliches and inverts or plays with others. But his inability to reconcile the disparate characters and tones keeps the book from being anything more than a well-executed, enjoyable beach read. Recommended, but with reservations.

-Phil “Stonewall” Pixa, The Hopewell Review.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
Ralph Pines
dolores haze

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