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The Ethical Assassin


The Ethical Assassin Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Edgar award-winning author of the popular historical novels A Conspiracy of Paper and A Spectacle of Corruption, David Liss showcases his amazing versatility with this brilliant new tale of contemporary suspense: a literary thriller set in Florida, where killing is a matter of conscience.

No one is more surprised than Lem Altick when it turns out hes actually good at peddling encyclopedias door to door. He hates the predatory world of sales, but he needs the money to pay for college. Then things go horribly wrong. In a sweltering trailer in rural Florida, a couple whom Lem has spent hours pitching is shot dead before his eyes, and the unassuming young man is suddenly pulled into the dark world of conspiracy and murder. Not just murder: assassination- or so claims the killer, the mysterious and strangely charismatic Melford Kean, who has struck without remorse and with remarkable good cheer. But the self-styled ethical assassin hadnt planned on a witness, and so he makes Lem a deal: Stay quiet and there will be no problems. Go to the police and take the fall.

Before Lem can decide, he is drawn against his will into the realm of the assassin, a post-Marxist intellectual with whom he forms an unlikely (and perhaps unwise) friendship. The ethical assassin could be a charming sociopath, eco-activist, or vigilante for social justice. To unravel the mystery and save himself, Lem must descend deep into a bizarre world he never knew existed, where a group of desperate-and genuinely deranged-schemers have hatched a plan that will very likely keep Lem from leaving town alive.

David Liss skillfully interweaves a gallery of eccentric characters with a multilayered plot characterized by its unpredictable twists and turns. The Ethical Assassin is a brilliant, darkly comic novel that will leave readers in suspense until the very last page.

From the Hardcover edition.




Edgar Award-winning author Liss's first contemporary thriller offers an original view of odd dreamers, political intrigue, and the strange, corrupt ways of life in America.

About the Author

David Liss is the author of A Spectacle of Corruption, The Coffee Trader, and A Conspiracy of Paper, winner of the 2000 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and daughter, and can be reached via his website at

From the Hardcover edition.

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

FNORDinc, March 11, 2010 (view all comments by FNORDinc)
Long car rides.. one of my favorite things in the whole world. an extravagant excuse to burn gasoline, smoke too many cigs, drink excessive gas station coffee, pee on roadside trees, and eat copious amounts of jerky.

also a great time for the AudioBook, something i rarely have time for in daily life due to standard books, music, and other daily things.

on our recent trip to California, we planned ahead. Hitting up the Public Library, we gathered 3 Audiobooks. enough that we would not run out while on the road (and if lucky, would be able to finish at least two in out allotted road time).

we made it through 1 and a half. i will have to find time somehow to finish the second.


The Ethical Assassin has been a bit of a desired read. At goodwill, on multiple occasions, both Jenn and I have picked this book up and perused it, waffling as to whether it is one we should invest 3 bucks in.

Turns out, we should have as it was quite fantastic. if not available at goodwill, we will end up purchasing it at powells or someplace full price.

David Liss spins a tale of Traveling Encyclopedia salesman Lem. He is just out of high school, working to get tuition money for his upcoming deferred stay at Columbia University (New York). He is a virgin in the ways of love. he is a damn fine salesman, working all the angles and soaking up the cash he needs.

the story seems to wander back and forth for a couple chapters, culminating in a solid knowledge of lems fears and mental workings. then two of his customers get shot in the head while he is about to receive their book purchase check. the assassin enters the room, seems like a fairly nice guy on the whole, even whilst ensuring that if Lem talks to anyone, he will become the primary suspect, with evidence against him.

1985 is the time setting, and there are no cell phones, no internet, no modern simplicities or plot crutches. It is is Florida, Hot, sweaty Florida… Katrina and the Waves on the radio, melting peoples brains as much as the sun is.

The core of the tale rests on the word “Ideologies” and how our whole existence is based around the comfort zone that all of society requires. it is well thought out and gets the brain juices flowing at some of the simplified concepts described.

some aspects of the book felt like a commercial for PETA. at points i wished i was a vegetarian, and others an ass kicking ball breaking vigilante. in the end though, i am neither of the above. i ate a double bacon double cheese cheesy double burger (with bacon) last night and i would rather screw than fight.

i would recommend this book highly. it will stick out in my mind whenever i see bacon… or encyclopedias.

mm… bacon…

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Product Details

Liss, David
Ballantine Books
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.15 x 0.75 in 0.5 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Popular Fiction » Suspense

The Ethical Assassin Used Trade Paper
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$8.50 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Ballantine Books - English 9780812974546 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , US
"Synopsis" by , Edgar Award-winning author Liss's first contemporary thriller offers an original view of odd dreamers, political intrigue, and the strange, corrupt ways of life in America.

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