Hallgrimur Helgason: The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning

by Rachel Baker on March 9, 2012

Toxic is a hit man with 66 kills under his belt.  Now on the run from the FBI, this clever “sinner” must pose as a renowned televangelist and convince the “saints” who host him that he is exactly like they are.  And while by any standards Toxic is a much different breed than the pure white preachers who give him room and board it starts to appear that they are more similar than either side might want to admit.

In The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning (Feb 1, 2012; $14.95 print; $9.99 digital; AmazonCrossing) Hallgrimur Helgason neatly and cunningly blurs the line between criminals and holy men, nationalism and personal identity, apathy and passion.

With a tone similar to a Quentin Tarantino film or Chuck Palahniuk novel, this is one blunt, satirical tale that will leave you laughing out loud and then seriously considering the state of your own conscience.

So says the media blast that came with the book.

Okay, so I like some Tarantino, and I certainly liked Fight Club the movie.  However, I did not overall like The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning.  I felt it was neither Tarantino-esque, nor Fight Club-esque. In fact, it was cliche and too predictable.

I did find it interesting that this is the author’s only book written in English and then self-translated into Icelandic.  There were some editorial issues like missing words, but other than that, it was an easy read.

Its a shame that this book was so full of cliche.  I think it would have been a more interesting story if the author would have written it in a more intelligent way.  There’s nothing intelligent or witty about the naming schemes he used and there’s nothing intelligent about the attitude towards women portrayed by the hitman, Toxic, in the beginning of the book. Toxic, I think, was probably a bit less shallow than he was portrayed in the beginning…at least that’s the vision I got of him when he talked of his work.  Unfortunately, this idea carried through to the end of the book, which created a huge inconsistency for me.  Sadly, The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning seemed like more of an exercise in developing stereotypical characters.

About Hallgrimur Helgason
Hallgrimur Helgason was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1959. He started out as an artist, showing his work in several galleries of both New York and Paris, where he lived in the late eighties and early nineties. He made his debut as a novelist in 1990 and gained international attention with his third novel, 101 Reykjavik (“Imagine if Henry Miller had written Tropic of Cancer on crack instead of wine.”-Tim Sandlin), which was made into a film starring Victoria Abril. In 2001 Helgason received the Icelandic Literary Prize for The Author of Iceland. He has twice been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize, with 101 Reykjavik in 1999, and Stormland in 2007. A film based on the latter was released in early 2011. The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning is his only novel written in English. It was published in Iceland in 2008, in the author’s own translation, and became a bestseller in Germany in 2010. A father of three, Hallgrimur divides his time between Reykjavik and Hrísey Island.

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