Calling Mr. King
by Ronald De Feo
Cover Artist: Natalie Slocum
Review by Mel Jacob
Other Press Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781590514757
Date: 30 August 2011 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Ronald de Feo's debut novel, Calling Mr. King, is the autobiography of a hit man with an inclusive, but implied ending. The initially unnamed hit man for the Firm slowly reveals his profession and personality. He is approaching a time of life when change is inevitable--he has killed men for most of his adult life. Boredom and the inevitable question 'is this all there is' nibble away at him. He kills two more marks, but these are not his usual swift one-shot job.
His assignments, which take him all over the world, come by phone. Calls arrive for Mr. King, which he hangs up on and goes to a public phone nearby to learn his new assignment. He becomes fascinated with the life of the latest mark and the trappings of the good life including a Georgian house in the country. He wants to learn more about such houses and becomes a visitor of bookstores and museums. Never an intellectual, he now immerses himself in books of architecture. Each new discovery leads to another, and he takes on the manners and appearance of a British gentleman of means.
His new interests fill his time. His handlers are not happy and urge him to take a vacation. For the first time he protests when he is ordered away from London. In New York, he again pursues bookstores and museums on Georgian architecture and life. When a call for Mr. King comes, he objects, preferring to continue his vacation.
The reader learns his life story in short flashbacks of how he became a hit man and the early life that formed him.
His avocation takes over his life, and he no longer finds being a sharpshooter and hit man enough. He wants to retire yet doubts his employers will agree. Mental and physical disintegration follows until only defiance is left.
Considering the subject matter, De Feo focuses on the character and mind of the hit man. Overall, only a smattering of gutter language is used. He skillfully portrays the changes as he also reveals the early history of his hit man. He provides fascinating architectural tours of London and Barcelona and a few observations on New York. Overall, it's an interesting read. As a side note, De Feo shares the same name as notorious serial killer.