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The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning

by Hallgrimur Helgason

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3572357,390 (3.29)10
With some 66 hits under his belt, Tomislav Boksic, or Toxic, has a flawless record as hitman for the Croatian mafia in New York. That is, until he kills the wrong guy and is forced to flee the States, leaving behind the life he knows and loves. Suddenly, he finds himself on a plane hurtling toward Reykjavik disguised as American televangelist Father Friendly. With no means of escape from this island devoid of gun shops, this country with absolutely no tradition for contract killing, he is forced to come to terms with his bloody past and reevaluate his future, to tragicomic effect. Toxic paints Iceland as an icy netherworld where in spite of peaceful appearances danger lurks--in the guise of terrifying romantic overtures with tough-girl Gunholder, fear of being caught in his blasphemous deception, and the threat of punishment at the hands of Thordur...whose name seems to be pronounced "Torture."… (more)
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English (15)  German (5)  Danish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This is a variant of a classic formula very popular in Hollywood: the bad guy on the run arrives in a small, peaceful community, and, supported by the Love of a Good Woman and the good advice of wise Father and Mother figures, builds a new life for himself as an honest citizen. But he still has one last, decisive confrontation with the ghosts of his past to deal with before the film ends.

Hallgrímur is clearly interested in this idea mainly by the scope it gives him for looking at Iceland through the eyes of someone as incongruous as possible to Icelandic society, the New York-based Croatian Mafia hitman Tomislav Boksic, alias Toxic, formed by the unspeakable atrocities he took part in as a youngster during the Balkan wars and proud of his professional, detached and efficient approach to murder. He's on the run from the Feds after his 67th hit went wrong, and has somehow ended up in Reykjavik assuming the identity of a televangelist from Virginia.

Needless to say, Hallgrímur — who wrote the book in English first, then translated it into Icelandic — has endless fun letting Tomislav narrate in exaggerated, pastiche Raymond Chandler noir language, in the most impeccably bad taste. In the audiobook, the corny cod-Balkan accent Luke Daniels uses for Tomislav feels exactly right, and enhances the effect. Inevitably, Tomislav also has his own Balkan slant on Hlynur Björn's most tasteless running joke (cf. [101 Reykjavik]) — he gives every woman he sees a score based on the number of nights it would take before he started dreaming about her, if he were stuck in an army camp where she was the only woman.

Tomislav seems so extremely divorced from any kind of moral universe we could identify with that at first it's like looking at Iceland through the eyes of a Martian, but of course Hallgrímur gradually humanises him as we go on through the story, trying to get us to the point where we start asking ourselves whether we would have turned out any differently from him if we'd been plunged into the middle of a civil war in our teens. Perhaps fortunately, he doesn't quite take us along with him that far, but Tomislav does turn out to be a long way from being the cardboard cutout he seems in the opening pages of the book. The other characters also quietly subvert the stereotypes the plot seems to be asking for: Tomislav's ice-princess/anima, Gunnhildur, has all sorts of important character flaws, including the inability to keep her apartment tidy that gives Hallgrímur the hook for his title; the older generation of Icelandic Evangelicals who offer Tomislav salvation all turn out to be very damaged people themselves, but not necessarily the worse for that.

And, what's more, the book contains at least two important life-lessons for anyone intending to visit Iceland: (i) don't even think of keeping your shoes on indoors, unless they cost more than 200 dollars; and (ii) if the doorbell rings during Eurovision you probably shouldn't answer it. ( )
  thorold | Mar 8, 2021 |
That's 3 stars for the story/writing and 1 star simply for making me laugh. Toxic, Croatian by birth and a killer by profession, is forced to leave the USA when a hit goes wrong. He inadvertently ends up in Iceland and the book follows his new life keeping the LPP (lowest possible profile) and his reflections on his old life. Enjoyable, witty and full of great quotes.

Notable: I think this is the only book I've read where the Eurovision Song Contest features. ( )
  nick4998 | Oct 31, 2020 |

I was intrigued by the title of this book and usually enjoy Nordic and European mysteries. The plot of The Hitman's Guide to Housekeeping looked pretty interesting. Tomislav Boksae, or Toxic as he calls himself, is a professional hitman from Croatia. His latest kill brings the entire weight of the world on his head when his victim turns out to be an FBI agent. Soon the feds get a little too close so to save himself, Toxic kills another man and takes on his identity.

It's not until his plane lands in Iceland that Toxic realizes he's now impersonating an American TV preacher, Father Friendly. Iceland is unlike anywhere he has ever been before. The days and nights are endless and it has a zero homicide rate. He will find himself a fish out of water in a country with no army, no guns, barely any police where he must confront his own need for redemption.

Helgason apparently wrote the book in English. His other novels were translated from Icelandic to English which may account for the book's unusual turn of phrase now and again. I thought this would be more of a Donald Westlake kind of humorous novel and that's probably why I didn't enjoy it much. It's very crude and I think at least 75% of the population would be offended by some of the actions taken by the main character.

On the positive side, the author's take on Icelandic names was hilarious. That's not a reason to read the book in my opinion. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jul 2, 2020 |
I enjoyed this story so much! Toxic, the main character and our hitman, is not a very likeable person, but he tells a story with a very quirky sense of humour and some of the descriptions were so funny I had trouble in keeping a straight face when reading (I mostly read this book while travelling, so on a train or on the plane). The ending is also...unusual, and how odd is it that just a week before the Eurovision Song Contest I should read here about a nation that retires in their home on the day of the Eurovision? Too funny...!
This book could be made into a good movie...lots of swearing, explicit language, maybe something for the Cohen brothers? :)
Once finished the book, I was curios so ordered "101 Reykjavik", which arrived yesterday. I look forward to reading it! ( )
  MissYowlYY | Jun 12, 2020 |

I was intrigued by the title of this book and usually enjoy Nordic and European mysteries. The plot of The Hitman's Guide to Housekeeping looked pretty interesting. Tomislav Boksae, or Toxic as he calls himself, is a professional hitman from Croatia. His latest kill brings the entire weight of the world on his head when his victim turns out to be an FBI agent. Soon the feds get a little too close so to save himself, Toxic kills another man and takes on his identity.

It's not until his plane lands in Iceland that Toxic realizes he's now impersonating an American TV preacher, Father Friendly. Iceland is unlike anywhere he has ever been before. The days and nights are endless and it has a zero homicide rate. He will find himself a fish out of water in a country with no army, no guns, barely any police where he must confront his own need for redemption.

Helgason apparently wrote the book in English. His other novels were translated from Icelandic to English which may account for the book's unusual turn of phrase now and again. I thought this would be more of a Donald Westlake kind of humorous novel and that's probably why I didn't enjoy it much. It's very crude and I think at least 75% of the population would be offended by some of the actions taken by the main character.

On the positive side, the author's take on Icelandic names was hilarious. That's not a reason to read the book in my opinion. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Helgason, Hallgrimurprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cosimini, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Daniels, LukeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Magnusson, KristofÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wetzig, Karl-LudwigÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Danish Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Barbara Taylor
First words
My mother named me Tomislav, and my father was a Bokšić. After my first week in the US, I'd become Tom Boksic. Which then led to Toxic.

The thing I am today.
Quotations
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Written in English and translated by the author into his native Icelandic
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With some 66 hits under his belt, Tomislav Boksic, or Toxic, has a flawless record as hitman for the Croatian mafia in New York. That is, until he kills the wrong guy and is forced to flee the States, leaving behind the life he knows and loves. Suddenly, he finds himself on a plane hurtling toward Reykjavik disguised as American televangelist Father Friendly. With no means of escape from this island devoid of gun shops, this country with absolutely no tradition for contract killing, he is forced to come to terms with his bloody past and reevaluate his future, to tragicomic effect. Toxic paints Iceland as an icy netherworld where in spite of peaceful appearances danger lurks--in the guise of terrifying romantic overtures with tough-girl Gunholder, fear of being caught in his blasphemous deception, and the threat of punishment at the hands of Thordur...whose name seems to be pronounced "Torture."

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