The Wrong Quarry (Quarry #11 by Max Allan Collins)

What is it about “hit man” books that attracts some of us? I suspect it’s the lifestyle, the hunt, the tracking, etc. The Walter Mitty quality of it all. I think it would be great fun — except for the killing part. There I draw the line. Guess I’d be a lousy hit man. For those new to Quarry, he is a hitman with a difference – he is attractive, funny and mixes business with pleasure. (Btw, this tale is set in the early 1980s). You know he is invincible. It’s entertaining, smartly written, not at all challenging fare. Like a McDonalds Happy Meal for Adults. I just had to not read too fast, as I wanted to digest each part without missing anything essential.

For the uninitiated like me, here’s the catch-up: John Quarry is a Vietnam vet turned hit man, now making a living taking out other hit men after a falling out with his former employer, the Broker. He has his own code to live by with little to no compunction when it comes to killing or fornicating. Quarry knows how to play his cards just right and make a buck out of each situation. If he has you in his sights, he’s either going to blow your brains out or f**k your brains out. I guess it all depends on who’s wearing the skirt, in Quarry’s eyes.

His latest job has him meeting up with an effeminate dance instructor based in Missouri named Vale. Vale is frightened someone in town has put a hit on him following the disappearance of one of his star pupils, Candy Stockwell. It doesn’t take long for Quarry to suspect the wealthy Stockwell clan may be the ones responsible, but things get complicated when he hooks up with Candy’s aunt, Jenny. Jenny, in between carnal distractions with Quarry, insists her family had nothing to do with any proposed hit.

But Quarry can’t help but be suspicious of the rich, old curmudgeon that is Jenny’s father and Candy’s grandfather, a gruff octogenarian whose aggressiveness belies his age. Then there’s Candy’s best friend, Sally Meadows, who might be even more tightly wrapped trouble for Quarry when he starts snooping around town for answers. If hard-boiled P.I. fiction is what you want, this book delivers with all the attitude you’d expect for a war-weary gunman.

Sardonic wit with a forever-young outlook on life in general, not to mention every woman he meets, Quarry is certainly an entertaining character, even when he isn’t the most likable. And while parts of the story had characters looking like they’d been plumbed from the trashiest dime store novels, Collins works hard to give them all an organic appeal to defy any attempts to dismiss them as cardboard. This long-running series has a style all its own, told in a voice that reflects Quarry as a thinking man’s murderer. The character is a throw-back to the pulp fiction reminiscent of yesteryear, particularly Mickey Spillane.

I have the first Quarry novel sitting on my Kindle. It was a 99-cent, on-sale impulse buy at the time, but I’ll definitely be reading it and more from the Quarry series after being so thoroughly impressed by this atmospheric pulp fest. You can just pick one up, but I warn you. You will be wanting to read this book in one go. I had some reservations when I picked up The Wrong Quarry, with already 10 books into the series I was hoping that I wouldn’t miss anything essential from the earlier books. It might be that I am missing some parts of the protagonist, but The Wrong Quarry features nicely as a standalone adventure. Give it a try.



  1. This sounds like an immensely fun read! Especially since where I am a three-day bank holiday weekend is coming up and I was looking for some new entertainment, thanks for the recommendation. 😎

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My pleasure. All work and no holidays do tend to make us lethargic. 🙂


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