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    BAEN, 2001

    Grayboar, the strangler, and his sidekick and agent Ignace, have a good thing going. There is always a demand for professional assassins and Grayboar is the best. So long as they stay clear of religion and politics, Ignace figures that they can make a real killing in a seller's market. Unfortunately for Ignace, Grayboar becomes philosophical, debating morals and purpose whenever he makes a kill and, much worse from Ignace's standpoint, even before he takes a job. The real problem comes when Grayboar's sister, Gwendolyn ropes him into her causes which naturally involve taking on the government, the Inquisition, God, and the underworld all at once--all without any prospect of financial reward.

    THE PHILOSOPHICAL STRANGLER is an amusing concept well written by author Eric Flint (see more reviews of novels by this author). Using the sidekick as protagonist (think Sherlock Holmes) certainly works. Ignace, with all of his lack of morals, his greed, and his paranoia of things religious makes both a sympathetic and amusing character. Adding the complication that Grayboar has adopted philosophy and intends to lead his life as an assassin while following philosophical rules sets up a conflict that is both funny and compelling enough to lead the reader to suspend disbelief. Grayboar's love for Schrodenger's Cat adds to the humor--with the Cat's random motion and ability to escape impossible prisons a bit of a quantum joke.

    In the second half of the novel, Ignace and Grayboar are convinced to embark on a more standard fantasy quest and much of the humor gets lost (although Ignace does his best to keep things alive). Flint seems to have forgotten that Grayboar is a philosopher and certainly fails to milk the humor potential.

    THE PHILOSOPHICAL STRANGLER starts out high but fails to deliver on its initial promise. Still, it makes for an amusing read. Check it out.

    Three Stars

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