For forty years Christian has advertised as a disposer of dolls. Seriously ill he is working what will probably be his last hit. Someone else however gets there before him, though they botch the job. Sayles, a tired cop nearing the end of his career, and his partner Graves are assigned to the case. Not wanting to die a slow painful death in front of her husband, Sayles' wife, Josie, has fled to an anonymous hospice. Meanwhile, Jimmie, a young teenager abandoned by his parents, wheels and deals on ebay to pay the household bills and create the impression that he's not living home alone. Used to dreamless nights, he's started to have the vivid dreams of a killer. The three lonely men orbit around each other as Christian hunts for the person who attacked his target, Sayles works the case, and Jimmie tries to maintain his illusion.
I found The Killer is Dying a curious read. It's elliptical, layered and somewhat ponderous, seeming to almost skirt around the edges of what might be considered the main story (the attempted killing of Rankin). For a short book, it's full of asides and tangent observations. The reader is given entry ways into the lives of the three main characters, small samples of their back stories, but it all remains a little bit elusive and enigmatic. One part of me liked this as it invited the reader to work with the author, another part found it frustrating that so much was left tantalizingly out of reach. Having reached the final page, my overall sense was that I never really felt I got to know either the case or the characters to any sufficient degree. Sallis' writing is prose with a nice cadence. His style and how he approaches the story has its charms, but for my tastes the story needed a little more depth and definition. There was enough here, however, that I'll give another one of his books a go.