Everything Has a Price
This is the story of a freelance killer, a hit man who goes into business for himself as an independent contractor with no ties to any criminal organization. A businessman, offering an unusual service.
The killer calls himself Pluto, and he's developed a unique way of running his operation: he kills on spec. Pluto looks for conflict between two people, kills one of them, and sends the other a bill. Would anyone be foolish enough to deny him payment? Pluto always collects.
Investigating one of Pluto's murders is Lt. James Murtaugh, whose advance on the New York police force had been blocked by an obdurate captain. Although Pluto's "clients" are afraid to talk, Murtaugh eventually sees what is happening and begins a hunt for the killer. Then Pluto starts stalking him.
The book is basically a battle of wits between these two men, much of it carried out through other characters in the story...a magazine editor, a landscape architect, a musician, etc. And other cops. It all builds to a climax complicated by departmental politics and cop loyalties. The story has what can best be described as a punch-in-the-gut ending.
I used the omniscient viewpoint to tell the tale, as no one character is in a position to know the whole story. And I made police procedure a bigger part of the action than in any of my previous books. Murtaugh later shows up in the Marian Larch books.
This is the only book for which Susanne Kirk, my Scribner editor, ever asked me to change the ending. The editor of the paperback reprint edition got wind of what was going on and called to say, "Don't you dare change that ending!" So I knew before the book was ever published that there would be divided reaction to the book's conclusion.
But it's the right ending, growing out of several things present in the story. Susanne, fortunately, is a rare editor who would never force her own preferences on a writer. Scribner published the ending exactly as I wanted it.
N.Y.: Scribner, 1985, ISBN 0-684-18426-5
London: Collins, 1985, ISBN 0-00-231954-3
N.Y.: Bantam, 1986, ISBN 0-553-26225-4
Paris: Gallimard [as On tue et tu paies], 1987, ISBN 2-07-049074-2
Milano: Mondadori [as Il prezzo del delitto], 1987
Stockholm: Spänning [as Mördaren vill ha betalt], 1988
Helsinki: Kustannus Oy, 1988
München: R. Piper Verlag [as Mordsalär], 1988, ISBN 3-492-15543-X
TV Movie Options: