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Book Author: Gregg Hurwitz

HELL BENT by Gregg Hurwitz: Book Review

Hell Bent is the third in Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series, and it’s the most sensitive and exciting one so far.  Yes, those two adjectives can be in the same sentence, and it’s a mark of the author’s skill that this mystery is simultaneously both thrilling and poignant.

Evan Smoak is the name the novel’s protagonist know him by, but in his professional life he was called Orphan X.  Evan had been taken from a group home when he was twelve and groomed to be a professional assassin embedded down deep in the most secret layers of the Department of Defense.  But Evan went rogue after spending years in the Department, determined to use his unique skill set to help those without other resources to right the wrongs done to them.

He has a special phone number that he always answers, but the call he receives now is the most personal one he has ever received.  It’s from his mentor, Jack Johns the man  who rescued him from the group home, and his answer to Evan’s automatic response to the call–Do you need my help?–is Yes.   Then the line goes dead.  The call starts Evan on a journey to avenge the death of his friend, a journey that will bring him face to face with the man determined to kill him, Charles Van Sciver.

Bu deciphering an elaborate series of coded messages, Evan uncovers Jack’s last request.  It’s stark, with no explanation, just GET PACKAGE followed by an address in Oregon.  And when Evan arrives at the address, nothing is at all what he expected.  Rather, the package is a teenage girl who attacks him and knocks him to the floor.

The girl, Joey, is another of the Orphans trained to be an assassin by Van Sciver.  However, she “washed out,” to use her words, and now she is on his “kill” list.  Now both Evan and Joey are in his sights, and he is drawing ever closer to them.

Like Gregg Hurwitz’s previous two novels featuring Orphan X, Hell Bent is a riveting page turner.  The odds that Evan and Joey are facing are formidable, to understate the situation considerably, all the more so because the reader knows something they don’t.  Although Van Sciver is the head of the group desperately trying to find the two and kill them, he is actually taking orders from someone higher up.  And that person is even more ruthless than he is.

Terrifying and spellbinding are almost insufficient to describe the events in Hell BentThe author is taking his readers on a wild and dangerous ride through the underbelly of a United States government agency.  It’s not pretty, but it makes for terrific reading.

You can read more about Gregg Hurwitz at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

ORPHAN X by Gregg Hurwitz: Book Review

We don’t know the home Orphan X came from or how he was found.  But we do know some facts–he came from East Baltimore, he was taken away in a luxury sedan, and apparently he was chosen because the Mystery Man, aka Jack Johns, saw something in this twelve-year-old standing on the broken concrete of a school playground that no one else was able to see.  And Orphan X, first name Evan, thought that wherever he was being taken would be better than where he was; as it happened, that turned out being trained to be an assassin for the United States government.

Fast forward about two decades, and Evan is now Evan Smoak, posing as a Los Angeles importer of industrial cleaning supplies, a “cover” presumably so boring as to deflect any intrusive questions as to his occupation.  He’s no longer working for the government, but having amassed a considerable fortune he is free to choose his own assignments.  He’s content to wait for his phone to ring to let him know there’s another job waiting for him, and so it does.

A teenage Latina girl named Morena tells Evan she has gotten his name from someone he helped previously, and when Evan validates that information he agrees to talk to her.  When they meet she tells him how she’s trying to protect her younger sister from the sexual abuse she’s been suffering from a member of the Los Angeles police department.  This man has a whole street of teenage girls in the barrio under his control for his own sexual use and for other men’s perversions as well.

Outraged and disgusted by this, Evan successfully rids Morena of her tormentor, but in doing so he places his own life in danger.  He is used to fighting and protecting himself, but this time it appears that his enemies are as skilled and determined as he is.

Evan has insulated himself from the world in his attack-proof condo, the penthouse suite in a building called Castle Heights.  The windows are bullet-proof, the walls have been reinforced, the door has steel inside its regulation wooden frame.  And there’s also the Vault, a specially built hidden room filled with multiple computers and video monitors, all to protect himself from his assailants.  He even goes by the name of The Nowhere Man; his encrypted private network phone number is 1-855-2-NOWHERE.

But now he is finding himself vulnerable, not only to a physical attack from his adversaries but to an emotional invasion from one of his neighbors and her eight-year-old son.  Somehow Mia Hall and her son Peter have innocently been intruding into Evan’s life, and the more interactions they have, the less he finds himself minding them.  In fact, he’s beginning to enjoy their company.

Evan Smoak is a terrific character, a man who came from nowhere and remade himself/was remade into a killing machine.  His targets are those who prey on the vulnerable, the needy, and for each case he takes he asks only one thing:  that the person who benefits from his aid give his name to one other person in need of help.  That’s all.  But that’s enough for someone to want to get rid of him.

Gregg Hurwitz has written a great thriller, filled with characters the reader will long remember and a page-turning plot that will hold you in suspense until the end.

You can read more about Gregg Hurwitz at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.