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Book Author: Gregg Hurwitz

THE LAST ORPHAN by Gregg Hurwitz: Book Review

Orphan X is facing his most difficult dilemma yet.  Evan Smoak, aka Orphan X, was an assassin working for a secret intelligence agency within the U.S. Government.  When he fled that department, upset and angered by its direction, he named himself the Nowhere Man and became the last resort for those with urgent problems who had nowhere else to turn.

However, several years ago he was forced to promise, under extreme pressure, that his career as the Nowhere Man was over.  He would no longer be allowed to answer his RoamZone phone with “Do you need my help?” or take on any new cases.  But that promise is proving difficult to keep.

Evan is abducted by federal agent Naomi Templeton and a troop of agents and brought before President Victoria Donahue-Carr, the person who made him agree never to use his abilities to help those who called the special phone.  She tells him, much to his amazement, “We need your help.”

He’s informed by agent Templeton that the reclusive billionaire Luke Devine “represents a clear and present danger to national security.”  Evan asks Naomi what the government thinks Devine wants, and she answers “leverage.”  Evan’s task is to make certain he has no opportunity to carry out his plans.

Donahue-Carr tells him that she and her cabinet believe Devine wants to have his own nation-state, and he is applying his nearly unlimited power and influence to stop an environmental bill that, according to her, is essential to her re-election.

Smoak lays down his conditions, which Templeton is unwilling to meet.  She in turn outlines the government’s position, which is quite different from Evan’s, and tells him, “You’re not gonna do better than that.”  To himself, Evan thinks, “You’d be surprised.”

Templeton then has Smoak put into what would seem to be complete captivity in a hotel; he’s under 24/7 surveillance, shackled with his wrists zip-tied behind his back, and wearing a “tamper-proof” ankle bracelet.  However, one of the agents guarding Evan has a secret agenda.

He takes a DNA sample from Evan’s cheek, without Templeton’s knowledge, with plans to sell it and make a small fortune because the agent believes there’s something in Evan’s DNA that makes him nearly invincible.  But Evan has a plan of his own, and with a little help from a friend, he’s free and out of the hotel.  Then the fun begins.

Now Evan is able to investigate Luke Devine and find out what’s behind the president’s urgent need for his abilities.  He’ll have to uncover layer upon layer of Devine’s life and his plan for world domination, and what he finds ultimately surprises him.

Gregg Hurwitz has written another fascinating chapter in the incredible life of Orphan X.  Readers familiar with the series will be delighted at Evan Smoak’s return, and those for whom it is new will have no trouble learning all they need to know about Evan’s background and the reasons he does what he does.

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 OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

DARK HORSE by Gregg Hurwitz: Book Review

Orphan X, aka Evan Smoak, aka The Nowhere Man.  So many names for one man.  But each name represents a different part of the person who grew up in foster homes, became an undercover government agent, and is now a vigilante who works to help those who have nowhere else to turn.

By any definition, Aragón Urrea is an evil man.  Murderer, drug dealer, enforcer, gang lord–he’s left a trail of broken men and bodies behind him.  But there is one good thing in his life, his eighteen-year-old daughter Anjelina.  There is nothing Aragón would not do for Anjelina, his sweet, beautiful daughter.

In the midst of her birthday party, after making a heartfelt toast to her, Urrea is called by one of his men to a nearby building to deal with a problem.  When he returns to the celebration, chaos greets him.  While he and his men were punishing the man who raped a teenager, armed men broke in to the room where the party was taking place and abducted Anjelina.

Urrea hears about Orphan X, and in desperation he calls him and tells him about the kidnapping.  He admits that he is a bad man, has done terrible things, but says his daughter “is untainted by who I am and what I have done.”  Although Evan has never worked for a client like Urrea before, he can hear the genuine pain in the man’s voice and decides to help.

Assisting Evan is Joey, a teenager who is as good with technology, both legal and illegal, as Evan is with his skills.  Like Evan, Joey is a former Orphan who was placed in the Program; unlike Evan, who left voluntarily, she “washed out.”  Now both are on the government’s hit list because they know too much about what the undercover agency did in the past and continues to do.

In addition to trying to find Angelina, Evan is dealing with some personal issues.   First is his relationship with Joey, and relationships are something that neither one is good with.  Sixteen-year-old Joey wants the freedom to take a road trip alone.  Evan is vehemently against it, citing her age, her inexperience being on her own; Joey, naturally taking the opposite point of view, cites her technological and martial arts skills.

Mia Hall, a neighbor of Evan, is presenting Evan with another relationship problem.  The two have an on-again, off-again romantic connection, and Evan is very fond of Peter, her young son.  But given that Mia is an assistant district attorney and Evan is The Nowhere Man, involved in all sorts of illegal operations that he can never discuss with her, their romance doesn’t appear to have a future.  Yet neither can seem to break away from the other.

Dark Horse is the seventh novel in this series.  Reading the books in the order they were published gives the reader a deep insight into Evan’s mind and his behavior.  He’s reached the point in his life where he tells himself he’s done being The Nowhere Man, but he cares deeply about justice and recognizes that he is the last resort for the people who contact him.

Gregg Hurwitz has written another intriguing book about a man torn between his demons and his conscience, his past and his present.  Dark Horse in an excellent addition to the story of Evan Smoak.  You can read more about the author 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 OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


PRODIGAL SON by Gregg Hurwitz

For want of sixty-five dollars, Andrew Duran became witness to a murder, a man fleeing for his life.  For sixty-five dollars.

All he wanted was to buy a present for his daughter to make up for the lousy father he’d been.  Then, a few weeks later after he’d given her the gift, a cop pulled him over because he was driving with a broken taillight.   He couldn’t pay the court costs, and the sixty-five dollars spiraled into jail time and a lost job.

Now Duran is working the overnight shift at a car impound lot when a man and a woman enter the lot, telling him they’re U. S. Marshals and need to be informed when a certain car is picked up.  That’s all he has to do, and they’ll give him a thousand dollars.  He’s desperate, so he agrees.

However, Duran senses that something is wrong, so he is not entirely surprised a few weeks later that as the car’s owner enters the lot, he is killed.  Not by a knife or gun, but by something invisible controlled by the man and woman, standing a few feet away from their victim.  And now the killers/fake Marshals are searching for him.

Enter Evan Smoak, a/k/a The Nowhere Man.  An orphan, or so he was led to believe, he was rescued at the age of twelve from the Pride House Group Home and trained by the federal government to be an assassin.  After years of doing exactly that, he left the program and has been using his skills to help those in desperate need who don’t have anywhere else to turn.  He called himself The Nowhere Man, asking those he helped for only one thing–to give his name and phone number to someone else who needs his assistance.

Now even that identity is over as a result of his killing a Very Important Person.  In order to receive a pardon for that act, Evan has promised no less a person than the President of the United States that The Nowhere Man will cease to exist.  But Evan is finding that it’s not that easy to construct a new identity, especially when he receives a phone call from a woman purporting to be his mother.

All the threads come together when Evan flies to Buenos Aires to meet her, a beautiful, enigmatic woman with a mysterious past.  She tells Evan about herself, all of which is new to him, then she reveals the reason she’s contacted him after all these years.  And although he’s promised himself, to say nothing of his promise to the president, that he’s done with being The Nowhere Man, he finds he cannot turn down his mother’s request.

The Prodigal Son shows the reader a different Evan Smoak from the one in previous novels.  He’s more introspective, more thoughtful, more compassionate.  After a lifetime of being Orphan X, these changes don’t come easily.  If he wasn’t happy as Orphan X or The Nowhere Man, at least he knew who he was and what was expected of him.  But now he’s feeling unsure, vulnerable, and he’s not certain how to handle it.

The protagonist in Prodigal Son is a fascinating character with nuances that weren’t apparent in earlier novels.  These make him more relatable, more human, and even more real to us.  Gregg Hurwitz has given his hero new dimensions.

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.




OUT OF THE DARK by Gregg Hurwitz: Book Review

If anyone can write thrillers that keep you on the edge of your seat, it’s Gregg Hurwitz.  In Out of the Dark, the fourth book in the Orphan X series, the protagonist must discover why his first assignment twenty years ago may have a connection to why he is being targeted to be killed now.

We never learn exactly how X came to live in a group home for boys.  When he was twelve his foster father Jack took him from the home, gave him the name Evan Smoak, and began grooming him to be an assassin as part of a clandestine group run by the Department of Defense.

Evan is nineteen when he is ordered to assassinate the prime minister of an Eastern European country.  After he successfully completes that mission, Jack tells him to kill the man who sold him the gun used in the murder and the man who sold him the bullet’s cartridge with a mysterious fingerprint on it.  When Evan questions this order, Jack simply tells him to …”execute them.  Close the operation.”  And he does.

After about a decade in the Orphan Program, Evan begins to have doubts about the integrity of its purpose and flees the organization.  He has amassed a great deal of money and has no need to work, and he has decided to spend the rest of his life helping those without resources who have nowhere else to turn.  He calls himself the Nowhere Man.

Now, in 2019, Evan has an even more difficult assignment, one he has given himself.  He has determined to assassinate the president of the United States.

President Jonathan Bennett had been an undersecretary at the Department of Defense when Evan entered the Program.  Although the Program was extremely successful in its mission to assassinate those whom the DoD deemed to be its enemies, now that Bennett is president he needs to make certain that any trace of this top-secret operation is eliminated.  And that means eliminating all of the Orphans.

Evan is apparently on the top of Bennett’s kill list for reasons having to do with the 1997 murders in Europe, Evan’s first assignment.  Evan doesn’t understand why that project was so vital at the time and why his participation in it makes it necessary for him to be murdered now.  So, while Evan is planning to assassinate Bennett, Bennett is arranging to have Evan killed.

The success of Evan’s plan seems to be impossible, given the incredible level of security surrounding the president.  When Bennett travels from the White House, it is in a convoy of three identical cars to disguise which one is transporting him.  The presidential limo weighs nearly eight tons, its body covered in armor.  The windows are made of bullet-proof glass, and a steel plate beneath the car protects it from bombs.  This, of course, is in addition to the phalanx of Secret Service personnel surrounding him at all times.  Bennett would seem unreachable.

There is no let-up in the action in Out of the Dark, leaving the reader in suspense until the very end.  It is the very definition of the word thriller.

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.




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.