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Posts Tagged ‘hired assassin’

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.




ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS by William Boyd: Book Review

Reinventing oneself is not an easy thing to do. It’s not easy to leave behind your friends, family, home, and career and start over again.  But sometimes it has to be done.

Adam Kindred has just gone through what he believes is the most difficult time in his life. But it’s about to get worse, much worse.

A brilliant climatologist at an American university who has just invented a revolutionary cloud chamber that might aid drought-stricken countries, he has a one-night stand with a graduate student that wrecks his marriage and his career.  Unhappy and ashamed, he leaves the United States for England, the country of his birth, and has a job interview at an English college that he feels has gone very well.

He stops for a quick dinner at an Italian restaurant and is seated near another solitary diner.  They exchange some casual words and the other man leaves.  A few minutes later, as Kindred gets up to go, he sees that the other man left a transparent folder behind, filled with papers.

On the front of the folder is a business card with the man’s name and two addresses–one is obviously his office, so the other must be his home.  On the spur of the moment Kindred decides he’ll deliver the folder to the man’s home.   If  only he had  brought it to the man’s office instead, how differently things would have turned out.

When he arrives at the building and goes to the apartment, he’s surprised to find the door open.  Getting no response to his greeting, Kindred walks into the apartment and finds the man, a Dr. Wang, on his bed, bleeding from a knife wound.  The place has been trashed, obviously searched, with cabinet drawers open and clothes strewn all around.

Kindred wants to call the emergency services number, but Wang tells him to pull out the knife.  Kindred does so, and Wang dies.  As the frightened Kindred leaves the bedroom to find a phone, he hears the door from the balcony into the bedroom open–someone is there, and it’s a good bet it’s the murderer.  Kindred flees the building, but he’s all too aware that his signature is on the guest book he had to sign to enter the building and his fingerprints are on the knife he dropped in his haste to find a telephone.

The next day, after debating with himself all night long about calling the police and telling them what happened, he glimpses a newspaper headline:  ADAM KINDRED–WANTED. SUSPICION OF MURDER. That’s when Kindred decides he has to reinvent himself, leave his past behind, find the man who killed Dr. Wang, and clear his own name.

There’s a lot of plot in Ordinary Thunderstorms. There’s Adam Kindred’s step-by-step reinvention of himself; there’s the man who has been hired to find Kindred, kill him, and regain the briefcase that belonged to Dr. Wang; there’s the company executive whose firm is about to launch a drug that will cure asthma in children but who is having his own medical and emotional issues; and there’s the attractive policewoman who can’t understand Scotland Yard’s decision to release, without explanation, a man they arrested for gun possession.  This novel will keep you reading and guessing until the end.

William Boyd is the author of more than a dozen books, some mysteries and some not.  You can read more about him at his web site.