Saturday, February 18, 2017

Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz

Evan was only a child when Jack Johns came into his life and changed it forever.  Through years of training Evan changed from a child lost in the system, to a highly trained member of the Orphan programme.  For years he roamed the globe completing covert operations for the American government, a lethal assassin who could move through the world with barely a ripple.  He never questioned orders, never hesitated, and over time he has made his way onto the most wanted list for countries - including his own.  He is the ultimate burnable resource, if he is compromised he will be disavowed and on his own.  Working alone, Orphan X moves through the world with only one real connection - his handler Jack Johns.

Freeing himself from the Orphan programme comes with a cost, but years later Evan puts his unique set of skills to good use helping people in need.  His mission is simple - help one person one time, and then when his mission is complete they pass the details of the "Nowhere man" onto a single person who needs help.  It is a simple system, and until now no one has been able to track him down.  His elaborate set up of safe houses and safe vehicles helps him blend into almost any environment, and years of training mean he is almost impossible to capture or kill.  His system of checks and balances have kept him untraceable and safe for years, but nothing lasts forever.

When a new case falls in his lap Evan is surprised it comes so quickly, which makes him cautious - just as well as his new case is more dangerous than he anticipated.  As he tries to balance his increasingly normal life in the real world, with the increasingly dangerous shadow world he has grown up in, Evan is walking a knife's edge.  The people after his client are professionals and they are going to test all of Evan's skills.  They say you aren't paranoid if people are really out to get you - guess that means Evan isn't paranoid.

As a professional librarian I try and keep an open mind and read as widely as possible, because you never know when you are going to be asked for a book recommendation.  I don't tend to stray too far into the thriller genre because the books can very quickly get bogged down in detail that you have to read through to get to the story underneath - luckily that was not the case for Orphan X.  Gregg Hurwitz has created a believable and relateable character in Evan Smoak, a flawed imperfect person who has somehow managed to rise above his training to become a compassionate yet oddly clinical guardian angel.

The action and drama are carefully balanced into a whole that keeps you turning page after page until the end because you can't believe what is over the page, and because each time you turn the page you get hints of what is to come which means you keep turning the pages until the very end!  Sprinkled throughout the novel are technical references that lend authority to the story, but not to the point where your eyes glaze over.  Hurwitz has done a wonderful job of creating Evan as a character, he has his flaws and his quirks, and despite his training he has managed to hold onto his humanity.  Over time it is clear that his humanity is starting to win - but it may be at a cost.  An amazing debut novel, and hopefully it doesn't take too long for book two to arrive so I can see what is next for Evan Smoak.

If you like this book then try:
  • The killing kind by Chris Holm
  • Breaking Creed by Alex Kava
  • The Postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • The basement: A novel  by Stephen Leather
  • City of the lost by Kelley Armstrong
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • Truth or die by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
  • Dead secret by Ava McCarthy
  • Never never by James Patterson and Candice Fox
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeffry P. Lindsay
  • Kiss the girls by James Patterson
  • Kill me if you can by James Patterson and Marshall Kamp

Reviewed by Brilla

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