Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz
|Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: The reviewer who said Jack Reacher move over… was not wrong. Somewhere between Reacher and Lisbeth Salander, Evan Smoak is a man with the kind of past that drives a mission that straddles the borderland of if not good and evil, certainly that between righteous and vicious. Sharply plotted, full of lots of tech gizmos but reliant on the human element for both the suspense and the unexpected warmth and occasional humour. As for the political observations: make of them what you will. A great read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 448||Date: February 2019|
|Publisher: Michael Joseph|
|External links: Author's website|
1997. Evan Smoak is 19 years old trained up, mission ready. And yet untested. He's in a foreign city on an officially unofficial mission, which he executes with all the impeccable training that his youth belies. Evan Smoak is Orphan X.
Just one more poor orphan, Smoak had been rescued from an unthinkable future to be trained for an unspeakable one. One that will give him a very different kind of a life, but won't do much for his odds of survival. The Orphan programme – for those who, like me, didn't come into this series at the beginning – was a U.S. deep-beyond-dark-into-pitch-black-hole programme using people who wouldn't be missed to carry out missions that had a good chance of going bad and would certainly never, ever, be admitted to: mostly missions that in some circles would be called 'wet work'.
Other people called it 'taking care of business'.
Others again call it 'doing what needs to be done'.
Mostly it involves very sophisticated operatives using complex approaches and lots of lovely kit to, basically, kill people – the kind of people most of us wouldn't be too unhappy to not have walking the planet anymore, even if we couldn't ethically agree with the approach.
In 1997 Smoak was a rookie on his first mission. It worked like a dream. A despot died. A finger-printed spent cartridge was left at the scene. A hostage was set free with a box full of cash. All's well that ended well.
Except it didn't end…and the dream is now becoming the nightmare. As the National Archives building in Washington reminds us (quoting the The Tempest) What's past is prologue. In this case, the past is literally prologue. Out of the Dark isn't about 1997. It is about what it leads to, some 20-plus years later.
Orphan X is on a mission…to kill the President of the United States. And this time it's very very personal. Not least because President Jonathan Bennett is also on a mission to obliterate every last vestige of the Orphan programme he once controlled, back in his days at the Department of Defence. This will involve the elimination of every surviving Orphan, but more pressing is the removal of every last trace of one particular mission in 1997 – and that puts Orphan X at the top of the list.
Smoak's problem is that he doesn't know why. What was so special about that particular mission?
So far, so political cat-and-mouse thriller…but that's just the beginning…because Smoak is also The Nowhere Man. Possibly as some kind of payback for his misdeeds in the service of his country, he has reinvented himself as an avenging angel – albeit one with very few scruples. His tactics are well outside the law and on the shifting darkly smudged borderline of morality.
He has a rule: only one mission at a time. But when Trevon Gaines fights off the scaredy bugs long enough to call the Nowhere Man and ask for help, Smoak finds he cannot walk away. Life is going to get a whole lot more complicated and he is going to have to break another of his rules and ask for help himself.
It is hard to see Smoak as 'one of the good guys'. He is out and out vicious. He has been trained to be. Indeed he believes that there are no good guys or bad guys – just guys willing to do what needs to be done. Right now, for Orphan X what needs to be done is the assassination of the most corrupt, inept and dangerous president ever to set foot in the White House. The cover blurb calls the book A Day of the Jackal for the 21st century and the parallels with Frederick Forsyth's classic are meticulously drawn. Just don't expect any bullets here to be burying themselves safely in the pavement.
This manages to be an old-fashioned thriller and a very modern one both at the same time. It spins suspense out of the nature of people (who really don't change) and technology (which morphs too quickly to see). It utilises every last gasp of modern surveillance, counter-surveillance, threat and counter-threat idea the author could lay his hands on – and then no doubt some that he just plain made up. How would I know the difference?
It's a very 'technical' book in another way. It's not just plotted – it's choreographed. With perhaps a nod to the Clint characters of several decades ago, Smoak tells his adversaries exactly what is going to happen next if they don't let him walk away. He tells them precisely, like a director laying out a fight sequence for the actors. And then it does.
Or sometimes does not…because our (anti-)hero does have a moral code. It doesn't surface very often, but when it does it is just enough to keep us on his side.
Absolutely brilliant! I heartily recommend you read this…while I head off to catch up on the author's back catalogue.
Despite what we said about Jack Reacher in the tagline, we love him really – if you enjoyed this then you will also love the Reacher series – if you're not averse to starting in the middle we can recommend Personal by Lee Child
You can read more book reviews or buy Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz at Amazon.com.
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