Sunday, May 8, 2016

Review of "Orphan X: A Novel" by Gregg Hurwitz

Evan Smoak was part of the government's black ops 'Orphan Program', which recruited children and trained them to be world class assassins. The Orphans learned how to use weapons of all kinds, became skilled in a variety of martial arts, were taught to blot out pain, became experts in surveillance and bugging, and so on. Dubbed 'Orphan X' Evan eventually carried out many killings assigned by his handler/father figure Jack Johns - who raised and trained Evan from a young age.

After Jack is killed in dodgy circumstances, Evan - who has plenty of money stashed in offshore banks - quits the Orphan Program and begins using his skills to help people. Calling himself 'The Nowhere Man' and working out of Los Angeles, Evan sets himself up in a reinforced, fortress-like, penthouse condominium apartment with all kinds of defensive doodads...just in case. This includes: a parachute to jump off the apartment's terrace; rappelling equipment to climb down the building's wall; bullet proof windows; a door that can withstand explosives; a hidden back room with surveillance equipment; etc. Evan also configures a completely untraceable cell phone so desperate people can call him for assistance.

Early in the story Evan is contacted by a 17-year-old sex slave - Morena Aguilar - who's trying to prevent her little sister from being forced into the trade. To assist the girls Evan has to kill a dirty cop. He then asks Morena to pass his phone number on to ONE person who needs help - Evan's usual method of finding 'clients'.

Evan is then contacted by Katrin White, whose father is being held hostage until she pays off a huge gambling debt. While Evan is trying to help Katrin, he realizes his own life is in danger. It seems another defector from the Orphan Program - 'Orphan O' (working with a team of killers) - is out to get him, apparently having been hired by one of Evan's many enemies.

Since it's a case of 'kill or be killed' Evan and Orphan O use all of their considerable skills to try to outmaneuver each other. Thus the reader is treated to scene after scene of reconnaissance, infiltration, safe houses, safe vehicles, explosions, snipers, stabbings, shootings, hand-to-hand combat, balcony hopping, double dealing and more....carried out with all manner of ingenious high tech toys. I was especially intrigued with the 'contact lens and paste on nails ensemble' used for texting in mid-air.

While all this is going on Evan keeps up a facade for his condominium neighbors, claiming to be an importer of industrial cleaning supplies. This sets the stage for some lighter moments in the story as Evan interacts with his condominium cohorts, including the condo board president (who calls lots of meetings); a nice Jewish lady (who complains a lot about her damaged door); and Assistant District Attorney Mia Hall and her little boy Peter (who takes to sending messages up to Evan's window via balloon).

The book is well-written, suspenseful, and exciting - highly recommended to fans of thrillers. I look forward to reading more of Evan Smoak's adventures.

Note: I like to think Evan Smoak has a connection with Felicity Smoak - the brilliant computer whiz who works with Green Arrow. But - since it's not his real name - probably not. LOL 😎

Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Gregg Hurwitz) and publisher (St. Martin's Press) for a copy of the book.

Rating: 4 stars

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