Review: Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz

9780718185510On the eve of his retirement as “the Nowhere Man” — a harbinger of justice for those in need of desperate aid — former clandestine government assassin Evan Smoak — the infamous “Orphan X” — finds himself pitted against a seemingly endless supply of gun-totting goons as he attempts to liberate Max Merriweather from the looming threat of the bad guys who murdered his cousin.

Gregg Hurwitz writes with the pace and economy of a blockbuster action movie. Think Michael Bay’s The Rock or Bad Boys; not so much Transformers; thrillers with some semblance of heart and humanity. He understands the lurid pleasures readers want from their action-lit, and delivers in spades. In Into the Fire, Smoak is forced to infiltrate a police precinct; go undercover (and unarmed) into a maximum security prison; and face off against a barrage of gunmen nursing a concussion, armed with only a sniper rifle. All par for the course for Hurwitz’s hero, who readers know will walk out of every confrontation (relatively) unscathed; the pleasure comes from witnessing how he escapes these impossible odds.

The fifth book in the series, Into the Fire leans heavily into its established continuity. In some respects, this feels like a bridging novel between the next momentous phase in the life of Orphan X. Plot threads related to his Max Merriweather mission are suitably tied; but there’s plenty left dangling to suggest the next novel could be truly cataclysmic for Evan. New readers will still enjoy the bombastic action and bodycount, but longtime fans will truly appreciate the repercussions it potentially has for the series moving forward.

In the hotly-contested field of action-lit, Gregg Hurwitz comes out on top, time and time again.

Published: 11 February 2020
ISBN: 9780718185510
Imprint: Michael Joseph
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 480
RRP: $32.99

Review: Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz

9780718185480The badass amalgamation of Bond, Bourne, Reacher and Batman is back in a fourth instalment in the Orphan X saga — and this time it’s personal!

Evan Smoak is Orphan X, aka ‘The Nowhere Man;’ a one-time government assassin (as part of the covert ‘Orphan’ program) turned into a pro bono harbinger of justice, whose Bat Signal is a cell phone number. Over the course of this scenery-smashing series, a mysterious foe has been targeting Orphans for assassination. When we last caught up with Evan (2018’s Hellbent) he identified the orchestrator of the killings: none other than the President of the United States, the morally bankrupt Jonathan Bennett. Now, in Out of the Dark, it’s Evan out for blood; in Washington DC to exact revenge on the most powerful and well-protected man on the planet. Piece of cake, right?

Naturally, Evan is side-tracked by a ‘Nowhere Man’ case, but this time it feels like more of a subplot than imperative to the narrative; like Hurwitz was conscious he needed to give readers a break from Evan’s hunt for the President, just to remind readers he’s not exclusively a rogue government assassin, and that he abides by a moral code. When Trevon Gaines discovers his immediate family have been slaughtered by drug-smuggling he inadvertently crossed, he calls Evan’s encrypted line, and thus Orphan X finds himself aiding an intellectually challenged, but incredibly sweet and well-intentioned young man, which leads to a brilliant climactic battle that had me genuinely dumbfounded as to how Hurwitz would write Evan out of a particularly harrowing quandary.

Gregg Hurwitz has crammed an insane amount of action into his Orphan X quartet, but he doesn’t relish in the bloodbaths his characters unleash with stunning regularity. Bodies are bruised and bloodied amidst the chaos, and there’s always a moment of reflection when — win, lose or draw — its perpetrators realise their lives will never be anything but violent; it’s cyclical and senseless, and by mastering its craft they’ve fallen into an inescapable chasm that renders any chance of a normal life impossible. Even when Evan wins, he loses.

Fast, furious, frenetic; Out of the Dark  ends Evan Smoke’s inaugural story-arc, tying off several loose threads from previous novels. Wherever the character goes from here, I’ll be there with him. Nobody writes a better high-stakes action thriller than Hurwitz.

ISBN: 9780718185497
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 448
Imprint: Michael Joseph Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publish Date: 5-Feb-2019
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Review: Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz

Orphan-XGregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X is an unapologetic action-packed thriller — the kind that would’ve made Robert Ludlum proud —and is a promising start for what will likely be a long and successful series.

Evan Smoak is the titular character, Orphan X; a highly-trained professional assassin, plucked from an orphanage as a boy and trained to James Bond levels of badassery. But, as heroes are prone to do, Smoak turned against his programming and escaped their clutches, choosing instead to utilise his skills to help those in dire straits. It’s serious clandestine work, and as such, Smoak doesn’t have anything resembling a social life. He lives in an apartment complex, in a unit that makes the Batcave pale in comparison, and waits for his phone to ring. Because that phone call is Smoak’s Bat-Signal.

Hurwitz quickly establishes Smoak’s skills, and soon throws his life into chaos: not just because his latest mission has gone sour, with potentially devastating consequences for himself and his client, but because he’s allowed the real world to seep into his violent one, as he forms a relationship with a woman and her son residing in his building. For the first time, Smoak is breaking his commandments, and there’s a cost to pay for that.

Orphan X is high-octane stuff, and once Hurwitz steps on the gas he doesn’t let up. There’re cool action set-pieces – the finale in particular, a one-on-one hand combat extravaganza, is expertly choreographed – and there are twists and betrayals that are genuinely surprising. Its only problem is the overarching plot is a little formulaic; anyone who has read more than a dozen thrillers will be familiar with the set-up of the assassin turning against his masters, and while Hurwitz does it better than most, there’s still a slight feeling of uniformity. That said, one gets the feeling that aspect doesn’t necessarily have to be the driving point of future instalments. Orphan X reads very much like an origin story, and now that Smoak’s background has been dealt with, Hurwitz is free to have his protagonist tackle an eclectic mix of threats. Bring it on!

Orphan X is the kind of page-turner that begs to be read in a single sitting. Gregg Hurtwitz’s latest is more than just filler while you wait for the next Reacher, Bond or Matthew Reilly novel. This is an author who has levelled up, has improved book-after-book, and is establishing himself in the big leagues now. The other guys should be looking over their shoulders.

Published: 01/02/2016
Format: Paperback, 544 pages
RRP: $32.99
ISBN: 9781405910712
Imprint: Michael Joseph
Publisher: Penguin UK
Origin: United Kingdom