The Mark of The Assassin

Title:                      The Mark of The Assassin

Author:                Daniel Silva

Silva, Daniel (1998) The Mark of The Assassin. New York: Villard

LCCN:    9800526

PS3619.I5443 M37 1998

LC Subjects

Date Posted:      June 19, 2017


Silva, whose debut, The Unlikely Spy (1997)[2], put the WWII thriller back on the map, brings the genre up to date with a vengeance in an exhilarating story that roots razzle-dazzle espionage heroics in contemporary political headlines. The Islamic fundamentalist group Sword of Gaza has apparently claimed responsibility for the Stinger missile attack that brought down TransAtlantic Flight 002, and the President, lagging in the polls a month before the next election, has responded by recommending a costly new antimissile defense system. But wiser heads at the CIA don’t believe that Sword of Gaza shot down the plane. Michael Osbourne in particular has reason to remember the signature wounds in for their last chance to have children, he’s called away from her side to go after his bête noir, the freelance the face of the dead terrorist found near the Stinger launcher, since years ago his lover was killed in the same distinctive way. Now that Michael and his wife Elizabeth are trying assassin dubbed October, who all but pointed the Stinger at Flight 002, and who’s now agreed to execute all the accomplices to the deed. Michael would be even more worried if he knew about the troubles he had much closer to home—for example, the Society for International Development and Cooperation, those warmongers whose tentacles reach high up in the Agency and the White House itself. The closer Michael gets to October, who’s now taken out a Society contract to liquidate Michael, the greater the danger to himself, his wife, and—thanks to a gleefully inventive series of plot twists—the American political system as we know it. TWA Flight 800, Star Wars, Whitewater, Vince Foster—they’re all here, together with enough soothingly familiar spy stuff (the beautiful killer, the triple-cross, the conspiratorial military-industrial complex) to wring a sigh of pleasure and recognition from the most rabid paranoiac.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded June 19, 2017

[2] Silva, Daniel (1996). The Unlikely Spy. New York: Villard

61 Hours

Title:                      61 Hours

Author:                 Lee Child

Child, Lee (2010). 61 Hours. New York: Delacorte Press

LCCN:    2009052804

PS3553.H4838 A614 2010


Date Posted:      January 10, 2017

Review by Janet Maslin[1]

In 61 Hours, the 14th, craftiest and most highly evolved of Lee Child’s electrifying Jack Reacher books, we find out about a metal desk in a musty old office that Reacher once occupied in Virginia. “There’s a big dent on the right hand side,” says the office’s current resident, the sultry-voiced woman who holds Reacher’s old job with the military police. “People say you made it, with someone’s head.”

Reacher isn’t one to boast about that. But he doesn’t exactly deny it either. What if furniture movers made the dent?, he asks coyly. What if somebody hit the desk with a bowling ball? The woman isn’t buying that. She speaks for anyone who ever tore feverishly through a Reacher thriller and marveled at its brainy, brawny hero when she rejects any reasonable explanation for the desk’s defect. “I prefer the legend,” she says.

Who doesn’t? That legend—of a tough, cerebral drifter, a latter-day 6-foot-5-inch cowboy with “hands the size of supermarket chickens”—has been so well burnished by Mr. Child that it has now taken on a life of its own. The character is so firmly established that there are certain things Reacher can be expected to do in every story: travel light, win fights against ridiculous odds, make at least one appreciative but quick wham-bam connection with a woman and stride away when the drama is over, never to look back.

What heats 61 Hours to the boiling point is Mr. Child’s decision to defy his own conventions. In the interests of pure gamesmanship he seems hellbent on doing everything differently this time. For starters, there’s the setting: recent books have found Reacher in assorted warm-weather American towns and in Manhattan. This one makes new rules by marooning him in South Dakota after a tour bus carrying 20 elderly tourists and one giant (“like a hitchhiker, but not quite”) skids off a road. The weather forecast calls for blizzard conditions. The wind chill will hit 50 degrees below zero. And the guy who travels through life without baggage suddenly finds himself thinking that it would be nice to have a coat.

There will be no sneaking around in a place like this. This book’s inevitable crime scenes will feature thigh-high snowdrifts, unbearable temperatures and the inevitability of leaving footprints. Those strictures, so quaint for Mr. Child, turn 61 Hours into a closed-town mystery of the sort that Agatha Christie favored. Reacher is no Miss Marple, but he’s sure to notice that when a man claims he just arrived somewhere by car, and there’s a puddle beneath that car’s tailpipe, the man is lying.

The closed town is a burg called Bolton, and all its motels are full. That’s because Bolton is home to a brand-new correctional facility (to the north), so the place is packed with prisoners’ friends and family members. Bolton also has a Cold War-era, oddly designed Army installation (to the west), purpose unknown but well worth investigating, that has since been taken over by methamphetamine-dealing bikers.

The oldsters from the bus are treated as Bolton’s houseguests. But nobody wants Reacher. He quickly becomes the local police force’s problem, tagging along with cops who are somehow too busy to pay attention to the snowstorm. He learns that they have been ordered to guard some old biddy who witnessed a drug deal, and who turns out to be another of this book’s many surprises.

Reacher finds himself oddly simpatico with the witness, Janet Salter, a solitary, bookish patrician who sizes him up and begins asking the questions that ought to have beset Mr. Child’s readers for a long time. “Your disavowal of possessions is a little extreme,” she tells him. What’s that about: phobia or philia?

She finds it strange either way. And she points out that even the most extreme ascetics manage to own clothes for more than four days at a time, unlike Reacher, who insists on regularly throwing his out and buying new ones. Other ascetics have had “shirts anyway,” Salter points out, “even if they were only made of hair.”

The title countdown in 61 Hours is such a hackneyed device that it has no business working so well. But it does work, thanks to Mr. Child’s vigorous surge of reinvention. We are not told what kind of event is 61 hours, then 60 hours, then 59 hours away—but it will clearly involve Plato, a tiny, sadistic Mexican drug kingpin who is linked to Bolton in some dangerous way. This book’s series of tricky inversions culminates stunningly in a physical switcheroo that links Reacher and Plato, who have far more in common than either would care to admit.

Although both Plato and his nasty side can be easily dismissed as cartoonish, they make sense in this book’s overall scheme of things. Or so it seems, since this novel has a satisfying but incomplete finale. This is the first of Mr. Child’s books to end with an outright cliffhanger. Its last page offers an invitation to start counting down to Oct. 19, when the second of two 2010 books by this heretofore steady one-per-year writer will appear. Here’s hoping that Mr. Child is as smart as he continues to seem, and that the bad things that happen to thriller writers who start working too fast won’t happen to him.

No need to wait for the follow-up to find out how Reacher’s desk got its dent: that story is eventually told in 61 Hours, after Reacher establishes an intensive phone flirtation with the throaty-sounding woman who holds his old job as an officer with the military police. They make contact because Reacher needs her help in finding out what went on at Bolton’s mysterious old government installation. (“How hard will you dig?” he asks. “As hard as you want me to,” she answers.) And they bond, though not in the way readers of Mr. Child’s 13 other books will expect.

A head did hit the desk. The whack was Reacher’s doing. But Reacher had what, for him, was a good reason. And the woman made the wrong choice by preferring the legend. The truth about Reacher gets better and better.

[1] Janet Maslin, “He Needs Only His Wits and the Shirt on His Back,” The New York Times (May 13, 2010). A version of this review appears in print on May 14, 2010, on Page C21 of the New York edition with the headline: “He Needs Only His Wits And the Shirt on His Back”.

Term Limits

Title:                      Term Limits

Author:                Vince Flynn

Flynn, Vince (1997). Term Limits. New York: Pocket Books

LCCN:    98016061

PS3556.L94 T4 1997


Date Posted:      January 8, 2017


An underwhelming first technothriller—originally self-published. “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” says Michael O’Rourke to his girlfriend, thus justifying the triple murder of a US senator and a pair of congressmen. They didn’t deserve to live, he further insists, guilty as they were of mismanaging their country’s business. In fact, virtually all politicians—Republicans and Democrats alike—are similarly guilty. Still, the assassinations are meant not merely as punishment but as a warning. Politicians had better shape up, be upright, set aside partisanship, and balance the budget. Or else. Young Michael, the hero of Flynn’s dismal fable, is himself a congressman—the exception that proves the rule. He’s sore at his government and has his reasons. His parents were killed in an automobile accident; the driver of the other car, it turned out, was a drunk, a repeat offender, who should have been off the streets, in jail. Due to the aforementioned mismanagement, however, the government can’t build enough prisons. Nor is this mismanagement accidental; rather, it’s the inevitable result of self-serving cabals and wicked conspiracies. And as a variety of the aforesaid cabals maneuver to stop the terrorists, Michael finds himself caught squarely in the middle, very much on his own. While there are conspiracies galore here, much of the novel has an undercrafted feel to it: one-dimensional types, clumsy, often careless writing. (Flynn’s heroine has “big brown eyes”; a “freedom fighter” has “bright blue eyes”—information delivered frequently, each time as if newly minted.) At length, the cabal is thwarted, the once misunderstood terrorist vindicated. “You’re not going to believe what’s on this,” Michael says, handing over the tape that reveals the depth of the conspiracy. He’s right. A sure-fire hit for readers who share Flynn’s political outlook—the government as ogre.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded January 8, 2017

The Orphan Uprising

Title:                      The Orphan Uprising

Author:                James Morcan

Morcan, James (2013) and Lance Morcan. The Orphan Uprising. Papamoa, N.Z.: Sterling Gate Books Ltd

OCLC:    828097236

E book

Date Posted:      January 7, 2017

Nine is caught in a living nightmare. Instead of being present for the impending birth of his second child, he’s on a mission to find his firstborn. The Omega Agency has found his family. Nine’s son Francis is the key to creating the next generation superhuman. Nine’s children are the only Orphan progeny. When the remaining Orphans are deprogrammed all hell breaks loose.

One Shot

Title:                      One Shot

Author:                Lee Child

Child, Lee (2005). One Shot. New York: Delacorte Press

LCCN:    2004058246

PS3553.H4838 O53 2005


Date Posted:      January 6, 2017


Reacher’s back and Child’s got him tracking a complex case, springing surprises and dispatching a nasty crew in a punishing finish.

For number nine in the Jack Reacher series, author Child (The Enemy, 2004, etc.) dispatches his singular hero to Indiana, where a sniper has just taken out five victims as they headed home on a Friday afternoon. Evidence at the scene—notably, a shell case and a quarter bearing the same fingerprints—seems to clinch the case against James Barr, a former Army Infantry sniper. He’s arrested but insists he’s the wrong man: “Get Jack Reacher for me,” he says. But the game is not quite afoot. Instead of clearing Barr, Reacher wants to convict him. Years ago, it seems, Reacher was an investigating MP when Barr, in an attack very similar to the Indiana shootout, shot and killed four people in Kuwait City. Twisted military politics, however, intervened in the case and Barr walked free. Reacher vowed revenge. But now Barr’s sister Rosemary, convinced of her brother’s innocence, entreats lawyer Helen Rodin to take the case—a case that Rodin’s father, the district attorney, will prosecute. The suspect, alas, recovering from a prison beating that has left him suffering from amnesia, offers little information to help his plight. Still, Helen and Rosemary grab at straws, and, sifting through their clues in a keen, fascinating analysis, Reacher concludes Barr really is innocent. Who, then, set up Barr as the sniper? And who is trying to get Reacher off the case? Is it the Russian gang that’s been shadowing him since he arrived in town? Who’s behind the thugs who tried to work over Reacher when he left a local sports bar? Are they also behind the murder of a woman Reacher met there? Child caps his steadily building narrative with a gonzo action scene that seems a little heavy for Indiana.

Par for the series: canny plotting, tight prose, swift tempo.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded January 6, 2017


Title:                      Shibumi

Author:                Trevanian

Trevanian (1979, 2005). Shibumi: A Novel. New York: Three Rivers Press

LCCN:    2004030110

PS3570.R44 S55 2005


Date Posted:      January 6, 2017


When the CIA arranges for the Rome Airport murder of a trio of Jewish fanatics on their way to revenge the Munich killings, the plan is botched: there’s one survivor–young American Hannah Stern. So the Mother Company is furious. The Mother Company? “A consortium of major international. . . corporations” that has quietly taken over the CIA, along with most of the rest of the West’s power forces. And the Mother Company is frightened–despite its limitless power and resources, computerized and otherwise–when it’s learned that desperate Hannah Stern is heading for the Basque country manse of German-Russian Nicholai Hel, a friend of her dead uncle’s. Why all the fuss about Hel? Because he is–as we learn in vivid flashbacks while the Mother Company researches Hel via computer–the world’s greatest assassin and “professional exterminator of international terrorists”: raised in Shanghai and wartime Japan, mystically gifted Nicholai was soon orphaned and soon learned to hate the U.S.; and all the time he was mastering quiet-kill techniques, immersing himself in the philosophical board-game Go, and seeking “Shibumi”–a sort of essential Oriental dignity and cool. Now Hel is retired, enjoying his passions for Basque caving and sexual connoisseurship (both rendered in detail). But when Hannah arrives for sanctuary, she’s soon followed by smug emissaries from the Mother Company–and their un-Shibumi brutishness (plus the fact that Hel bears one of them a 30-year grudge) provokes Hel back into action. He decides to fulfill Hannah Stern’s aborted mission, succeeding despite all the Mother Co.’s efforts (he kills the Munich terrorists–on board a British plane–with the edge of a credit card). And when he returns home to his Basque estate, there’s a bloody underground/mountainside showdown with the Mother Co. forces. Trevanian (The Eiger Sanction) writes thrillers with a tone all his own–rather decadent, austerely bloodthirsty, thoughtful but slickly detached. This one, even more than the others, is therefore not for every taste (Hel’s overdone anti-U.S. diatribes will also put off some readers), but those who can mesh gears with Trevanian’s sexy, cruel streak will find this fascinating, creepy, razor’s-edge entertainment.

[1] Kirkus, downloaded January 6, 2017

The Innocent

Title:                      The Innocent

Author:                David Baldacci

Baldacci, David (2012). The Innocent. New York: Grand Central Publishing

LCCN:    2012460006

PS3552.A446 I56 2012


Date Posted:      January 6, 2017

Reviewed by Betty Lytle[1]

In The Innocent by David Baldacci, Will Robie is a hit man for a top secret U.S. government agency. He never questions his orders and always succeeds. He works alone and is responsible only for himself. But he may have made a major mistake.

It begins when he is sent to eliminate a target close to home, in Washington, D.C. Something doesn’t feel right about the whole deal, and he refuses to kill. His handler, however, shoots through the window and kills the target: a woman and two children.

Robie flees the scene and ends up in a bus explosion. He survives, as does 14-year-old Julie, whose parents have been murdered. The bus explosion was supposed to kill her, too. Robie promises to help her find the killers.

His boss denies knowledge of the D.C. target, and Robie finds himself unable to trust anyone except the person who had his job before him. The more Robie learns about Julie and the tangled plot that put them together, he becomes convinced someone has orchestrated the whole thing for his benefit. But who? He reviews his past assignments, hoping to find a clue before terrorists strike in very high places.

Baldacci is a prolific writer with 23 novels. His heroes are flawed but always likable. His plots are twisted and sometimes have surprise endings. His stories grab you from the minute you start to read and are hard to put down. This one was no exception.

[1] Betty Lytle at The Oklahoman (May 13, 2012). Downloaded January 6, 2017

The Orphan Factory

Title:                      The Orphan Factory

Author:                James Morcan

Morcan, James (2012) and Lance Morcan. The Orphan Factory. Papamoa, N.Z: Sterling Gate Books

OCLC:     809847974

E book, Published as a Kindle file.

Date Posted:      January 4, 2017

The Orphan Factory is the second book in The Orphan Trilogy. Following The Ninth Orphan[1], it’s natural to be eager to read The Orphan Factory in hopes of finding answers about Nine, the elite assassin of The Omega Agency. This book is the prequel and does indeed fill in the reader on Nine’s early childhood, but it’s filled with too much exposition that slows down the action especially in the first half of the book.

Real action begins only in the second half of the book, when things begin to pick up. The first chapters focus on the early days of the Pedemont Project, a project that birthed 23 orphans with superior genes. The project trains these young “orphans” into lean, mean fighting assassins for the sole use by The Omega Agency. The Agency plans to use kids as assassins to force worldwide outcomes favorable to the the agency. The early chapters could have been condensed and the book focused more on the 18-year-old orphans instead. This would still give readers the background on Nine while keeping the action and suspense moving forward. The chapters involving Nine’s early assignments were definitely exciting. Fans of The Ninth Orphan will certainly find The Orphan Factory an enjoyable read that answers the questions the first book left hanging.

[1] Morcan, James (2011) and Lance Morcan. The Ninth Orphan. Papamoa, N.Z.: Sterling Gate Books

Transfer of Power

Title:                      Transfer of Power

Author:                Vince Flynn

Flynn, Vince (1999, 2015). Transfer of Power. New York: Pocket Books,

LCCN:    2015295431

PS3556.L94 T73 2015


Date Posted:      January 3, 2017

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]


Second-novelist Flynn (Term Limits, 1998) returns, this time with an overstuffed political thriller about bad guys kidnapping the White House.

With the President in it–though at first he’s presumed safe, hunkered down in his custom-built bunker, having been spirited there just in time by the Secret Service. The main meanie is one Rafique Aziz, zealot, all-around nutcase, and valued henchman of Saddam Hussein. Rotten to the core understates it for Aziz. He won’t even let his hostages go to the bathroom. He has over a hundred of them, and the deal is the US either complies with his demands–(1) release Iraq’s frozen assets, (2) end the onerous Iraqi blockade, and (3) support a free and autonomous Palestinian state now!–or he shoots a hostage an hour. To demonstrate his bona fides, he dispatches a couple on national TV. It’s a crisis that cries out for Mitch Rapp, the CIA’s top counterintelligence operative, “the most efficient and lethal killer in the modern era of the Agency.” Mitch, code name Iron Man, who lost his high-school sweetheart in Pan Am flight 103 and has been relentlessly vengeful ever since, gains access to the White House. Bloody-minded Aziz booby-traps everything in sight. Meanwhile, power has now been transferred to the Vice President, who proves himself a double-dealing sneak and errant coward. Mitch rescues a female hostage and falls in love. A lot of people get their heads blown off by MP-5 submachine guns. When at last the President is saved, he tells Mitch and his mates how much the country owes them. The reply: “I was just doing my duty.” But where is the dastardly Aziz? Unfortunately, it takes an epilogue to do him in.

The prose is pedestrian, the plotting predictable, the characters comic strip, and the end long in coming.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

Ninth Orphan

Title:                      The Ninth Orphan

Author:                James Morcan

Morcan, James (2011) and Lance Morcan. The Ninth Orphan. Papamoa, N.Z.: Sterling Gate Books

OCLC:    749389164

Kindle Book


Date Posted:      January 2, 2017

The Ninth Orphan can draw you in instantly. From the introduction of the orphans as children, to the nail biting, how will it all end, ending, this story is engrossing.

The book begins with the twenty-three young orphans hiking through the woods with a single adult. The young orphan number nine is called upon to shoot a deer the group stumbles upon. He is handed the rifle and is tasked with ending the creature’s misery, but there is a problem. He is unable to take the lethal shot as he empathizes with the pain the creature is feeling.

The story then jumps several years into the future and focuses on a now grown orphan number nine. This is a story that has it all. The pages fly by as the reader is submersed in a suspense filled story, with plenty of action and many surprises.

The book is a quick read that will not disappoint. It is an excellent introductory story that continues in a trilogy.