My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Okay so I read this on CD back in 2019 and I never got around to writing my review. I did a reread on Audible a few months ago, so this is a dual review.
My life is so blessed by this series. Evan Smoak is the hero I always wanted in my life. This is not an overstatement. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit obsessed with assassin fictional characters. I don't mean the type who kill just anyone for enough money, I like the ones who have some code they adhere to. Well Evan was taken out of a boy's group home at the age of twelve and "adopted" by his handler Jack Johns, who became his surrogate father that Evan adored as only a young child can adore their parental figure. He also taught him to be a formidable agent, to withstand untold pain, to learn how to kill in more ways than you could dream of, to be able to operate in any situation and realize that if you screwed up, you were on your own. And Even followed orders faithfully until he began to see that he wasn't necessary working for the good guys. So Evan dropped off the Orphan program radar and tried to live a 'normal' life and also became The Nowhere Man.
His story is expertly told in the first book (I have read the first three books, and I have the fourth one ready to start, hopefully this summer). Although each book manages to give readers a piece of the Evan Smoak puzzle, this book introduces a character that is surely beloved by many (including myself). It's told by flashback and also in present day. The excellent writing reveals a lethal weapon who also happens to be a deeply principled, conscientious man. He manages to be both an a way that in beautifully integrated. I love the idea of his work as The Nowhere Man. Think "The Equalizer" and you get a starting reference for Evan's practice, also he's a lot more brutal to the bad guys. But it's a way that is very easy to co-sign on. He is truly helping the helpless, the people who can't rely on the system or the police to help them. The folks who fall through the cracks.
There's a lot to love about this story, but one of the things I really loved other than the flawless character building, is the well-plotted narrative. Even though it takes some things that are pretty familiar to those who enjoy action suspense books, tv and movies, it's done in a way that feels innovative. There's plenty of gun play and description of weapons, but Hurwitz always makes it clear that the most deadly weapon is the mind. I think that it's easy to think of guns as a show of machismo and strength, but being well-armed doesn't always make you the hero or the strongest person. Evan has to do a lot of thinking and plotting to get out of the many sticky situations he encounters in this book. He deals with a fair amount of bullies and I think there is welcome commentary about that and how one can use their strength to protect others versus preying on helpless people.
At first I wasn't sure I liked the storyline about Mia and Peter, but then I realized how important it was to the evolution of Evan's character, and then I realized how much a piece of the puzzle their relationship with Evan was. The concept of him juggling all the aspect of his life at the same time really rang true although I'm hardly an assassin who is pretending to be an ordinary joe and who also helps people deal with unsolvable problems.
The action is on point and perfectly paced. The dialogue is authentic, and runs the gamut depending on the situations the characters are in. Hurwitz is very good at crafting characters of all sort, from the main character of Evan, who is perfectly nuanced and dimensional, to the incidental characters. Each interaction serving the story.
Some notes about the Audiobook:
Scott Brick is a fantastic narrator. His voice is such a fine instrument. I believe he has nailed Evan Smoak and he transmits him brilliantly in the narration. He also does an excellent job at the other characters. He transmits the menace of the bad guys and the vulnerability of the people that Evan helps. As well as the distinctive supporting characters, including young Peter and Tommy Stojack, Evan's armorer. I think that Scott Brick really sold these books to me, to the point that I have to listen to the audiobooks now, even though I know eventually I will read them as prose as well.
The Orphan X series is now become a point of comparison for me that I use for other action suspense series, and that's a good thing in most cases, except when I read a book that doesn't measure up. I definitely recommend this book and the entire series.
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