The Nowhere Man by Greg Hurwitz
Orphan X now has a name, it’s Evan Smoak. As a boy taken in by a US black ops training program, Smoak was educated in every skill necessary to become an alpha hit man, a career he undertook very successfully. But life moves on and Smoak decided that he’d had enough of being a shadow civil servant. He’s gone freelance but doesn’t charge for his services. He’s so insanely rich he doesn’t need to. Great work if you can get it.
Whilst helping a distraught young girl being blackmailed into providing nude photos of herself by a professional gang specialising in sex trafficking, Smoak tracks down the man behind it all. Hector Contrell is not a nice person. He’s responsible for many abductions of vulnerable young girls from the US, to be sold on to vile sexual predators across the globe. But his luck runs out when Evan finds him. Hector’s goose is cooked. Unfortunately for Smoak, he is unprepared for what happens just after he disposes of the gang leader and his cronies.
Spoilers from this point forth.
Evan is attacked by a highly professional squad with special forces capabilities. At first he thinks it’s his old nemesis from the Orphan Program, Charles Van Sciver (echoes of X-Men perhaps?), but soon realises that he’s managed to get himself into a whole new set of problems. Say hello to René Cassaroy, billionaire sociopath and all-round bad guy, with panache.
Evan is violently sedated and wakes to find himself in opulent but strange surroundings. He’s prisoner in a mansion located in a remote woodland. Evan is told that he’s in Switzerland, but soon realises that he’s being lied to, there’s not a cuckoo clock in sight. Sociopaths have a habit of doing that you know, telling lies and not having cuckoo clocks. Smoak suspects that he’s still in the continental USA, but why?
Cassaroy explains his unruly invitation. He’s running a scheme whereby he selects and targets very wealthy individuals forcing them to transfer their fortune to him, all untraceable of course. René found Evan after our favourite assassin bought a very expensive katana online. As clever as Evan was, he was not cautious enough to avoid becoming prey to a very sick and greedy man.
Cassaroy is a germ freak with a peculiar lifestyle which includes having regular blood transfusions of young blood to maintain his own youth and vitality. He is an aged and vain man who wants to live forever. To this end, he has a young boyfriend who entices other young party goers to their remote abode, where they’re drugged and then drained of a certain amount of their red. It’s replaced with René’s own, jaded blood. It’s like a modern take on vampirism, using science and needles instead of magic and fangs.
To compound matters for Evan, René likes to provide employment for an unending bunch of Mexican cartel gangsters, the type of people who would eat babies for fun. These are the ones who snatched Evan. They are commanded by Dex, a mute monster of a man who has two tattoos, one on each hand, a smile and a frown. Dex is not the most communicative villain you’ll ever meet but could have featured in a Bond movie, such is his approach to his trade. It’s not looking good for Mr Smoak.
It’s not long before René realises that Evan is worth even more than he thought. Smoak has amassed a long list of very rich and angry enemies who are prepared to bid for the right to kill him, slowly. Among them is Van Sciver who has dispatched Orphan M and Candy, yet another pair who would not look out of place in a Bond film. The bidders assemble at the chateau as Evan prepares for the worst. But he’s not beaten, not by a long way. He’s Orphan X after all.
This is not a very good read. It’s such a cliché as to be déjá vu, repeatedly… Stereotypical baddies, over the top goodies, stretched heroics and a plot that does not make a great deal of sense. This is little more than a rewrite of the (very good) movie Hitman, which was adapted from the video game of the same name. Orphan boy trained to be a lethal killer who goes rogue and helps those good people in need. Please, give us a break with the repetition.
Evan persistently tries to escape from the chateau, but is always returned to the luxurious bedroom so that he can try again. He repeatedly plans his escape over the wooded mountains where snipers lie in wait during sub-zero winter temperatures. Apparently, snipers don’t get cold up there and are always switched on. There is also the more obvious escape route of stealing a vehicle, of which there are many, and simply driving from the property, but that might be a tad simplistic and why do the obvious when you have a book to write and money to make from it. Mexican cartel members, who continually make mistakes at the chateau, were able to take down Evan to begin with. Not convincing. It starts out one-dimensional and goes downhill from there. Some plots can be a bit insulting to the reader’s intelligence.
Eventually Evan escapes, but not without help from the cavalry, a dead mentor who is not really dead. The plot thickens, and weakens. Mr Smoak hunts down René and Dex, apparently dispatching the large thug with ease. He goes back to his life as a more simplified version of The Equaliser, albeit with more money and better tech. Meanwhile Charles Van Sciver is continuing in his hunt for him. If Evan had any sense, he would go after Van Sciver, take the fight to him and nullify the threat, but no, not even with all his specialised training does Evan consider doing this. Rebel Voice reckons that Forrest Gump could take Evan Smoak in a straight fight.
The concept of the anti-hero is trending in western literature at this time. Jack Reacher. Michael Bennett. Dexter. Spider Shepherd. V. Nate Romanowski. Mitch Rapp. Jack Foley. Angel and Louis. Lucas Davenport. Hap and Leonard. Gideon Crew. Dave Robicheaux. Billy Bob Holland. Joe Hunter and Lizbeth Salander to name but a few. Some work. Many don’t and are tiresome forays into an increasingly trite format. The Nowhere Man is in the latter category.
Sult scale rating: 3.5 out of 10. This is time fodder and should only be read when the wallpaper is plain and badly degraded. The plot has been done before and much better. Sadly, this is going to be an ongoing series. Yawn. Hope Evan Smoak doesn’t come to Ireland or he will get his assassin’s ass kicked all over this Emerald Isle by both Republicans and Unionists.