Review: Prodigal Son – Gregg Hurwitz

Orphan X : 6

My version: Hardback
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, suspense
Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House
First published: 2021
ISBN: 978-0-241-40285-6
Pages: 454 (Not including acknowlegements)
Bought, signed

From the cover:
“Evan, it’s your mother. I heard you help people.”
Evan Smoak used to be known as Orphan X, a figure as elusoive as a rumour, until he came to the rescue of those who most desperately needed his help. The kind of help no one else could provide The kind that caused concern in the corridors of power.
As a boy he’d been plucked from a foster home and trained as an off-the-books assassin inside a top secret US government programme.
Which is why, even after being forced into early retirement, he dare not trust the phone call. Nor the caller claiming to be his mother, asking him to protect a complete strangerwho just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong trime.
None of it stacks up. Yet it bears the telltale signs of the secret world that made him. And from inside it, a deadly new threat to the nation’s security.
But this time the danger is more personal than he could have ever imagines. Because blood runs deep.

There are, yes, a lot of similarities, or parallels, with the Jason Bourne books. Orphan X hasn’t lost his memory about what he did before the first book we meet him in, but it is – in both cases – a past that is only ever hinted at. In both cases too, their undescribed past influences them deeply in the here and now. They are both trained, highly trained, and both seem to be trying to ammend for past mistakes the best way they can. The recent Bourne books, the Eric Van Lustbader books anyway, did take the character and his world too far from the normal every day for me. Too much globe-trotting global politics and Russian oligarchs. Evan Smoke has kept it relatively down to earth. Notwithstanding his high-rise, super protected, high-tech apartment, and recent run-ins with the US President. He is having a stop/start, awkward, teenage-type romance with a normal person to balance it out. Though run-ins with the US President are everyday fare for American thriller writers these days, so it’s not even that remarkable.

Hurwitz has for the most part, kept away with the shopping lists of guns and fire-power, also beloved of American thriller writers – as if anyone outside the gun-lobby would know what the fuck they’re talking about anyway. Does it kill people? Yes. That’s I see when confronted with such lists. Evan Smoke is a little different in this respect, in that he has “a man” who makes his guns to spec. So, not so many shoutouts to gun manufacturers here. Maybe Gregg doesn’t need the placement money?

Anyway, Gregg H., has begun to delve even deeper in Evan’s psyche with the last book and especially this one. Of course, the idea is to make Smoak more of a fully-rounded character and it largely succedes. No one reading the books (before the final page of the last one anyway), knew Smoak had a mother still alive. He was an orphan after all when he was plucked from the orphanage. But we didn’t really know why. We find out more about his time in the orphanage and the children who were there with him. I’m not gonna say there are shit-shocks on ever page, like Greg Iles’ The Bone Tree (which holds the current record for jaw hitting floors per chapter), but some of the revelations are pretty eye-opening, if you’ve been caring about the books and the character.

I thought as I was reading, it’s probably the best of the series so far. Thanks to the rounding of the character, but also Gregg doesn’t forget what we’ve really paid for, and that is the how the fuck will he get out of this moments, the fighting and the mental second-guessing of the highly trained ‘operative’ (© Vince Flynn).

You can buy Prodigal Son from The Book Depository

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