A very fast-paced, political conspiracy thriller
Framed and on the run for his life, a former Secret Service agent discovers how far some men will go to grasp the highest office in the land…
As a Secret Service agent, Nick Averose spent a decade protecting the most powerful men and women in America and developed a unique gift: the ability to think like an assassin. Now, he uses that skill in a little-known but crucial job. As a “red teamer,” he poses as a threat, testing the security around our highest officials to find vulnerabilities — before our enemies can. He is a mock killer, capable of slipping past even the best defenses.
His latest assignment is to assess the security surrounding the former CIA director at his DC area home. But soon after he breaches the man’s study, the home’s inner sanctum, Nick finds himself entangled in a vicious crime that will shake Washington to its foundations — as all the evidence points to Nick.
Nick knows he’s the perfect scapegoat. But who is framing him, and why? To clear his name, he must find the truth — a search that leads to a dark conspiracy whose roots stretch back decades. The prize is the most powerful position in the world: the Oval Office.
To save himself and the people he loves, Nick must stop the men who rule Washington before they bury him along with their secrets.
I’ve been a fan of Matthew Quirk’s novels ever since I got my hands on an ARC of his debut, The 500. I blitzed through it in one long, gloriously entertaining sitting (staying up way into the night). Since then, I’ve read most of his novels and each has been a fast-paced thriller set in and around American politics — often in and around D.C., specifically. Hour of the Assassin is exactly the kind of novel I expected from Quirk: fast-paced, entertaining, and filled with commentary on the state of modern politics.
In Hour of the Assassin, Quirk takes us on a journey into the darker reaches of American politics. It is the world of too-powerful billionaires, pulling the strings of their pet politicians, steering politics and contracts to their preferred causes. An election campaign is about to kick off, and one of the most popular senators is about to throw his hat into the ring.
The novel starts, however, with Nick Averose. He’s on a job, breaking into the house of a former CIA director in order to test its security. He succeeds, but as he’s starting to pull out everything starts to go very wrong. Caught between a dead body and multiple gunmen, Nick has to go underground in order to get to the bottom of the murder and why there are some very dangerous people dedicated to ending his life. Over the course of the novel, he picks up a couple of allies who really go above-and-beyond for him. Hunted, cut off from support networks, and accused of the former director’s murder, Nick and his allies must rely on all of their wits to survive and unveil the conspiracy at the heart of what’s happening. Little do they know, the seeds of the events were planted long ago…
I have to admit that I didn’t find Hour of the Assassin as substantial as as the author’s previous novel, The Night Agent. That novel was longer, and gave more room to character development than this latest. While this didn’t prevent me from enjoying Hour of the Assassin, I did find The Night Agent to be a more satisfying read — and, even though it was longer, I still zipped through it faster than most novels of the same length. Given the short timeframe in this novel, some character interactions seemed underdeveloped and to come out of nowhere — a bit more space to establish the characters’ backgrounds would have helped make these moments more easy accepted. Some things were established through a handful of short flashbacks, but I think the novel would have benefited from having a bit more of this.
I’m sure this will appeal to fans of work by authors such as David Baldacci, Mike Lawson, and Tom Rosenstiel, and also fans of shows like 24 and (perhaps) Scandal. In fact, much of the commentary in Hour of the Assassin covered the same or similar themes and topics as Rosenstiel did in his latest, Oppo: political corruption, lobbying, billionaires wielding far too much power, and so forth. All of it interesting and very timely.
The scandal wasn’t the corruption but how much of it was legal. That was the real business of the Capitol, finding enough money to get reelected, spending 90 percent of your days dialing for dollars from corporations, donors, and interest groups and then voting accordingly.
Overall, then, I’d recommend this novel to anyone who wants an entertaining, gripping action thriller set in the covert spaces of American politics. This was an enjoyable read.