Quick Review: THE NOWHERE MAN by Gregg Hurwitz (St. Martin’s Press)

hurwitzg-2-nowheremanusEvan Smoak returns, but this time he’s the one who needs help…

Who is THE NOWHERE MAN?

He is spoken about only in whispers. He comes to those in greatest need of his protection. There is no enemy he cannot fight. He lives by his own code. He takes no prisoners. His name is Evan Smoak.

Taken from a group home when he was young, Evan was raised and trained as an Orphan, an off-the-books black box program designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence asset: An assassin. Evan was Orphan X — until he used everything he’d learned to disappear and reinvent himself as the Nowhere Man.

But now, his new life has been interrupted by a surprise attack from an unlikely source. Captured, drugged, and spirited off to a remote location, Evan finds himself heavily guarded from everything he knows. His captors think they have him trapped and helpless in a virtual cage, but they do not know that they’re dealing with one of the deadliest, most resourceful men on earth.

Introduced in Orphan X, noble avenger of the downtrodden and persecuted Evan Smoak returns in The Nowhere Man. This time, he’s forced to employ all of his skills and wits to escape from the grips of a psychopathic thief. A gripping action/thriller, I enjoyed this.

It’s been quite some time since I read the first novel in the series — no idea why I forgot to keep up. Regardless, it was easy to drop back into Smoak’s world of spies, assassins, and psychopathic millionaire thieves. After finishing this novel, I am really going to have to get caught up soon.

The novel starts with Smoak handling one of his Nowhere Man cases: a gang of human traffickers has selected a young girl for their next victim, tricking her into sharing photos of herself that have been used for the scumbags’ “catalogue”. After confronting the young man who was used to entrap her, she fears for her family. Enter the Nowhere Man. Smoak accepts her request for help, and sets about bringing the culprits down. Permanently. However, as he works through the organization, cleaning up as he goes, two things happen: he realizes he missed a victim, and someone else has been stalking him. Ergo, his capture and challenge to break free — not only to save his own life, but that of the remaining victim of the traffickers.

HurwitzG-OX2-NowhereManUKPBOver the course of handful of days, Smoak escalates his attempts to escape from the clutches of his captors. He’s an incredibly resourceful and clever fellow. And yes, he is an action hero, too, so while he does get injured and make some mistakes, he’s also pretty damn badass and virtuous. Not quite too-good-to-be-true, but he’s on the edge of that.

So, he tries something, they counter, he tries something else, they counter, and so on. We learn a fair bit about his, as he thinks about the event that triggered his departure from the Orphan program and inspired his work as the Nowhere Man. We also learn a lot about his captors (not going to give any more details). The ringleader is a monster, his sidekick is somewhat reminiscent of Jaws from James Bond. And, to make Smoak’s life even more interesting (i.e., dangerous), his long-time nemesis is also on his trail.

The Nowhere Man is perhaps a little drawn out — Smoak’s time at the chateau sometimes felt like it was about to end, only to be reset. It makes sense, sure, but given how like an action movie the novel feels, it was a bit strange, and there was maybe one more reset than there needed to be. Although, each time one of these resets happens, the stakes are upped and Smoak if forced to come up with an even more ingenious (and dangerous) solution. It’s a minor quibble.

Hurwitz has a real gift for writing cinematic action. Whether Smoak is brawling with a single antagonist, or orchestrating a tremendously destructive and violent escape (it happens), Hurwitz’s writing is evocative and gripping. Packed with interesting details, the novel is well-written and plotted. The characters are appropriately heroic or repugnant. It was interesting seeing Smoak grapple not only with the situation he finds himself in, but also his acceptance of the role he’s picked for himself. Is the apparent nobility of his cause more important than allowing himself to have a life of his own?

It’s a very good second instalment in the series, and one that left me eager to read the next one (Hellbent). Recommended for all fans of action thrillers.

*

Gregg Hurwitz’s The Nowhere Man is out now, published by St. Martin’s Press in North America and Penguin in the UK.

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