Penguin | 2019 (Pb: 25 July) | 498p | Review copy and bought copy | Buy the book
Evan Smoak is no ordinary killer for hire. Taken from his foster home as a boy and raised as a lethal assassin working for a secret, deniable section of the American government, Evan is Orphan X, one of many of his kind. Now Evan is loose, working to help, one at a time, people in dire trouble. But Evan’s fellow Orphans, many of whom are now integrated to varying degrees back into society, are being assassinated and Evan knows exactly under whose order – Jonathan Bennett, President of the United States. Evan knows he is next. He knows far too much about Bennett’s past. But how to kill the most powerful and protected man on Earth? Especially when that man has unleashed another of the Orphans to kill Evan Smoak.
Out of the Dark is the fourth Orphan X thriller by Gregg Hurwitz and I must admit to having worried beforehand that I would be at a loss, having not read the previous three. I needn’t have worried. There are plenty of clues in Out of the Dark to what has gone before, to the context of Evan’s creation and troubles. So it stands alone perfectly but it did make me very curious indeed about this damaged, isolated, charismatic man. I’ll be reading more for sure because this is one of the very best thrillers I’ve read this year.
There is a lot going on, all of it tense and action-packed. Evan’s meticulous planning is fascinating and we are awed by Evan’s daring in taking on this president and removing his harm from the world. Evan has all of the skills for the job but there’s every chance he’s met his match as we get to know the person in charge of Bennett’s protection, someone we can’t help but warm to. And then there’s the fact that Evan will not kill the innocent. He would rather an innocent person kill him than that he should take their life.
But this is just one layer of the plot. On another we have Ethan’s current case, which is to help Trevon Gaines, whose life is in the process of being destroyed. I loved Trevon. His story actually made me cry! I don’t think even Evan is immune to such tragedy. I looked forward especially to those sections of the novel. There is something so sweet in seeing justice dealt where it’s due.
This is such good writing. Gregg Hurwitz knows how to tell an excellent story but he also knows how to write it well. It’s punchy, tense, fast and furious, but it’s also well-considered, careful, with the tone perfectly pitched. And it all serves the story, and Evan, so well.
I suspect that readers familiar to this series will be delighted by cameo appearances from well-known figures from other novels. We’re given tantalising glimpses of a fair few. This world of Orphan X is one I want to explore. What a hero he is – superhuman in some ways but so human in others, but certainly charismatic, caring and reflective, as, in a social world he can barely understand, he tries to build a new life for himself however impossible that dream may be. If you love well-written action thrillers as much as I do then you do not want to let this series pass you by.