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Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz. Book review

February 23, 2018

Hellbent book cover

Evan Smoak was taken from an orphanage and raised by Jack Johns, his mentor, to work for a top secret programme. Jack became the father Evan never had. Having left the programme, Evan, who was known as Orphan X, has become the Nowhere Man, an avenger of injustice. An unexpected phone call from Jack sends Evan off on an assignment to protect a teenager who failed the Orphan programme and whom Jack has brought under his protection to keep her free of the clutches of Charles Van Sciver, otherwise known as Orphan Y and Evan’s sworn enemy. But this assignment could be the death of Evan, who must stay one step ahead of a deadly enemy.

In Hellbent Gregg Hurwitz has created an effective thriller which reads fluidly yet takes time to consider that the characters are people and not just pieces to be moved around the chess board of an action-based novel.

The Orphan Evan has been sent to retrieve is a teenager called Joey who, having been trained in the Orphan programme and now cut loose, has no idea how to acclimatise to the normal world. This makes for a very interesting dynamic throughout the novel as both Evan and Joey, still grappling with emotions that they are supposed to keep suppressed with regards to forming attachments, take on a father and daughter role (or possibly big brother and little sister). Evan has no idea how to be a father-figure and Joey has no idea how to be a normal teenager. Their relationship, which as well as the repeated assassination attempts by Sciver, lies at the heart of this action-packed story and creates some depth to what might be nothing more than violent, gun-filled episodes, or IT technobabble. Although for lovers of such details, there are plenty of carefully laid out descriptions of the firepower as Evan casts his eyes over bespoke firearms. It is also clear that Evan has access to the type of gadgets only available to someone with eye watering amounts of money. He is, in effect, Jack Reacher, the Equalizer and Ethan Hunt all rolled into one.

The archvillain is certainly a worthy adversary with a weakness, because Van Sciver has a very large chip on his shoulder and a whole army of his own orphans and hired guns to bring Evan down. But Hurwitz stops short of glorifying the action scenes, or creating a sense of voyeurism when it comes to violence. There is violence, make no mistake, but it is handled in a way which makes the reader uncomfortable and aware of its unpleasantness and effects on the victim. Evan is also, despite being trained as a killer, a man with a moral code that sets high standards, particularly when it comes to people being exploited or the innocent hurt.

This is the first Orphan X novel I have read and Hurwitz does a good job in bringing the reader quickly up to speed. But it has made me curious enough to take a look at the others.

Hellbent was courtesy of Penguin via NetGalley.

From → Book Review, Thriller

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