" Take Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher, put them in a blender, add three drops of neat sulphuric acid and two of nitro-glycerine, switch it on and don’t be surprised if the lid blows off"
You like your stories gritty? They don’t come much grittier than this. Take Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher, put them in a blender, add three drops of neat sulphuric acid and two of nitro-glycerine, switch it on and don’t be surprised if the lid blows off. Congratulations – you’ve just mixed your first Orphan X.
Gregg Hurwitz really knows how to put a thriller together. I couldn’t fault this one – it has machine-gun, relentless intensity and can be almost exhausting as well as exhilarating to read – exhausting because you’ll be turning the pages long after the midnight hour.
One of our Richard and Judy Book Club team tells me it’s one of the best thrillers he’s ever read. Other reviewers, many of them established thriller writers themselves, variously describe it as: ‘A page-turning masterpiece’, ‘Outstanding in every way’, and ‘Pure nail-biting, stay-up-all-night suspense’.
Okay, so it’s very, very good. But what’s it about?
There’s an intriguing premise. Post 9/11, the US government decides to take some short cuts to bringing justice to the bad guys. In total secrecy, they give the nod to the ‘Orphan Programme’. This takes so-called throwaway kids and moulds them into ‘intelligence assets’ – a euphemism for assassins. Their incredibly intense training turns them into the most efficient one-man killing machines the world has ever known.
Orphan X is one of them. But his handler doesn’t just teach him the dark arts. He encourages him to stay in touch with his humanity. So Orphan X becomes a strange hybrid – a killer with a conscience.
"Think of it this way. It’s a bit like you’re reading the very first James Bond."
This is a very clever book because it allows us to cheer on a ruthless assassin. Why? Because he only takes down the bad guys.
Orphan X is Evan Smoak. He uses everything he has been taught to break free from the top-secret government programme and vanish completely from their radar. Then he sets himself up as a freelance killer – but only on behalf of the desperate and the deserving. He becomes almost a mythic figure, known only as The Nowhere Man.
All victims have to do is call his hotline: 1-855-2Nowhere. If Smoak is convinced death is the only solution to a threat or an injustice, he will take the job on. He may use cutting-edge technology to eliminate his target, or old-fashioned muscle-power. Smoak is a master of them all.
Orphan X liquidates a range of disgusting, predatory creatures. The dirty cop coercing a helpless immigrant teenager into prostitution. The serial rapist conventional police cannot stop. The middle-east arms dealer trading in fissile material.
But then someone every bit as good as he is at covert killing begins to tail Smoak. It’s as if his doppleganger is hunting him down, intending to kill him.
This novel is the first on a series – it’s already been franchised with three more Smoak stories commissioned through to 2020. Film and TV rights have been signed.
Think of it this way. It’s a bit like you’re reading the very first James Bond.
Here are a selection of the reviews for Orphan X
"From the explosive opening where a boy begins his dramatic transformation, Orphan X blows the doors off most thrillers I’ve read and catapults the readers on a cat-and-mouse chase that feels like a missile launch. Brilliantly conceived and plotted, his character Evan Smoak, Orphan X, deserves his own niche in the thriller hero hall of fame. Read this book. You will thank me later."
"Orphan X is the most gripping, high-octane thriller I’ve read in a long, long time. Hang onto your seat because Gregg Hurwitz will take you on a dizzying ride you’ll not soon forget!"
" Orphan X is the most exciting new series character since Jack Reacher. And Reacher would love this guy. A page-turning masterpiece of suspense enriched by compassion and insight."
"Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X is his best yet — a real celebration of all the strengths he brings to a thriller."