Propulsive thriller plot plays second fiddle to an overarching tactical treatise: How does an assassin go about staying alive while getting the job done?
In this third in a series (Hard Rain, 2003, etc.), John Rain, our scrupulous freelance murderer who gives his kills a natural look and whacks no women (well, almost no women) and no children, has an assignment from the CIA to cleanse the world of death merchant Belghazi, a French-Algerian seller of weaponry to the highest bidder, no questions asked. In tinder-crisp prose—Rain is not overly fond of exploring his emotions, though motives are always on his mind—we follow as he prepares for his task in what, given another context, would be considered a police procedural. There are lots of good tips here for the would-be assassin, as when Rain muses “ . . . an injection of potassium chloride. I would try for the axillary vein under the armpit, or perhaps the ophthalmic vein in the eye, both hard to detect entry points.” (He also vividly details how to fake an autoerotic asphyxiation.) Eisler occasionally sounds too enchanted with his own voice: “I realize these marks are signs, artifacts of lives and moments that were but are no longer, like ashes in an empty hearth, or bones cast aside from some long ago supper, or a tattered shape that might have been a scarecrow in a field grown over with weeds.” But there’s no denying that this author can bring a wicked martial-arts encounter right into the mind's eye (quite a feat, considering the need for speed and complexity of movement) or that he’s surprisingly nimble with his love scenes. As for the background storyline, it is plausible, au courant, and creepy; readers will learn more about rogue communities than they may want to know.
Taut and generally skillful: fans will hope for more Rain in the forecast.