In this thriller that mixes murder and mysticism, a desperate vigilante crosses paths with a raven, a coyote, and a mysterious old man.
Dan Stone, who refers to himself as the “ ‘angel of death’...to gang members who kill and destroy,” becomes an unholy terror in Nees’ (Payback, 2017, etc.) second book in The Assassin series. Dan took out the Brooklyn mobsters responsible for his pregnant wife’s death; as a result, he serves as a newly acquired asset of the CIA. His brand: “A maverick to be used in the field on almost suicidal missions.” After Jane Tanner, his CIA handler, mentors him through agent training, she assigns him to kill the most powerful drug lord in Mexico—Jorge Mendoza. Mendoza’s Pakistani partner, Tariq Basara, plans to not only traffic heroin into Mexico, but also to smuggle in al-Qaida terrorists who will then sneak into the United States. Before escaping into the desert, Dan targets Mendoza at his home. The assassin then outmaneuvers members of Mendoza’s gang who pursue him through the desert even though he suffers from a swollen ankle and lack of nourishment. As Dan flees a dozen heavily armed men, a raven with one black eye and one red eye follows him. Some time later, a coyote joins the voyeur bird. He fears the coyote may eat him alive but eventually understands that both it and the raven are leading him somewhere. It’s to Tlayolotl, an old shaman, who possesses special powers, one black and one red eye, and his own agenda for Dan. Nees excels at page-turning action and believable dialogue. He’s also good at building toward a violent scene and then epically delivering. Descriptions of weaponry are detailed, and the blending of magical elements with the gritty plotting of the cartel and terrorists succeeds. The cover art is terrific, but a juicier title should have been selected. Essentially told in third person, it works to have Dan’s internal monologue supplied in italics. He is a complex character, a brutal killer with a soft spot for children and women, even when they’re on the wrong side.
Fans will appreciate the high-stakes action, but they may be surprised by the addition of spiritual elements.