Tight, swift debut thriller from the co-screenwriter of the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma about a crack assassin hired to rub out his father.
Highlights of Haas’s cinematic thriller include a cross-country junket, quick reversals, lightning violence and a surprising denouement. On the road goes a “silver bear” (the term Russians use for assassins who earn top dollar because their shots never miss), prowling from Boston to Los Angeles. The “bear,” using the name Columbus, stalks congressman Abe Mann, who fathered the boy with Amanda B., a black prostitute. After giving birth to Columbus, Amanda turns up dead, stabbed in the neck in circumstances never explained. Mann’s possible involvement in the case and the cruel abandonment of his son help readers swallow a premise, reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate, that an offspring might assassinate his famous parent. By telling the story from the assassin’s point of view, Haas layers on novelistic texture that a film version may miss. In chilling interior passages echoing The Day of the Jackal, the “bear” explicates the cold-blooded methods that make him a top killer. All the while, Haas stokes sympathy for his anti-hero. The assassin’s back story leads to a foster home where Columbus endures abuse and then to a juvenile detention center where he serves time after the killing of his foster mother. Post detention, Columbus initiates a touching relationship with a young woman at the same time he’s recruited as an assassin. The two pursuits clash, as his handlers had forewarned, and, to save his girlfriend’s life, Columbus brutally dispatches and abandons her. But having awakened tender feelings, she haunts his memory. He’s left wondering about her in a coda that points to a series on page and screen.
Lean work, with every word counting and adding up to more than most authors land in twice the space.