In Andriese’s debut thriller, a former Army Ranger becomes an assassin for the CIA.
Brian Stack is ready to leave the military behind when he’s approached by Col. Walter Burke, who believes that Brian’s weapons training and marksmanship make him perfectly suited to work as a contract agent for the government. Brian impresses the agency during his initial training by completing a psychological test that no other trainee has ever finished. After joining up, he manages to balance his well-paying contracts with his personal life, which eventually includes a romance with Burke’s receptionist, Daisy. Not every contract, however, goes without a hitch, and Brian is not immune to serious injury. After he’s the victim of what seems to be an orchestrated attack, he believes his secret may have been compromised. The novel is told from Brian’s detailed-oriented perspective, and his need to meticulously explain every aspect of his missions—hotels, meals, how he passes time on flights—makes sense, given his delicate work. It’s understandable, and a little amusing, that this carries over to his personal life; Brian vividly describes his first date with Daisy, and even how he comes to own (and love) his pet kitten, Sarge. Andriese grounds the story by stressing Brian’s vulnerability; for example, he’s injured so extensively during one job that he requires surgery, leading him to consider retirement before the age of 30. The book’s global scope, with settings from Hong Kong to Somalia, is diverting, but it does result in some stereotyping. Brian’s friends Arthur and Nicky—an Australian and a Brit respectively—speak in phonetically rendered dialogue and are prone to saying “mate” or “gov”; at one point, Brian’s “Englishmen’s disguise” consists of an obviously Sherlock Holmes–inspired plaid cap and tweed coat. Brian’s relationship with Daisy also doesn’t move much beyond the superficial, although he does like to hear her Southern drawl. However, the fact that she’s always waiting for him back in the States gives him great incentive to make it home alive.
Despite occasional stumbles, this thriller successfully shows readers that even a contract killer can be an everyday kind of guy.