THE MARK by A. A. Peterson

THE MARK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In Peterson’s debut thriller, a contract killer’s latest assignment puts him in danger and leaves him torn between revenge and protecting a woman he’s only just met.

A recent hit unsettles an unnamed former military sniper now working as an assassin for hire. Crime boss Luigi Baresi, before dying, warns the killer that rival gangster Vincenzo Varetti’s nefarious deeds involve not drugs or guns—but people. The killer’s newest contract is a mission to rescue Baresi’s son, Valentino, whom Varetti has prisoner, but the mobster, along with Dr. Charles Ward, is doing far worse things than holding someone captive. The assassin narrowly escapes Varetti and Ward, and he must decide if he seeks vengeance or a way to stop Valentino from administering his own retribution by targeting Ward’s daughter, the “beautiful” Dr. Jessica Ward. It may not be easy for readers to sympathize with a seemingly emotionless protagonist of unknown origin and name. He’s an orphan who knows nothing of his parents and lives in Hillbay (where most of the action takes place), a city in an unspecified country. But even cold and detached, he’s the least of the book’s evils. Varetti and Ward are plotting an elaborate chemical attack, and when the killer takes down a would-be mugger, it’s passersby who are bloodthirsty, demanding that he stab the thug. The story is notably dark, as the killer’s paranoia—he may have been betrayed by George, a contact he uses for intel, or his handler Lloyd—overwhelms the book. There are also a few cringe-inducing moments, including grisly scenes involving the gangster-doctor duo. The author, however, allows for subtle humor to lighten a primarily cheerless plot, having fun with the protagonist’s many aliases. The assassin’s oscillating distrust carries all the way until an ending that most definitely kills.

Stark and somber, like the protagonist’s profession, but with a brooding ambience that will leave an imprint in readers’ minds.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0992438104
Page count: 232pp
Publisher: Buster Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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