Orphan X, also known as the Nowhere Man is back for a fourth go round. For those needing a catch up, once again Hurwitz provides a primer early on. Evan Smoak, aka Orphan X, was part of a deep secret American project to take orphans and train them to be killers. He turned his back on all of that and has been on the run ever since. As the Nowhere Man he also helps people in trouble (usually in LA) as atonement for his life of killing.
Only someone is now cleaning house by killing the orphans and their trainers off. It turned out in book 3, Hellbent (spoiler alert) that the man behind this is none other than the President of the United States. As former head of the Department of Defence, the President has some skeletons in his closet, somehow associated with Smoak’s first mission in 1997. Smoak’s personal mission now is to find out what that connection is and to kill the President. But the President knows Smoak is coming and releases one of his nemeses – Orphan A – along with the might of the US security services to stop him. Smoak’s plan is constantly portrayed as impossible and at the same time he has a separate mission to complete as the Nowhere Man for a man who’s life has been turned upside down by a vicious gang of drug dealers.
Evan Smoak is a classic thriller hero. He has a Jason Bourne-eque way of using whatever is to hand whenever making his escapes (in one case this is a table, a handful of salt and a green tea chai), and tries not to kill anyone who is not his target. But he is also incredibly well planned, so that everything that looks like a setback turns out to be some sort of contingency or planned fakeout. As in previous books, Smoak is constantly trying to juggle a personal mission with his commitment to solve the problems of his most recent client and at the same time try to have a normal relationship with his neighbour and her 9 year old son. As a result of this and his more recently relationship with a much younger escaped Orphan, Smoak is slowly becoming more human from one book to the next.
Out of the Dark will delight Orphan X fans and thriller lovers generally. With a deft mix of weaponry technobabble, well written action scenes, a sly sense of humour, likeable but tortured main character and some great side characters, it ticks all of the thriller boxes. Hurwitz economically fills in the blanks when characters from previous books appear so this can be comfortably read as a standalone. But the Orphan X books are definitely better read as a series and in order.