The sixth book in Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series, Prodigal Son, ended with an explosive cliffhanger. But given we now have Dark Horse, book 7 in this continually enjoyable action series, it is really no spoiler to say that Evan Smoak, aka Orphan X, aka The Nowhere Man, survived. The real impact of the explosion is not physical but to the carefully organised life of the super-agent as he ignores his agreement with the US Government to lay low and takes on another spectacularly dangerous mission.
While bringing in some Mexican labour to help with his repairs, Smoak gives his number out and is soon meeting with the head of a drug cartel whose daughter has been kidnapped by a rival, more aggressive cartel. Smoak is not keen to work for a bad guy but over time the two come to an understanding about the future of the business and he agrees to the rescue. At the same time, Smoak’s relationship with both his downstairs neighbour Mia and with his teenage protégé Joey are moving to a different level, leaving him feeling vulnerable and a little confused. None of which helps when his mission involves infiltrating the ruthless and violent Leon compound and getting both himself and the teenage Anjelina out alive.
Following this set up is the usual fare that readers expect from this series – Smoak trying to live within his “commandments” and juggle his secret life with the life that he wants to lead, lots of high tech weapons, brutal fights and a plan that comes apart almost as soon as it is put into motion, particularly thanks to a great mid-narrative twist. And as always the action scenes are well constructed, the tension remains high and Smoak ends up learning a think or two about how to be more human.
Over seven books Hurwitz has found ways to up the level of difficulty for Smoak. And while readers by now know that Smoak is likely to succeed no matter how high that level of difficulty is, the enjoyment in this series is always in watching how and how he develops along the way. And for those keeping track of the fact that Smoak was pardoned on the basis that he stopped being the Nowhere Man, don’t worry – Hurwitz has not forgotten – providing another “To Be Continued” epilogue.