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orphan x

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Who to call when you need help really bad? Orphan X on speed dial.


Move it on over Jason Bourne, there’s a new franchise in town.

Ethan Hunt, your next impossible mission is finding Evan Smoak. Good luck. This post will self-destruct in five seconds.

Man, I’d better get busy here.

Gregg Hurwitz shows a new brand of semi-government trained assassin in his book Orphan X.

It’s not The Program of Robert Ludlum fame, just better.

Off the books, off the hook, and more believable with every page.

Find a likely candidate, an orphan, early in their life, train them up for messy deeds, and direct them toward the need.

That’s the Orphan Program in a nutshell, except author Hurwitz adds the sort of touches you won’t find elsewhere.

Instead of the automaton-like efficiency where other action characters, JB, ‘discover’ their lethality, Evan Smoak shows up fully loaded.

He knows what he can do and when to apply the skills he’s mastered. And he’s mastered the heck out of so many skills you’ve read in other stories.

I found Orphan X after my wife and son read it, a thick paperback from a business trip.

The kid said read it, the wife said she liked it. That’s a go.

Besides, I needed a break from a slow read of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel. Still do.

Orphan X was the perfect timeout.


Without giving anything away, Hurwitz gave his star the sort of moral compass that finds true north beyond the pages of his thriller.

He made a point of explaining the hard part of creating an invincible assassin at work on the world stage:

Keeping them human, which means they don’t shoot first and ignore the after-effects. Precision is the key word.

Things that work once you finish the book and move on to the next?

Evan Smoak meditates to keep his edge, to avoid drowning in the overwhelming details of his work.

He addresses technology from a useful place, not simply adding more tricky stuff to show what he knows.

The interaction with a kid in his building shows the same sort of exchange you get from non-parents with your kids.

Finally, you’ll read this: “A guy can love a million women, but a man loves one woman a million ways.”

The first time I heard a variation of that came from a New York newsstand man from India in 1979. I saw him every morning at One Battery Park Plaza.

Who wouldn’t like a clue on making their mate happier?

Last thing, and this one is too good to believe. At the end of Orphan X, Gregg Hurwitz acknowledges his sources as if he wrote an academic tome. He didn’t have to do that.

Instead of letting readers think he’s a former operator in from the cold, he shows his hand. From a history guys point of view, this is golden.

His next book in a series is out. The Nowhere Man.

Search for either book and you’ll find pictures of Bradley Cooper.

Will he be Evan Smoak?


About David Gillaspie


  1. Tonya Russo Hamilton says:

    Wow. Can’t wait to read this!

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Orphan X has all the creepy secret stuff along with human moments that most people share, like caring about someone else.

      The book I’ve been reading, with two more lined up, call it the Thomas Wolfe trilogy, feels like an author cataloguing lives he’s come across. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it feels like I’m supposed to take his words as sacred testament, like he’s divulging a secret life, except it feels like most lives.

      Gregg Hurwitz gives a secret life, one that’s intended to be secret, then opens up to the needs of everyday people, not just assassin targets.

      He’s giving the genre a nice wash and rinse.

      The funny thing is his references to appliances, like his refrigerator, and the way he drinks expensive vodka: Shaken, not stirred.

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