A Book Spy Review: ‘Orphan X’ By Gregg Hurwitz (New In Paperback)

Gregg Hurwitz Orphan X.jpgEvan Smoak was born to kill and bred to hunt. But now, after refusing to kill one of his own, they’re hunting him. 

Evan is an efficient, highly-trained assassin. Growing up in a boy’s group home, he was chosen as a child to be part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books government program designed to raise skilled assassins who can carry out the most dangerous missions imaginable.

Designated as Orphan X, Evan learned all the skills necessary to perform his duties. His handler, Jack, was a mentor and father figure, but also a friend. Unbeknownst to Evan, Jack was raising him slightly different from how the other Orphans were being trained.

While Evan is just as skilled–in fact, Orphan X was rumored to be the best asset in the program–Jack had taken steps to make sure that Evan also kept his humanity.

“The hard part isn’t turning you into a killer. The hard part is keeping you human,” Jack was fond of saying. And thus, Evan reached a point in his career where he could no longer pretend to be a mindless killer. When he was asked to take out another Orphan, that was the last straw.

Knowing that if he leaves the program they’ll find him and terminate him, Evan still quits. Then, using all the training he’d received, he got off the grid and assumed a new identity. 

Armed with the skills of a killer and a nearly unlimited amount of money (which had come straight from the Treasury’s printing press while he was still an Orphan) hidden in various bank accounts, Evan had very little reason to worry. He also had nothing to do. So rather than focus on himself, he focused on those who had very little hope, remembering what that felt like when he was a child.

Those in need, with nowhere else to turn, can call a phone number. A simple, “Do you need my help?” greets them. The man behind the voice is known only as the Nowhere Man, a legend among those who have fallen on hard and dangerous times. A hero to the less fortunate. His only requirement is that his clients pass his number on to someone else in need.

That’s their form of payment. To pay-it-forward, and to help others. 

But things suddenly change when a woman who calls on the Nowhere Man mistakenly finds herself mixed up in a life or death situation. Evan is determined to help her, but, through a series of unfortunate events, he finds out that those now in charge of running the Orphan Program have a vested interest in the situation he just jumped into.

After all this time hiding and covering his tracks to stay off their radar, he just landed himself back in their crosshairs, literally.

While Orphan X might sound similar to the popular video game (later adapted into a feature film), Hitman, it’s not. In fact, it has very little in common with the gaming franchise and, frankly, is a much better story overall. Gregg Hurwitz has managed to create one of the strongest, most compelling new characters in the genre since Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath. 

Evan Smoak is the real deal.

For a story so action-packed, Hurwitz has done an incredible job developing his new hero. His journey from Orphan X, to taking on the identity of Evan Smoak, to ultimately becoming the Nowhere Man is fascinating. Emotional challenges from having lived such a secluded, unique childhood provide several funny moments (like Evan giving a child horrible, if not deadly, advice for how to handle a bully). 

Likewise, the author packs a lot of heart into the story by recounting a painful memory from Evan’s past that sheds light onto why he’s willing to repeatedly risk his life to help strangers in need. Though an elite-level assassin, Hurwitz has masterfully found a balance that really works for Evan, making him easy to care about and impossible not to root for. 

Gregg Hurwitz’s latest novel is a phenomenal start to a promising new franchise and his best book to date. If you’re a fan of spy thrillers and like nonstop action and cool gadgets, this should be one of the first books on your to-read list. 

Orphan X isn’t just one of the best thrillers of the year, it’s the hottest new franchise in the genre right now. 

Book Details

Author: Gregg Hurwitz
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250067847
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: January 19, 2016 (Order Now!)

(Editors note: This is an edited version of our review that originally ran in January of this year. It has, among other things, been updated to include information about the book’s paperback release, as well as the highly-anticipated sequel.)

Update: 10-23-2016:

Orphan X is set to come out in paperback on Tuesday, November 1st. If you still haven’t had the chance to pick it up in hardcover, we highly suggest ordering the paperback by clicking here. Also, the sequel, The Nowhere Man, comes out next January (you can pre-order it here). Without giving anything away (our official review will be posted on December 1st), Hurtwitz’s second Orphan book is even better than the first, and the first must-read novel of 2017! 



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