A Book Spy Review: ‘The Way I Die’ by Derek Haas

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The Way I Die.jpgFollowing the events of A Different Life (2015), Columbus, Derek Haas’ veteran assassin, returns in The Way I Die. 

The killer once known as the Silver Bear and by the name Columbus, is now going by Copeland. When readers catch back up with Haas’ beloved antihero, Columbus is living on Mackinac Island, a remote island off the northern Michigan coast, minding his own business. He spends his days avoiding noisy neighbors and thinking of death. More specifically, Columbus considers all the ways in which he could die. He’s been riddled with guilt and pain ever since losing his family, and his mind often drifts to dark places. 

Columbus’s plan to live out his remaining days quietly changes when Archie Grant, an old colleague of his, tracks him down and offers him a job.

Having burnt himself out not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally,Columbus is initially not interested in anything to do with his old line of work — nor does he need the money. Financially, he’s well set and able to throw around cash in order to buy his own privacy and anonymity. More than anything, the job in question offers Columbus the chance at finding something money cannot buy: redemption. 

Rather than kill again, Grant wants Columbus to protect a software designer named Matthew Boone. Someone has put out a hit on Boone and his children, and while the tech genius has security, Archie knows it’s inadequate and that an upgrade is badly needed if the man is to survive the threat lurking in the shadows. Columbus would be one heck of an upgrade, and it doesn’t take long for him to embarrass Max Finnerich, Boone’s head of security, by penetrating his defenses with relative ease. Columbus also bonds with Boone (well, as much as someone like Silver Bear can possibly bond with someone) and eventually earns the man’s trust when he’s forced to show off his lethal set of skills in a real, life-threatening situation.

As the story unfolds, Columbus settles into his new role, reshaping Boone’s protection detail and dealing with threats as they pop up. Instead of ending lives, Silver Bear is now trying to save lives, but the former assassin eventually comes to realize that sometimes the best defense is a great offense — and the only way he’ll ever truly be able to protect Boone and his kids is to find out who accepted the hit on him (as well as who issued it) and deal with them directly. . . 

As Sandra Bullock taught us in the movie Minions (2015), sometimes it can feel so good to be bad. And in a genre filled to the brim with over-the-top superman-like heroes, following Columbus, an antihero in the vein of Tom Wood’s Victor the Assassin, is both refreshing and insanely fun. Author Derek Haas understands what readers are looking for, and he serves up a heaping helping of unputdownable action and suspense. Haas, the co-creator of the hit television show Chicago Fire, can really write. Visually, he captures Columbus’s surroundings (especially early on, when readers will feel like they’re walking the fudge-scented streets of Mackinac Island), allowing readers to feel like they’re inside Silver Bear’s world. Likewise, Haas manages to develop his protagonist, and readers will feel Columbus’s pain throughout, making him the kind of guy you can’t help but root for — even if he’s done some pretty questionable stuff.  

Derek Haas does it again — The Way I Die is another hard-hitting, well-written novel from one of the best storytellers on the planet. . . Someone better warn the rest of the genre, because the Silver Bear is officially out of hibernation! 

Book Details

Author: Derek Haas
Series: Silver Bear #5
Pages: 224 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1681776626
Publisher:  Pegasus Books
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck is the editor-in-chief of The Real Book Spy, and one of the thriller genre’s most well-recognized critics. He currently lives in southwest Michigan with his wife and their five children. For more information, make sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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