One night, Los Angeles-based FBI Special Agent Will Parker is picked up in the middle of the night and flown to the Midwest to help on a case. You see, a vendor of collectibles is killed at a Comic Con event. Not notable in and of itself but when a radioactive signature is picked up at the victim’s hotel, the FBI is called in. Will’s expertise is needed, as the signature matches that of something he’s intimately familiar with. A former CEO from Silicon Valley before becoming a Special Agent with the FBI’s Cyber Division, Will is the only person alive known to have seen the Fukushima Unicorn, a tiny quantum computer that will revolutionize technology – or put unstoppable power into the hands of any government to lay its hands on it. Now he must join the local PD to help solve the murder, find the Fukushima Unicorn, and also, find a kidnapped victim.
Last year, I read the first Orphan X book, Orphan X – it had been the best mystery I had read in quite a while. Interesting with an unusual plot and an unusual main character. At the time, I thought that it was a standalone book. I’m not sure what I was thinking or how came to that conclusion because there were two more in the series already released! This review finishes the series, as published to date (March 2019).
The Orphan X Series
By Gregg Hurwitz
Each of the books in this series (so far) have two distinct story lines. The first is Evan Smoak as the Nowhere Man, on a quest to help those that feel like they are in a totally hopeless situation, beyond help. The second story line follows Evan as Orphan X, a government-trained assassin who left the black government program. But Evan knows where too many of the bodies are buried – and the few that know his identity can’t risk him living. Orphan X must die.
Book 2: Nowhere Man
I flew through this book – so good! Evan is kidnapped. Although his kidnapper did not realize that he kidnapped a government-trained assassin, escape proves difficult for Evan. Not the best timing because Evan is up against the clock – he has to get free in time to rescue a girl before it’s too late. Oh, and let’s not let any government assassins find him. Should be easy, right?
I read this book over Thanksgiving last year and couldn’t put it down. It was incredibly fast-paced and action-packed with so much going on it was impossible to get bored.
Book 3: Hellbent
The third book in the series, Hellbent, was actually my least favorite of the four books currently in the series. I’m not sure if it was my mindset or the book, but I was at least halfway through it before I really got into it.
That being said, this is the book where Evan started to appear more human. For the first time since a fleeting relationship with his neighbor, people got under his thick shell and life wasn’t just about the mission any more – it was about avenging wrongs and protecting the few people close to him.
I also appreciated the end to this story. Like every other book, there were a couple of different story lines – a Nowhere Man mission as well as a personal mission – that were intertwined. The ingenuity of how Evan dealt with both missions was interesting and creative…. using his personal mission to take care of some deadly folks at the center of his mission as the Nowhere Man.
Book 4: Out of the Dark
The fourth book of the series, Out of the Dark was released in late January of this year and I absolutely devoured it.
The bulk of this book was focused on the mission of Orphan X – ending the government hunt for the rogue orphan once and for all. The struggle of balancing between that mission – and at this point, that mission was very, very personal for Evan – and his mission as the Nowhere Man was real. But both must be successful.
Both likable and unlikable characters from previous books had roles of varying sizes in this one. While most of the other books could be read as standalones, I think that the history of those secondary characters was valuable, so I would recommend reading the other three books before reading this one.
Review/Recommendation: I think it’s clear from my summaries that this is a mystery/suspense series that I enjoy very much. The characters and plots are just so different than so many others in the genre that it really makes these books stand out. And as a series, I think there’s some great character progression that will make me continue coming back for more. If you enjoy mysteries/suspense, then this is one series to pick up!
When Nic Farrell goes home to help get her father’s house ready to sell, she’s quickly swept up in a tragedy from her past. As a teenager, her best friend disappeared. Nic, her friends, and her family were all entangled in the investigation, doing everything possible to protect their own secrets. Fast forward to present, and another girl disappears – one linked to some of the same people that were caught up in the investigation 10 years earlier.
Review/Recommendation: It’s been quite a while since I’ve picked up a mystery novel – I just haven’t been in the mood to read a mystery or suspense novel lately – but I was almost immediately hooked on this book.
Thea Paris, nicknamed “Liberata,” is an expert in the kidnap-and-ransom field, working for a private consulting firm. She routinely negotiates for the release of hostages, but sometimes, works with an elite team to bring the hostages home through covert missions and/or forceful means.
When Thea’s father, a prominent oil executive, is abducted from his home in Greece, she sets off to find him. Thea jets from Greece to Africa, unsure of who she can trust and having no idea what she’ll unravel.
Review/Recommendation: Super short summary, right? The truth is that, while the above is the main plot line, there are a lot of smaller stories that run through the course of the book, all tying into the above at the end.
This mystery/suspense novel was a breath of fresh air from others in the genre. With a lead character a profession other than a cop, federal agent, or a lawyer, it was still fast-paced and very engaging like others in the genre. There were a number of connected story lines that the reader had to puzzle through – how were those story lines connected to Thea’s missing father? Who was lying and about what? Who was trustworthy and who was not? Some answers were clearer than others, which is part of what made the novel so entertaining.
I also appreciated how Howe drew upon the childhood experiences of the main characters. Thea’s brother was kidnapped when the two were children and was missing for about a year. Thea was the intended target. These experiences shaped Thea and her brother’s paths in life, from their occupation to their relationships with others.
If you enjoy mysteries and suspense novels, I’d encourage you to pick up this one.
The Freedom Broker is K.J. Howe’s first novel. It was published in February 2017.
Book .5: Maximum Exposure
Book 1: Notorious
Book 2 :Compulsion
Book 3: Poisonous
Maxine Revere, Max, is an investigative reporter specializing in cold cases. After a couple of hit books to accompany her journalism career, her college friend talks her into hosting a television show focused on criminal justice, Maximum Exposure.
This series follows Max and her sidekick – assistant/bodyguard David Kane – as they investigate cold cases through their employment at NET. Max is outspoken, righteous, and a firm believer in the truth. In fact, she pursues the truth relentlessly, viewing the idea of ‘knowing the truth’ in black and white terms. The truth is always better than not just a lie but also the unknown, a view that frequently puts her at odds with friends, adversaries and sometimes, the people she’s trying to help.
Review/Recommendation: This series (so far) is a light, quick read. The first four parts of the series have been published recently, beginning in 2014, with the most recent being released in April of this year. Max’s role as a reporter makes the series stand out from others in the genre, who favor law enforcement personnel as leading characters.
I enjoyed the characters in the series. Max was referred to numerous times as a “bitch,” but the truth is that she’s blunt, honest, and determined. She’s a strong protagonist and while she may not see eye-to-eye with others, she stands firmly behind her beliefs, for better or worse. The supporting characters add some lightness and depth to the series – Max bickers constantly with her friend-coworker; her love interest flits in and out of the books and reveals a bit of a playful side to Max.
The plot lines are entertaining but not generally too deep, which is pretty much what I expect for books in this genre. Overall, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an easy, light book (beach-read anyone?).