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Hellbent: An Orphan X Novel

Review

Hellbent: An Orphan X Novel

Gregg Hurwitz is incapable of writing badly. I say that after reading his adult novels and his star turns on such comic books as Batman, Punisher and Wolverine. However, it is his newly published HELLBENT that surpasses all of his previous work and sets a new standard for thrillers to meet or exceed, if that is even possible. Seriously.

HELLBENT provided me with several much-needed reminders of why I read. It has (almost) everything. There are strong, unforgettable characters, both good and bad, some of whom don’t make it to the end of the book. There is a cat-and-mouse plot in which the roles keep changing unexpectedly. There is action, violence, explosions, information (if you like vodka, you will love this novel), pathos and poignancy. There is no sex, but it is certainly hinted at. You don’t read thrillers for sex anyway, do you?

"HELLBENT is one of those rare books that moves much more quickly than its page count would suggest.... [Hurwitz's] prose style will keep your attention firmly rooted from beginning to end in the plot and those intriguing characters who populate it."

So what is it about? HELLBENT is the third book in Hurwitz’s Orphan X series. If you have yet to read the first two installments (ORPHAN X and THE NOWHERE MAN), never fear. Hurwitz does a superlative job of bringing newcomers into the mix within just the first few opening pages. All three volumes feature Evan Smoak, who was trained as an off-the-books government assassin in what was called the Orphan program, starting at the tender age of 12. Evan, designated as Orphan X, went truant, if you will, and set himself up as a deep cover helper known as the Nowhere Man. Reachable only by a special number known to a relative few, Evan answers each call with the question “Do you need my help?”

In HELLBENT, Evan receives the one call that he never expected to get --- that being from Jack Johns, the man who recruited him to the Orphan program and taught him everything he knows. Jack is on the verge of being captured by a team led by Charles Van Sciver, another Orphan who has been tasked by the highest levels of government to eradicate all remaining assets and traces of the Orphan program. Jack isn’t seeking rescue, at least for himself; he wants Evan to find and protect his last recruit to the Orphan program. That recruit is indeed a surprise to Evan, but not to Van Sciver, who is less than a step behind Evan as he attempts to protect the recruit against seemingly overwhelming odds.

In the midst of a mad chase that moves back and forth across the country, Evan gets another call on his Nowhere Man line, this time from a stranger whose son needs to be rescued from the clutches of a nefarious gang that is on the verge of recruiting him. It’s not the type of request that Evan ordinarily answers, and he already has his plate full. But you have to read the novel to see how Evan breaks eggs and makes an explosive omelet or three while fulfilling all of his promises and staying true to himself.

HELLBENT is one of those rare books that moves much more quickly than its page count would suggest. There is no waste here --- no sign that Hurwitz needed to grow the story, if you will --- and his prose style will keep your attention firmly rooted from beginning to end in the plot and those intriguing characters who populate it. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 31, 2018

Hellbent: An Orphan X Novel
by Gregg Hurwitz

  • Publication Date: January 30, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250119170
  • ISBN-13: 9781250119179