Review: Orphan X

Review: Orphan XOrphan X by Gregg Hurwitz
Published by Penguin on September 1st 2016
Genres: Mystery, Thrillers
Pages: 427
Goodreads

'Do you need my help?' It was the first question he asked. They called him when they had nowhere else to turn.
As a boy Evan Smoak was taken from an orphanage. Raised and trained in a top secret programme, he was sent to bad places to do things the government denied ever happened.
Then he broke with the programme, using what he'd learned to vanish. Now he helps the desperate and deserving.
But someone's on his trail.
Someone who knows his past and believes that the boy once known as Orphan X must die . . .

I got Orphan X for Christmas, so it hadn’t been sitting on my shelves too long before I just had to pick it up. I don’t read many mysteries/thrillers, but I mix things up with one occasionally, and the person who bought me this knew (rightly) that “top secret government programme” are words absolutely guaranteed to get me to pick something up!

Orphan X picked up fairly slowly but then got addictive – over a few days I slowly got to 25%, but then I was totally hooked on the remaining 75%. The story is action-packed, with plenty of twists and turns as Evan tries to help his latest client while also being hunted by person(s) unknown.

Current day Evan Smoak has a kind of James Bond vibe going on, without quite so much charm. He’s wealthy, he kicks ass, and he approaches relationships with cold calculation. He’s likable enough, but at times a little too perfect for me: he thinks three steps ahead, is extremely efficient and (most of the time at least) is detached from life and people, because they just get in the way. I find that with the majority of thrillers I pick up, there just isn’t enough character depth for me, and while Orphan X definitely had more interesting, complex characters than I expected, I’d have still liked more. Hurwitz’s writing is detailed and engrossing, but I wouldn’t have minded a little less of the technical fighting and weapons details in exchange for a little more character time. I absolutely loved some of the supporting characters, the moments when Evan is thrown off his footing in a social situation, and seeing him try to blend in during day-to-day life.

I really enjoyed the flashbacks to young Evan – to his recruitment into the mysterious orphan programme, his training and his mistakes. I’d love to see more of this, but I can also understand that it slows the pacing down and so it makes sense to stick mostly in the current events. Orphan X was an interesting, gripping start to the series and I’ll definitely be picking up book two (but not so-secretly hoping for a little more secret government conspiracy).

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