Review: The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz

The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz
The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz
The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz is the 2nd book in the Evan Smoak series (available January 17, 2017).

Once known only by the designation “Orphan X,” Evan Smoak escaped the shadow world he was trained for and now uses his skills pro bono as a near-legendary figure dubbed “The Nowhere Man.” He’s part John Wick, part Nikita, part the Equalizer, and unless you’re the one who called that encrypted phone number on his business card—1-855-2-NOWHERE—you do not want to see Evan coming. 

Hector noticed movement in the shadows and stood, revolver quickly in hand. For a time, it seemed, he kept rising.

Standing just past the semicircle of pushed-together desks, Evan looked up at him. A FUCK YOU tattoo on the front of Hector’s neck indicated that nuance was not the man’s strong suit.

Hector said, “I don’t know who you are or why you’re here, but I’m gonna give you five seconds to leave before I aerate your torso.” For emphasis he kicked one of the monitors off the desk, which went to pieces at Evan’s feet, sparking impressively.

Both men kept their guns down at their sides.

Evan watched the monitor give off a dying spark. Then he lifted his eyes.

“One of the functions of anger is to convince people of the seriousness of your intentions,” he said. “To signal that you’re out of control. Unpredictable. Willing to do damage. To evoke fear.”

Hector drew himself even taller. No minor feat. Backlit by the monitors, his meaty left earlobe showed a missing slot where an earring had been ripped free.

Evan took a step closer. “So look at me. Look at me closely. And ask yourself: Do I look scared?”

It’s very clear from the way Evan operates that he is an alpha predator. Like Breaking Bad’s Walter White, he is the danger, he is the one whose knocks make people tremble. And so, when Evan finds himself in danger, it’s unexpected. That’s exactly what author Gregg Hurwitz does in his most recent “Orphan X” novel. Gregg Hurwitz changes things up, makes his predator the prey, and in doing so spins his hero off in a new direction. We have no doubt that Evan Smoak is equal to the trials ahead of him, but Hurwitz isn’t going to make it easy for him—although he is going to make it very entertaining for us.

One of the real pleasures of this novel is that while Evan is very definitely a tough guy, he’s also smart. And Hurwitz takes us along on the ride as he figures out where he is and what is going on, all without recourse to weapons.

He’d gleaned the date: October 18.

The next priority was figuring out where he was.

His gaze swept the walls low, just above the baseboards. Nothing. He moved to the built-in mahogany desk. The backing floated an inch or so off the wall, no doubt to leave room for appliance plugs. He put one eye to the dark sliver but could make out only darkness. Then he crawled into the space where a chair should be and flattened his cheek to the wall. The power outlet floated a few inches away in the gap between desk and wall.

It had only two holes, designed to fit round pins.

Clearly not built to receive an American plug.

Evan popped to his feet and headed briskly into the bathroom. After scanning the walls, he dropped onto a knee and found a wet-room outlet tucked beneath the floating granite slab housing the sinks. This one took a three-pin plug—two round, one grounding.

That was helpful, too.

He searched the bathroom for a hidden surveillance camera but found none. With the stark stone and tile, there were scant hiding places. He had to assume that the mirror was a one-way and that a pinhole camera was positioned inside the ceiling vent as in the bedroom, but he couldn’t be certain. That still left him a blind spot beneath the sink and in the corner by the toilet.

He needed to create a blind zone in the bedroom as well. Pausing in the doorway, he searched the crack in the frame, careful not to be obvious. There it was, a pencil eraser–size circle of metal nestled back in the wood like a dug-in pinworm. He walked over to the hearth and ran his fingertips across the caulking between the travertine tiles but felt nothing. The vent camera he’d spotted earlier and the bathroom doorframe unit gave them eyes on three-fourths of the bedroom. He looked for a spot that would pick up the remaining quarter.

The corner above the closet where the walls met the ceiling. He flicked a gaze quickly in that direction, noting that the point of blackness there was slightly more pronounced than in the other corners.

Solid tradecraft.

Solid tradecraft indeed. There’s a reason why Hurtwitz’s thrillers are perennial bestsellers. His books not only deliver on plot and atmospherics, but he takes the clichés of the genre and twists them around. In another writer’s hands, Evan Smoak could be cartoonish, but the Nowhere Man is anything but a comic book character, and this novel anything but an ordinary thriller.

Read an excerpt from The Nowhere Man!


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Katherine Tomlinson is a former reporter who prefers making things up. She was editor of Astonishing Adventures Magazine and the publisher of Dark Valentine Magazine. She edited the charity anthology Nightfalls. Her dark fiction has appeared in Shotgun HoneyA Twist of NoirLuna Station Quarterly, and Eaten Alive, as well as anthologies, including Weird NoirPulp Ink 2Alt-DeadAlt-Zombie, and the upcoming Grimm Futures, which she also edited. Her most recent collection of short stories is Suicide Blonde. She sees way too many movies.

Read all posts by Katherine Tomlinson for Criminal Element.


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