You can almost hear that kid’s jingle, “Michael and Evie sitting in a tree . . . .” Evie is the daughter of a UVa prof. Michael is a child of the Virginia foster care system. To say Evie’s parents don’t approve is an understatement. In spite of that, both bolt from Charlottesville after high school graduation and migrate into New England. She manages to get through college, but Michael enlists and heads for Afghanistan. The plan: one tour, discharge, home, wedding, family, life.
An IED changed all that. One survivor, and it wasn’t Michael Hendricks. Michael crawled out of the wreckage, hid for days to avoid the Taliban, then limped into Pakistan to heal. According to the Army, Michael was KIA. Evie had to move on and a few years after college got married, moved to a rural farmhouse outside of the DC suburbs in Virginia . . . and is now pregnant. Thus endeth that chapter (you think).
Michael, on the other hand, stayed dead, managed to slip back into the US via Canada and lives in a cabin outside of Portland, Maine. His best friend Lester from the Army, the only survivor of that mission, owns a waterside bar/bait shop in Portland. He is wheelchair bound after the IED, but still maintains his skills as a hacker for Michael in his new venture.
Michael is a hitman.
But not just your garden variety hitman. Michael is very specialized. He uses Lester’s skills to find out who is being targeted for elimination. The reason for the contract doesn’t matter. And with ‘organized crime’ now being multinational and somewhat connected with each other (via “The Council”), there is no shortage of potential targets. Once they isolate a potential target, Michael makes contact, tells the tale, and offers the target his life, at the princely sum of 10X the contract, to take out the hired hitman.
Michael is a hitman who takes out hitmen. And on more than one occasion, Michael saved a target slated for elimination by The Council. So Michael isn’t getting a Christmas card from The Council anytime soon.
And he manages to steal away part of his fee into a ‘fund’ that helps Evie stay solvent.
A major player in The Council was betrayed by one of his accountants. Eric (or Eddie. depends on which end of WitSec one is) testified and was then quickly hidden by the DOJ outside of Kansas City. Eric/Eddie was bored and mostly broke (if he tried to access the money he jacked from his former employers, both The Council and DOJ would know and Eric/Eddie’s world would crash around him). So, Eric/Eddie hacked into a local casino’s slot machine system so he would win one of those mega-jackpots.
The problem is when winning something like that, the casino wants to milk the publicity around the awarding of the $6 million check. That means pictures, media, and lots of attention. The Council has found Eric/Eddie and sends their own hitman, Leonwood, to KC to kill Eric/Eddie in a very public and messy fashion - the awarding of the check. Michael tells Eric/Eddie and gets hired to take out Leonwood.
But The Council has another plan - use the hit on Eric/Eddie to draw out this ghost who has been a thorn in their side. They hire another hitman, a Swiss gunman (Englemann) who has his own legendary reputation.
So, we have hitman #1 (Michael) looking for hitman #2 (Leonwood) while hitman #3 follows hitman #2 in order to flush out hitman #1. And all this culminates at the ceremony to award Eric/Eddie his big $6 million check. And the FBI is on the sidelines without a program that identifies the players.
To say things go south at the ceremony would be an understatement. Dozens upon dozens are killed at the ceremony, hundreds are injured. Michael is both on the run and chasing Englemann on the road to where much of what is important to Michael is now a potential target.
Holm has fashioned a wham-bam thriller, which is presented at a breakneck pace right up to the last page. This probably qualifies as one of WCD’s airplane reads as it would be a welcome distraction on a coast-coast flight. Holm has written a previous trilogy (not a thriller, I don’t think) and based on the way this ended, I would suspect there will be other Michael Hendricks’ books in our future. Excellent escapism.
Available September 15, 2015
East Coast Don