This is the back story concerning how John Rain became a hired assassin. To be fully appreciated, the reader needs to have knowledge of Rain's methods and later life which will only be gained from reading several of the earlier books in the series.
This book deftly guides the reader through Rain's earliest development as an assassin. It puts in perspective his relationship with Tots, his need for emotional distance (his first true love), Rain learning to be proactive and brutal and the "rules" under which he accepts assignments. Rain's relationship with Tots as well as his first love experience creates a very complex character who is at once a brutal killer but also a man with great empathy and a longing for a different life. Maybe a bit of Dexter as an assassin rather than a psychopathic serial killer. The story integrates very well with the other Rain novels. It ends leaving the reader to wonder about the decade between the events of this novel and Rain's later emergence as a for hire killer. I hope Barry Eisler writes a book about the decade as a mercenary. This is an enormously entertaining book.
If you, like me, think the TV series was among the best ever, you will absolutely love the book. A great reading. Humorous with incredible characters and a bit of Korean War history. In my opinion, MASH is the medical drama against which all others should be measured. Truly a timeless masterpiece.
The constant action and tension of the story is well written and in some moderation might even be enjoyable but each hour of this audiobook found me saying "you've got to be kidding me, this so ridiculous". Fiction requires some suspension of reality but this book goes into crazy territory. The many, many, many deadly situations and their resolutions are so far over the top , I found it impossible to enjoy the suspense and action. I feel fortunate that the first book I enjoyed (greatly) in this series was Dead Eye. If The Gray Man were the first, I would never have tried another. There is a lot of background buildup to paint Colt Gentry ("The Gray Man") as a character but it's very much overdone and somewhat boring. The background is not necessary to enjoy the later books. My advice is to skip this one.
The "Gray Man" is or will soon become a legendary character. A smart and ruthless killer, he is vulnerable and human. He is a reluctant freelancer with a "code" and a desire to return to legitimacy but someone at the CIA desperately wants him dead. His personal angst and conflicts are deftly written into the story - not preachy or overdone - just woven in to build a complex character. A similarly trained and skilled operative is searching for the Gray Man as part of a CIA contracted kill team. The story develops in a well constructed and complicated way to a mano e mano between the two killers.The intensity, twists and action are enormously well crafted until the final showdown which, in my opinion, was very contrived and went on for much too long. This is a fast paced thriller that will be difficult to turn off. Like me, I'm sure you will be eager to move on to the next Gray man novel.
There is not a single slow moment in this book. The situations and characters are believable. The basic story line- feckless political leaders and an evil enemy will make ones' blood boil. The final confrontation (actually all of the heroic military action) is completely unrealistic - BUT it sure is enjoyable and exciting. The story is written in a crisp style. The dialogue, while a bit crude (you won't listen to this one with small kids in the car) fits the situation and adds to the tension and color of the characters. The military technical details are well explained and not overdone. They add greatly to the mental picture the book evokes. It was a great twist to have an Afghan hero(s). The twist at the end, in my opinion, elevated the story and underscored the personal commitment of the heroes and small mindedness of the politicians. If you like action and lots of wasted bad guys - this is for you.
The incorrect pronunciation of many medical terms was very irritating. Please re-record this correctly. Many of the stories were very basic and will bore those with some medical background but most are fascinating and all well presented, succinct and suspenseful for any layman. Beware that everyone will identify with symptoms in some of the stories so anyone with hypochondriac tendencies should avoid this.
This is a wonderfully crafted story of corruption, gangsters and heroic police action. The descriptions and action are vivid and moves along briskly. One tends to identify or at least understand the underlying pathos and motivations of all the main characters, good guys and bad guys. In a no excuses fashion it does paint corruption in the evil colors that it deserves. I found the book much in the style of Elmore Leonard, in terms of subject, the crisp, realistic dialog and the complexity of the story which seems to unravel naturally and with ease. My only complaint is the final few chapters of the book seem to drag a bit tediously in exploring the psychology (prior experiences & motivation) of Earl Swagger, the main character, leading to the final "showdown". Except for this indulgence, I would be seriously tempted to give the book 5 stars. Earl Swagger and post WW2 America are such unique and interesting subjects, I truly hope Stephen Hunter follows this with more "swagger".
This is a complex, fast moving and exceptionally well constructed story with two legendary characters. The evil of the bad guys (bajadores -- criminals who prey on other criminals) and terror of the kidnapped comes through vividly. Crais presents a wide range of interesting characters that one must either hate or love - there is no middle ground. I found myself developing genuine concern for the main kidnapped characters, Krista Morales and her boyfriend Jack Berman. The addition of Jack's aunt - an ATF bigwig was a great stroke of genius, adding an extra layer of interest and tension to the story. Human trafficking, kidnapping, and a "good guy" organized gang of Korean killers - it all works! Only Crais could weave this together in such a masterful way. It was great to get more of Joe Pike in Taken versus most other novels from the series. In fact one could argue that Joe is the main character this time. (The Pike character, however, is too one dimensional to carry a story on his own. The story must be built around him, as Taken seems to be. Pike is the solution not the suspense.) The narrative bounces back and forth in time quite a bit, especially at the beginning, and switches narrative perspective a few times. I'm not sure this technique was necessary and it makes it a bit difficult to follow as an audiobook - I was probably 90 minutes into the audio before I developed a sense of what the book was about and knew enough to follow the story without long pauses and rewinding.
The only strong points in this book are the main characters and their interplay, Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook. They are fundamentally strong voices for any book. The story itself turns too many times and the other characters are too much of a formula. The book seems to drag with far too long, descriptive passages. I found myself pausing far too often so I could recall where I was in the story and the significance of a character or passage. It struck me that the writer was trying to hard to hide the motives of the killer(s) to create suspense or a surprise ending. It served only to make the story drag. The narration was pretty slow through most of the book but at "normal" speed in some parts. I suspect it is a problem with the recording as opposed to the narrator who's voice seemed to fit the book well.This is my third Richard Castle book. If it were my first, I would never have discovered the two much better ones.
This is an incredibly well constructed and fast moving story. It has no weak spots or moments. While it is fiction and the unfolding of events is not realistic, it has enough reality that the listener will begin to wonder if it might be real. The main characters are interesting. The interplay among characters and various government agencies creates both an pathos and tension that adds depth to the story. The narration is neutral. The reader is not at all dramatic in the presentation - he does not get in the way of the story. It could be a bit better, but the neutral tone fits the rapid story - and the written words seem to speak well for themselves. I am not a fan of the ending but it is interesting and written at the same level as the rest of the book. The ending does not detract from the book - it fits and flows well with the whole story. Caution: I found myself so engrossed that I kept listening longer than I should at times when I had other things to do.
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