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Publisher's Summary

The outbreak tore the US in two. The East remains a safe haven. The West has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.

Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other: He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again.

But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you.

©2012 V. M. Zito (P)2012 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Thrilling, melancholy, and stomach-churningly gory... This is a sturdy and crowd-pleasing novel that squarely hits its target." (Publishers Weekly)
"A hair-raising quest ... Zito expertly piles on thrills, cliffhangers and numerous twists ..." (The Guardian, UK)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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wtf a zombie assassin? yes, but much more!

Any additional comments?

wow! 2 great zombie books in a row! hissers and the return man. i know i'm supposed to be reviewing the return man, but i'm pumped having just listened to 2 great zombie books in a row! i thought i'd listened to all the best zombie books on audible, BUT I WAS WRONG!<br/><br/>ok...don't let the title throw you. the return man is a story about henry marko. the story picks up 4 years after the zombie outbreak. marko is "the return man." he is a zombie assassin. yes, that may sound hokey, but give me a second. <br/><br/>before the zombie apocylapse, marko was a neurologist. he has developed a theory that helps him track down where zombies might be so he can "return" them to being dead. his theory is known as emotional geography. marko realizes the zombies tend to go places where they have emotional contacts. this aids him in finding the zombies he's contracted to "return" to the dead<br/><br/>everything west of the mississippi river has been abandoned. marko lives in the unprotected part of america. he is a contractor. people living in the safe states (protected zone) contract him to find their loved ones. if they've become zombies, he is contracted to "return" them to being dead so their survivors can get a sense of closure and start over. marko is also looking for his wife, to "return" her. he has tricked out his house with barricades and traps. he hopes to trap his wife so he can "return" her.<br/><br/>the story starts out with marko working on the rourke contract. marko is looking for joan's husband. after the contract is fulfilled he contacts ben, his contact and brother-in-law in the safe states that finds him clients. during that conversation, a guy named osbourne breaks in, revealing himself to be in the room with ben. osbourne threatens and forces marko to return to california to "return" a friend and former colleague, dr. roger ballard.<br/><br/>osbourne shows marko a video of dr. ballard's last location, a prison, where he is seen leaping off a catwalk to escape a horde of zombie prisoners. osbourne wants marko to return to this prison to "return" the good doctor to the dead. to help marko accomplish his task, osbourne sends a resurrection group to aid him. along the trek west, marko is joined by sgt. wu, who has his own motivations. together, they battle zombies and the four horseman, a large group of survivors who control california and have ties with drug dealers and the u.s. government's enemies.<br/><br/>the story is kind of predictable, but what i really enjoyed was the all the zombie action. this book has a lot of heart-pounding zombie horde fighting scenes with lots and lots of well-described gore. overall, a solid addition to your zombie libray, and a great thrill ride! <br/>

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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What an Ironic name...story falls short.

What would have made The Return Man better?

If it avoided the cliche treason-in-your-midst plot trying to weave the noir detective with LMOE. Lone man in the land of walking corpses? Make it survival with the goal of safety. I caught the political tirade, but wasn't put off by it. seems ill conceived that we'd just be content to draw a line in the sand (Mississippi River), hunker down and pretend the other side isn't there. Meanwhile, in a non-existent economy, folks pay bundles to have a guy seek out dead loved ones and put 'em down? I know it's a zombie story, so some belief-suspension is required, but there needs to be a limit.

What was most disappointing about V. M. Zito’s story?

Like a mish-mash of Rot & Ruin and The Tomb. The plot did little to capture my attention. Sounded like a neat idea, "zombie assassin", but missed. Survival stories make more sense. A better spin on this idea was Rot & Ruin: more depth of feeling and an overall better story.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bernard Clark?

He was ok. Accents were good.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Boredom...disappointment. Miffed that audible wont let me return it.

Any additional comments?

Ironic that despite Audible's claimed guarantee, I cannot return "The Return Man." Stick with Mark Tufo, J L Bourne, Max Brooks, Jonathan Mayberry and Larry Correia. Listened to a few stinkers recently, always fall back on the aforementioned writers for satisfaction.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • deedeeg
  • gilbert, AZ, United States
  • 06-27-13

Not your typical zombie book

This story is very detailed, and while it is about zombies, it is not your typical zombie read. Without giving much away, I would say it's a mixture of zombies, survival and mystery. There are a lot of gruesome details included here, so much so, I definitely thought it was overkill. The narrator pretty much uses the same tone throughout the entire story, and tells the entire tale at the same pace, which is something that I don't really care for when I am listening, vs. reading. There has got to be a sequel, and I don't feel compelled to continue to the next installment, so I will end here saying, that I was a bit underwhelmed.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A good balance between action and character dev

The Return Man takes you on a trip through the bad lands which used to be part of the USA but has been ceded to the Zombies. The main character is likable but has his own flaws and demons which he must overcome. The story does a good job of balancing character development with action and mystery which keeps you engrossed in the telling. The author does have a habit of using metaphors to describe the scene (Flowing like water from a spigot) which seems a bit gimmicky to me, but doesn’t really take away from the story. Certainly not what I would call a happy ending, it certainly wraps it all up and even leaves room for another book if the author chooses.

The Performance was a bit lacking. When not doing dialog Mr. Clark was dry and monitone. When interacting with the characters he was really good.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • thomas
  • boise, ID, United States
  • 01-27-17

great twist on zombies

different twist on the standard zombie book. hope there is another book coming out some time soon. diffanetly Worth the credit

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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It was a fun listen

This one certainly will not win the Man Booker award, but it was a fun action packed listen. Action was good. Gore was good. Hero was good. Villain was good. Narrator was good. A bit predictable, but certainly a unique take on the zombie genre. The book was researched well and I enjoyed that the main character was a nueroscientist. The prose was vivid; however at times a bit stilted and amateurish (sometimes so much it made me giggle), but it still kept my interest. Not my favorite book of the year, but enjoyable nontheless. I would recommend it to any fan of zombie fiction.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An action novel, with a side of zombies

It is a slightly different take on zombies... instead of it being about someone running from a zombie breakout, it's an action novel about guy on a mission in the middle of a zombie breakout. The characters here are not trying to deal with or cure zombies, and they aren't even trying to "find a safe place from them" - they just need to survive them to complete another mission.

There were a couple points where I wondered if the motivation behind the main character remaining in zombieland was believable, but ultimately I think it was. It made sense that he would have an outstanding "mission" that kept him from going to a safe zone, and it was perfectly reasonable to accept that he was a damaged man completing some self-imposed punishment.

While there is plenty of zombie action (which is a bit on the gory side), it really comes across as an action novel, it just happens to involve zombies in addition to human enemies. There were some moments where, perhaps, the introspection went a little too deep, and there was a little "break through" of the author's political views into the storyline... but these were both minor and infrequent. Some of the scenes are over the top, and extended to add gore value, but... overall it was a reasonably average action novel, slightly above average zombie novel, and generally a good read.

I'd give it 4 stars as a zombie novel and 3 stars as an action novel. While it doesn't contain much foul language or any sex, it is on the gory side of the zombie spectrum... maybe not as graphic as some, but definitely detailed and graphic enough that I'll mention it. The narration was good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very good plot, kept me involved as a listener

Thank you Mike Naka for suggesting this. (This guy has the best reviews on Audible, worth checking out).

I'm not going to say too much here. A good zombie story. Worth listening to if you are into the genre even slightly. I am mostly wanting to Say something to V.M. Zito if he reads these reviews:

In your next book... if you have two characters working side by side as you have here... I would suggest that you don't repeat action scenes in order to show two points of view from different perspectives. You did this 4-5 times here. Every single time, it didn't work very well. Other than that, I applaud your writing efforts here. I hope you endeavor to write stand alone books. Why constrain yourself with this well constructed world? You've explored it, try something new... though I'll get a copy of whatever it is for sure.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Erik
  • Sooke, British Columbia, Canada
  • 12-14-14

Can't believe this isn't a video game!

Yet another Zombie novel. That's OK, because I like the genre when I'm in the mood for some light reading. This one fit the bill nicely.

This book didn't revolutionize the gene in any way, but it did provide some interesting ideas on post zombie society and how one survivor continued. As with many US stories, I always cringe when the story is exclusively American. Really, an outbreak of this magnitude is contained to the USA and stops at the Mexican and Canadian borders? As I said, it's entertaining, but not brilliant.

The narration was well done, and enhanced the story. In fact, with the narration making the story a bit better than it ought to be, I couldn't help thinking that taking it one step further and making it into a video game would make the story even better.

I can recommend this book if you like the zombie genre and aren't expecting too much. It entertained me, but it certainly didn't give me any "wow" moments.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Yes, zombie assasin is hokey

Over all the story is pretty good, but you have to get over this silly idea that you can find a zombie among the millions out there so their bereaved kin can get closure. There is an explanation for that, but I still find it difficult to get past. You see, these zombies aren't entirely dumb, just a tiny vestige of their past life-force is left, especially in the beginning they always got a "surprised" look during the action sequences.

The first (few) chapters were the most difficult to get past. I mean Henry Marko is supposed to have been doing this for years, but it doesn't look it. I'll reveal just a tiny bit of it in the next paragraph:

So he finds his lonesome target, and instead of just walking up to it, popping it in the head, he snipes at it, timing it so poorly it falls into a river and floats away. The strange bungling that happens afterwards just had be frowning and rolling my eyes. A few chapters down, I had to reading about how this character, seemingly out of the game "assassins creed", cartwheels and kicks a "bleached blonde" marine in the head. Right there I wanted to return the book. Not only that there is a marine who bleaches his hair during a zombipocalyse, but he died by human cartwheel.

But ok, I managed to get through that to read a very good action road trip type of story. There was depth to the story, but I still found it a bit too shallow, perhaps because the lack of characters (basically two). Marko's character has actually a very powerful back story behind it, about his wife and family and I really enjoyed reading about it, but these parts were very few.

Some reviewers have complained about references to the republican party, and the author probably should have just made up a new name, I found these references to be very fleeting and only at the start.

The narrator did a good job, but I found Wu's and Osbournes nasal voices to be very similar.

Over all, still a very good book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful