Review: Evan Smoak returns in Gregg Hurwitz's 'Hellbent'

Review: Evan Smoak returns in Gregg Hurwitz's 'Hellbent'
This cover image released by Minotaur shows "Hellbent," by Gregg Hurwitz. (Minotaur via AP)

“Hellbent: an Orphan X Novel” (Minotaur Books), by Gregg Hurwitz

Evan Smoak is known by many aliases, including Orphan X and the Nowhere Man. In “Hellbent,” the latest novel by Gregg Hurwitz featuring the former government assassin turned vigilante, a call for help quickly turns personal.

When Smoak receives a phone call from a particular number, he knows the person on the other end needs his help. He’s shocked to receive a video message from Jack Johns, his mentor and the man who recruited him into the elite Orphan program. He watches as Johns, a man he cherishes almost like a father, is brutally thrown out of an airplane in midair. Torn apart by his sudden death at the hands of another Orphan who wants nothing more than to eliminate all the others in the program, Smoak knows he has to stop a man named Van Sciver once and for all. It doesn’t help that this man responsible for Johns’ death is also the new head of the Orphan program.

Smoak retrieves a package that Johns left for him and is brutally attacked by a teenage girl. She has elite skills that show Smoak that she had also been trained by Johns. It soon dawns on him that the package is this young girl and he has to protect her from the killers closing in on both of them.

Hurwitz is a terrific thriller writer, and with this series he gets better with each installment. Amid the mayhem, he crafts a tender tale of what it truly means to be a parent and the importance of family. He also has a knack for moments of sheer fun and humor mixed with the action, making the characters believable.