343 pages. Occasional B&W art.
I have previously reviewed Hard Rain, the second book in the series about assassin John Rain.
John Rain - born to Japanese and American parents, raised in both countries, trained in Special Forces, Vietnam War veteran, former mercenary, now an assassin specializing in 'natural causes' - finds that retirement is not allowed.
As the novel begins, Rain is on the trail of a Middle Eastern arms supplier named Belghazi - a man the CIA wants eliminated. Kanezaki, a minor character from the previous novel, is now Rain's CIA contact. The target is expected to visit Macau for the gambling, so Rain has set up several weeks in advance to learn the territory.
In previous novels, the story usually starts with Rain assassinating someone, and the story spins off from there. This time, the story lies in the complications that impede the assignment: Who sent the other killer? What is Belghazi's mistress Delilah up to? And can the CIA ever really be trusted?
(One of the interesting concepts in this novel is the theory that intelligence services in democratic countries can never fight terrorism without breaking the rules - that is, taking on some projects "off the books." And the problem with "special" projects is that you can't coordinate them with people who don't know about them...)
As this book deals with an assassin, it does feature a measure of violence - both of the hand-to-hand and the gun varieties, plus the usual, calculated, very personal assassination. There is also some sex. Obviously, not a book for younger readers.
Compared to others in the series, this one got off to a slow start for me - especially with the "flash back" section explaining how Rain tried (and failed) to retire to Brazil. Also, Macau, Hong Kong and Brazil just aren't as interesting (at least here) as Japan was in the previous novels. Fortunately, the story kicked into full gear about a third of the way in, and I was hooked. It is also satisfying to see the protagonist change and grow over the course of the series.
This novel introduces two new continuing characters, and has a brief appearance by Tatsu of Japanese intelligence.
Wargamers looking for a plot will thoroughly enjoy the arms-deal scenario. The final battle would also make a good multi-player, skirmish-level wargame.
This is another good novel in this hit man series, and I again recommend this one.
(Published as Choke Point in the U.K.)
Reviewed by Editor in Chief Bill .