If you’re looking for realism, Mark Greaney’s The Gray Man series is probably not for you. If you’re looking for pulse-pounding action entertainment, you could hardly do better.
Years ago, Eddie Gamboa went far beyond the second mile in Southeast Asia, to save the life of CIA operative Court Gentry. Later on, Eddie returned to his native Mexico, where he became a drug enforcement officer, one of the few honest ones trying to stop the cartels. Not surprisingly, that got him killed, along with most of his team.
As Ballistic begins, Court, now “The Gray Man,” international assassin without a country, is passing through Mexico, on the run after a pretty hairy mission. He stops by Eddie’s grave to pay his respects, and accidentally meets his widow. She insists he must come with her and the family to a memorial service in Puerto Vallarta the next day. But the service turns into a bloodbath when cartel gunmen start firing on the crowd. Court is able to save most of the family and get them away, but now he has two big problems – he has innocent people to protect with limited resources – and his picture was taken and published, meaning his many enemies around the world know where to find him.
The situation looks impossible, but impossible is what Court is good at.
I was about three-quarters of the way through Ballistic when I realized what it was. It’s A Fistful of Dollars.
Which is Yojimbo. Which is Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest.
The plot is a hardy perennial – and as far as I’m concerned, Ballistic is as effective a retelling as any.
This book has an interesting and somewhat strange subplot involving religion. Court is puzzled but attracted by the Catholic faith of his charges, especially that of Eddie’s beautiful sister. A very odd scene involves her explaining her faith to him in a very winsome way – but that testimony leads into to a sex scene, which was a little weird.
Nevertheless, I thought Ballistic worked very well. Cautions for language, violence, and mild sex.