Tag Archives: The Gray Man

‘Back Blast,’ by Mark Greaney

Court realized that people here in the U.S. were nicer to strangers than in the other places he’d traveled in the past five years–when they weren’t shooting you in the ribs, that was. And while Court had no problem with politeness, for a man who lived his life moving through society without leaving a trace, this was problematic.

In a fictional series, it seems to me, the reader expects a certain familiarity. The story ought to be the same kind of story as those that preceded it. But it can’t be too familiar. Mark Greaney does a very good job rejiggering the formula in his Gray Man novels, starring white hat international assassin Courtland Gentry, formerly of the CIA, now hunted by them.

Back Blast provides a dramatic new wrinkle — Court is finally back in the US. For five years, he’s been a man without a country, living in the shadows on several continents, taking contract hit jobs (but only against bad guys). He’s a consummate martial artist, a dead shot, and a master of camouflage — even in urban environments. But now, thanks to a grateful friend in Mossad, Court is back home. He’s in the Washington DC area, and he’s identified his target — Denny Carmichael, operations chief of the CIA. Denny put the kill order out on Court, and Court wants to know why. He wants it fixed. He wants to come home.

But Denny has deep and dark secrets to protect. His resources are almost unlimited. He has a plan — a devious and ruthless one — not only to kill or capture Court, but to make Court the scapegoat for his own crimes. It’s a David and Goliath fight — but this David is no simple shepherd boy. He does, however, have a big shock in store for him.

Lots of fun. Very satisfying. Be prepared to suspend your disbelief, of course, and enjoy the ride.

Cautions for language and violence, but not too bad. Recommended, like the whole series.

‘Dead Eye,’ by Mark Greaney

Moving along through Mark Greaney’s implausible but enjoyable The Gray Man series, we come to Dead Eye. I have to say that, though the temptation to fall into tropes is probably strong, author Greaney manages to keep the concept fresh.

The concept, in case you missed previous reviews, is this: Court Gentry is the world’s greatest assassin. Former military, former CIA, he was suddenly targeted for death by his former employers, he doesn’t know why. Now he lives as a professional hit man, but he only kills people he considers genuinely evil. He is totally isolated, with no family, no living friends, no fixed address.

Like all action heroes, Court is effectively infallible, always one step ahead of his enemies, capable of sustaining injuries that would stop a lesser man. But as Dead Eye begins, he makes a mistake. He’d be dead because of it except for the intervention of an unexpected ally – a member of the hit squad sent to kill him, who suddenly changes sides. Court is grateful but skeptical. The guy seems a little off.

His savior, Russell Whitlock (code name Dead Eye) is almost Court’s clone. He moves like him, thinks like him, even resembles him physically. And he’s been a student of Court’s career. He wants to team up. Together, he says, they’ll be unstoppable.

But that’s not what Whitlock really wants. His true plan is devious and ruthless. Court rushes through northern Europe to catch and stop him, forming an uneasy alliance with a female Mossad analyst, until the Gray Man and Dead Eye meet in one final showdown.

Dead Eye was, like all the Gray Man books, completely preposterous. But highly readable (in spite of some slips in diction). I highly recommend Dead Eye, if you don’t mind some bad language and lots of violence.

‘Ballistic,’ by Mark Greaney

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.

‘On Target, by Mark Greaney

I’m grateful to my friend Mark for recommending Mark Greaney’s Gray Man series of thrillers. Thrillers aren’t usually my cup of tea, but these are very satisfying.

In the first book, The Gray Man, the hero, Court Gentry, was kind of a force of nature. Single-minded, relentless, highly skilled, this legendary assassin will let nothing stop him from completing a job – so long as he thinks the job is justified. No odds deter him, no setback dismays him, no injury stops him. It was very exciting, but a little fantastic. On Target, the second book in the series, mixes the formula up a little.

This time, Court has weaknesses. Still feeling some pain from the horrific injuries he suffered in The Gray Man, he’s gotten hooked on pain killers. He’s been reduced to taking work from a man he distrusts – a Russian who idolizes assassins. But the target is a “worthy” kill – the president of Somalia, a venal monster with the blood of thousands on his hands.

Only the game changes when one of his old CIA comrades contacts him. They know about the deal, and want Court to alter it somewhat. If he helps them kidnap the president, bring him out for trial, Court will be reinstated. The “Shoot On Sight” order that now stands against him will be revoked. He’ll be part of the team again.

How can Court say no?

In the days that follow, everything will go wrong. Court will be diverted on a quixotic detour to save a lady in distress. Friends will become enemies, and vice versa. Never has Court been so alone, in so much danger, so far from any help.

This book almost defines the phrase, “page-turner.”

The tension never lets up. This new, slightly vulnerable Court is more interesting than the earlier one. There’s considerable pathos in his constant fight, not only to survive, but to do what’s right – if he can just identify it among all the lies.

Highly recommended. Cautions for violence and language.

‘The Gray Man,’ by Mark Greaney

As hard to criticize as a roller coaster, and just about as true to life. That’s The Gray Man, by Mark Greaney.

A friend recommended the series, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s a fun ride, and a nice time off for the critical brain.

Court Gentry is “The Gray Man,” a legendary contract assassin. Former US military, burned CIA operative, he now kills for hire – but never targets a man he doesn’t consider worthy of death (remember, this isn’t about realism). He never misses, and never gets caught. He is rarely even seen.

But now he’s a hunted man. A powerful African dictator wants him dead, and is offering both money and threats in exchange for his head (literally). A nefarious international security organization has pulled out all the stops, sending about twenty highly trained teams to hunt him down. If one can’t get him, another will. On top of that, they’ve kidnapped Court’s boss and his family, including his two granddaughters. To save his family, the boss will betray Court.

A sensible man would just go into hiding until it blows over – there’s a deadline. But Court isn’t like that. When the deadline passes, the granddaughters will be murdered. Court will not stand for that. He will traverse hundreds of miles, kill dozens of men, and sustain wounds that would stop or kill another man. But he will not fail in his rescue mission, even for the man who betrayed him.

As you can tell, this story is way over the top – the plot involves the kind of suspension of reason you usually find in action movies (I’m sure there’ll be a movie of this one). I didn’t believe the story for a second. But it was fun, like the aforementioned roller coaster. Pure entertainment, with rising tension and all the dramatic buttons pushed at precisely the right moments. For sheer action reading fun, it would be hard to beat The Gray Man.

I’ll probably read more. After all, my massive brain requires a rest now and then.