Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 2 February 2021)
Series: Orphan X – Book Six
Length: 13 hours and 42 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
One of the most exciting and impressive thriller series out there returns with the sixth entry in Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series, Prodigal Son.
Over the last couple of years I have really been expanding my love for the thriller genre and I have been getting into several cool series, many of which have been spectacular reads. One of my favourites at the moment is the fantastic Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz. The Orphan X series follows protagonist Evan Smoak, the titular Orphan X, a lethal and highly capable special operator who was recruited out of an orphanage when he was 12 and trained in every conceivable aspect of combat and spycraft. After breaking from the Orphan Program and moving to Los Angeles, Evan has taken on a new moniker as The Nowhere Man, a vigilante who helps those in desperate situations as penance for his former life as an assassin. I had a lot of fun reading the fourth book in the series, Out of the Dark, which saw Evan go up against the corrupt President of the United States. I also deeply enjoyed the fifth book, Into the Fire, which was one of my favourite books from the first half of 2020 and one of the best audiobooks of the year. As a result, I have been really looking forward to reading the new Orphan X novel for a while now and I was excited to see what sort of fascinating story Prodigal Son would have.
After successfully taking down the shadowy forces behind the Orphan Program, Evan Smoak is ready to retire. With an unofficial pardon from the new President, all Evan has to do to stay off the government’s radar is to stop his activities as The Nowhere Man and live a normal life. However, the past once again returns to haunt Evan when he receives a phone call from a woman claiming to be his long lost mother, asking for his help.
Shocked and rattled by the revelations, Evan’s curiosity and need for family drives him to meet with this woman and discover what she wants. After tracking her down, Evan is surprised at the woman’s one request: to find and help Andrew Duran, a nobody living in LA whose life has gone off the rails. Working a dead-end job at an impound lot, Andrew witnesses the mysterious death of a former drone pilot, and now finds himself being hunted by a pair of brutal killers.
While initially reluctant to take the case and risk his pardon, Evan’s interest is piqued when he barely survives a hellfire missile strike on Andrew’s house. Digging deeper in the circumstances around the murder at the impound lot, Evan begins to uncover a deadly conspiracy involving a ruthless weapons contractor and his next generation drone weaponry. However, the biggest dangers to Evan may come from a direction he would never expect, as his new client, Andrew, brings up unwanted memories from his traumatic past. What is Andrew’s connection to Evan’s mother and his childhood and how will an emotionally compromised Evan save everyone important to him?
Wow, that was impressive. Hurwitz has once again come up with an epic and exciting Orphan X novel that combines high-octane action, with a fantastic plot, some excellent characters and an intense amount of growth and emotional turmoil surrounding the series’ protagonist. The combination of this results in a deeply addictive and extremely captivating read that ended up getting a full five-star rating from me, and it proved extremely hard to put Prodigal Son down.
This latest Orphan X novel contains a particularly clever and enjoyable narrative that sees Evan once again engage in a deadly mission as The Nowhere Man, although this time he is drawn in for far more personal reasons than usual. Hurwitz starts Prodigal Son off with a fun introduction, as Evan attempts to live a peaceful life in retirement (which goes about as well as expected), before his curiosity at the cliffhanger ending of the previous novel, Into the Fire, drives him to seek out the woman claiming to be his mother. This in turn leads him to attempt to save another lost soul from dangerous forces, as he goes up against a sociopathic tech genius and their ruthless assassins (as well as some repugnant bastards he encounters along the way). The rest of the story progresses at an intense and enjoyable pace as Evan attempts to get to the bottom of the plot that his client finds himself in. This results in several really impressive fight scenes, including a particularly brutal sequence in a impound lot (I will never, ever think about putting a torch in my mouth again). Hurwitz really has a talent for writing action scenes, and I loved all the ruthless detail and fun moments that he features within them (never bring a Tesla to a gun fight). In addition, there are some cleverly written infiltration scenes that I had fun with, especially when it comes to Evan breaking into some very high-security places with some elaborate disguises and a vape pen. All of this comes to a head with an explosive conclusion which, while a tad predictable, was still a fun way to end the book and should make for some interesting future entries in the series. I really enjoyed getting through Prodigal Son’s story and I found it to be particularly addictive and fun.
One of the most impressive and distinguishing highlights of the Orphan X series has always been its compelling and complex protagonist, Evan Smoak. Evan is a highly trained professional assassin who learnt a meticulous code of honour and responsibility as a child and now seeks to redeem himself by helping those in trouble. Thanks to his troubled and complicated past, as well as some mild OCD (brought on by a need for perfection in his work), Evan has been a particularly compelling character to follow, and there has been an intriguing subplot about his troubles connecting to other people. However, the emotional turmoil hidden within the character really comes to a head in Prodigal Son when Evan is reunited with the woman who abandoned him as a baby. Hurwitz really dives deep into the character’s psyche for this latest novel, presenting an intricate and powerful picture of a conflicted person, one who is torn between his long-repressed desire for family and to fit in and his training to be independent and alone. This emotional turmoil becomes even more pronounced when several secrets and revelations come to the surface, and this really throws Evan for a lot of the book. These added emotional distractions prove to be an intriguing part of the book’s plot, especially as it dulls Evan’s usual keen senses and amps up the risk during his missions. Hurwitz also spends time diving back into Evan’s childhood, including through a series of flashbacks to when he was first recruited to the Orphan Program, and it was fascinating to see more of his early life, especially when it impacts on his current state of mind. I also quite enjoyed the way in which Hurwitz explores Evan’s relationship with several other characters, and it was fascinating to see more of this killer’s paternal instincts and cravings come to life, especially after he finally comes face to face with his mother. In addition, Hurwitz also explores his protagonist’s mentality when it comes to retirement, and it proved interesting to see how Evan reacts when he is once again exposed to danger and violence. This is easily some of the best character development and exploration that Hurwitz has ever done, and I really appreciated the dramatic edge that it gave to Prodigal Son’s story.
Aside from Evan, this novel is filled with a selection of amazing and well-developed characters. The most prominent of these are probably Evan’s client, Andrew, and his long-lost mother, Veronica. Both serve as intriguing catalysts to Evan’s own development, and it was fascinating to see how their introduction to the plot impacted the protagonist’s mentality, especially when their various secrets come to life. Andrew in particular proves to be a great addition to the plot, and I liked to see another one of Evan’s clients whose life is both upended and improved by his interactions with The Nowhere Man. Several recurring characters from the previous Orphan X series also have some fantastic roles in this book, and I really enjoyed seeing more of Joey, a former Orphan Program participant and master hacker, who Evan treats like a little sister/daughter. Joey is a very fun character whose style, personality and expertise in all things technological strongly clash with Evan, but together they form a great team, and they have some amusing interactions throughout the book, especially when Evan finds out that Joey is dating and instantly enters protective dad mode. There is also the usual inclusion of the other residents of Evan’s apartment complex, including his love interest Mia and her young son Peter. While many of the characters in this complex seem a bit weird or one-dimensional, they actually prove to be an intriguing part of the book’s plot, especially as Evan is able to reconcile his own emotional issues with some of the problems they are facing. This is particularly true when it comes to Mia and Peter, and there are some interesting developments on that relationship throughout Prodigal Son.
Aside from these excellent side characters, Hurwitz has also come up with some fun villains for this latest novel that Evan needs to contend with. The main three villains of the story are a pretty unique group of antagonists, including the brother-sister team of Declan and Queenie Gentner, contracted assassins who have been hired to kill Andrew and other witnesses to their boss’s plot. Declan and Queenie are an interesting and sadistic pair of killers who prove to be a bit of a challenge for Evan throughout the book. I really appreciated that Hurwitz spent the time developing both of them, especially Declan, who has some major childhood traumas, and I felt that their arc throughout Prodigal Son was rather clever. The main villain of this story is the Gentner’s employer, known as the Doctor, who has access to some rather dangerous technology. The Doctor has a very James Bond villain feel to him, right down to having an odd and distinguishing physical characteristic and a sinister vision for the future. While a little more mystery or a twist about who the Doctor ultimately was might have worked out well, I still thought they were a great villain. I particularly liked the inclusion of all the drones that they used, and it was really fascinating to see how the author envisioned the future of warfare and how a trained agent like Evan would deal with them. Overall, there are some great side characters in this novel, and I look forward to seeing how Hurwitz utilises them in future Orphan X entries.
Like I did with the previous novel in the Orphan X series, I ended up choosing to listen to Prodigal Son’s audiobook format. This was a fantastic decision as this version of Prodigal Son was well put together and proved to be an excellent way to enjoy this amazing story. Prodigal Son has a decent run time of 13 hours and 42 minutes, which dedicated listeners can get through fairly quickly, and was narrated by the talented Scott Brick. Brick is an exceptional narrator who has lent his voice to an impressive catalogue of audiobooks, including several excellent thrillers, such as the Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series (I enjoyed his narration for The Malta Exchange and The Warsaw Protocol) and the rest of the Orphan X novels. For Prodigal Son, Brick once again gives an excellent performance, providing the characters with some tough voices which fit each of the perfectly and helped to bring the story to life. I ended up getting really wrapped up in this audiobook and I felt that it was an amazing way to experience and step inside of this fantastic novel.
Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz is an exceptional and powerful read that serves a great new addition to the amazing Orphan X series. I had an outstanding time listening to this fantastic new book, especially with its epic story and terrifically deep characters, and this is swiftly becoming one of my favourite thriller series. Prodigal Son comes highly recommended and I cannot wait to see how Hurwitz continues this in the future.