Publisher: Century (Trade Paperback – 15 November 2022)
Series: Standalone/Book One
Length: 317 pages
My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
The team of James Patterson and Brian Sitts present one of the most unique thrillers of 2022 with The Perfect Assassin, a sharp, exciting read that pays homage to a classic pulp hero.
Readers of this this blog will remember that I only started reading the works of the iconic and exceedingly productive James Patterson a couple of years ago and I have so far enjoyed several of his more interesting books. This includes Lost (co-written with James O. Born), 2 Sisters Detective Agency (co-written with Candice Fox), Blowback (co-written with Brendan DuBois) and one of my favourite books of 2022, Death of the Black Widow (co-written with J. D. Barker). I have had a great time with each of these cool reads, and when I heard the plot of one of Patterson’s latest books, The Perfect Assassin, I knew I had to read it. The Perfect Assassin is fifth collaboration between Patterson and fellow thriller author Brian Sitts and presents the reader with a really fun and intense story that had an intriguing connection to a classic adventure series from the past.
Dr Brandt Savage is an anthropology professor at the University of Chicago, leading a less-than ordinary life and often ignored by his colleagues and students. His only real plan in life is to disappear to some exotic locale on an upcoming research sabbatical. However, the sabbatical is going to become far more extreme than anything he imagined when he is kidnapped from the university campus and imprisoned inside an isolated and hidden warehouse.
Savage’s kidnapper is a beautiful and deadly killer, known only as Meed, who informs Savage that his life needs to change. Forcing him to undertake an intense and extended physical and mental training regimen, Meed begins to mould him into a completely new person, one who is stronger, smarter, and more dangerous than anything Savage could ever imagine. But even after six months of the most brutal training imaginable, Savage is far from ready for what is to come.
Meed is running from her own past and the dangerous people who turned her into a lethal killer. To survive, she needs Savage’s help, especially if she can use her training and conditioning to bring out the genetics of his legendary ancestor, the original Doc Savage. Savage is soon dragged into a new and terrifying world of killers, assassins and secret organisations, all of which are connected to his family’s terrible legacy. Forced to work with Meed, who has her own link to his family, Savage begins a new adventure worthy of his ancestor. But is he enough of a Savage to survive the experience?
This was a very fun and exciting novel from the team of Patterson and Sitts, and I am really glad I decided to read it. The two authors have come up with an awesome story for The Perfect Assassin, which blends a thrilling modern tales with some interesting connections to the classic Doc Savage pulp novels.
The Perfect Assassin’s story starts in a very cool and intense way when Brandt Savage is kidnapped by the mysterious Meed and finds himself being brutally trained to bring out his best self. The first half of the book sets up the entire novel very well, as it is split between chapters told from Savage’s perspective as he undergoes his training, and chapters from Meed’s perspective that either explore her childhood being raised in deadly assassin school or show her current missions against some of her former classmates. This results in quite the compelling narrative, especially as you begin to appreciate the contrasts between Meed’s past and her current actions with Savage. The authors introduce some big revelations about both primary characters and their ancestors that results in a complete change to the narrative format for the second half of the book, especially as there is a big focus on the protagonist’s connection to Doc Savage. There the narrative is firmly set in the present with the characters working together on a sped up and action-packed chase around the world that ended up with several big confrontations. Everything ends with a ton of action, and while the plot was wrapped up way too quick, you have so much fun getting there that you do not mind too much.
I felt that Patterson and Sitts’s writing style for The Perfect Assassin helped to enhance this awesome narrative, especially as everything was set up to compliment the fast-paced story. The author’s use of short, sharp chapters really moves the story along. At the same time, the blend of multiple perspectives, especially those shown from Meed’s childhood in the first half of the book, allows for them to efficiently tell a more complex tale, especially as it provides greater detail about Meed and her motivations in short and exciting order. Throw in a ton of action, some quick, but well received character development, and a good selection of sudden twists and revelations and you will be flying through this book in no time at all. I really appreciated the way that Patterson and Sitts set this book up and their style of writing, as well as the memorable narrative, made it very hard to put down, especially when you could keep seeing the end of the next chapter just around the corner every time you turned the page.
Easily one of the most interesting parts of this book is the fantastic connection that it bears to the classic pulp character of Doc Savage and associated media. Patterson and Sitts’s unique narrative serves as a multi-generational successor to the original novels, with the plot focussing on multiple aspects of the Doc Savage lore and characters. Not only are the main characters related to iconic Doc Savage figures, but the entire plot revolves around the consequences of Doc Savages origins, with aspects of it coming into play with the new Savage and his training, but also with the assassin school that Meed was raised in (which was such a cool setting btw). Now, I have to admit that I am not particularly familiar with the Doc Savage media (it is well before my time), but it was very clear that the authors loaded The Perfect Assassin with a ton of homages to the original books, with references to characters, settings, plot lines and other Doc Savage elements. At the same time, the authors seek to modernise the story to a degree, giving parts of the characters’ origins a darker and more morally ambiguous edge. These Doc Savage elements were made pretty accessible to new readers, and even those people who aren’t that familiar with the old-school character should be able to follow what is happening (a quick online search probably wouldn’t hurt though). Naturally, fans of the original pulp novels are going to have the most fun with this book, especially as they will be able to recognise all the references I missed. I did think that they might have slightly overdone some of the Doc Savage elements towards the end of the book, with a Doc Savage inspired speech and certain super-human abilities making the story way sillier than it needed to be. However, I ended up having a ton of fun with all these fantastic Doc Savage references in The Perfect Assassin, and I think quite a few readers will appreciate how Patterson and Sitts endeavoured to bring the one of the first superhuman characters into a whole new age.
Overall, The Perfect Assassin was one of the more unique and awesome thrillers of 2022 and I had an outstanding time getting through it. The great team of James Patterson and Brian Sitts produced a fantastic and compelling story that quickly draws you in and keeps you interested with its action, amazing developments, and distinctive relationship to a historic piece of action/adventure media. It will be great if Patterson and Sitts present some sequel to The Perfect Assassin in the future. If they do, I will be sure to grab a copy, especially if I am in the mood for some easy-to-read excitement.
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