"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Last Assassin

TITLE: The Last Assassin
AUTHOR: Barry Eisler

John Rain, the half-Japanese, half-Caucasian professional assassin seen in Eisler's previous books, finds himself more socialized than ever, a situation that brings its own dangers. Learning that Midori, his one-time lover (he'd killed her father in the first book, Rain Fall), has given birth to a son -- his son -- he's determined to be part of their lives, but first, he must eliminate the threat to them, and him, posed by the Japanese gangster who holds a grudge, again from an earlier book. To this end, he reluctantly enlists the aid of Dox, an old sniper buddy from his days serving in Nam for the US (and working for the CIA), and Delilah, an Israeli agent with whom he's had an on-again, off-again affair.

Complicated? Yes. Absorbing? Definitely. The novelty of the first book -- that of the detailed depiction of a paid killer with a code of ethics -- has worn a bit thin, but the involvement of other characters (Dox is a breath of fresh air) and other povs (mainly Delilah's) add variety and help keep the series from going stale. Still, I can't help feeling Eisler meant it when he said somewhere that he has an end point in mind and I suspect it will come soon. Rain is a tough character to maintain over time. To stay interesting, he has to grow as a person, which means in this case, develop emotional ties, and a conscience. And it's those very things that will make him like many other characters populating suspense novels.

Eisler knows his stuff, and the details of the hunt is what makes this book, as the others in the series, unique, along with the unusual perspective of a man who kills for a living, all for a good cause, or so he tells himself. He allows himself to be used as a tool for what he hopes are the right reasons, and it's the psychology of Rain and his part of the world that keeps me hooked on this series.