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The Assassin's Prayer Paperback – January 14, 2014
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About the Author
Mark Allen is an author who specializes in tough, uncompromising fiction that slams like a bullet to the brain or a punch to the guts, yet never loses sight of the heart and soul. He uses words like a scalpel, carving through the surface layers to rip open the dark, bleeding secrets beneath.
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When we meet him, Kain is contracted to kill off another organized crime "made man" of some considerable status, and while the job goes mostly as planned, there are complications involving some innocent witnesses. Kain has vowed to never harm innocents (part of the "prayer" which gives the book its title), and so walks away from tying off these loose ends, an act that has serious consequences for him later on.
Kain also runs into an old flame from years gone by, and this kindles some old passions he thought were long-dead. There's a lot of conflicting emotions going on, as Kain tries to sort out his feelings for this old flame while still hurting from the loss of his wife.
To further complicate matters, the CIA - who never drop a grudge - sends one of their top "operators" after Kain, because apparently his departure from the Agency was less than mutually accepted. The operator who goes after Kain is a real sumbitch, and he's got a whole cadre of other sumbitches along with him.
All of this comes together to create a pretty action-packed, dramatic novel. Allen is a big fan of the action genre, and heaps it on with gusto. The violence is bloody and unforgiving, and some of the fights are spectacularly gruesome. If you're not into vivid depictions of violence and gore, this may not be the book for you.
Taken as a whole, TAP is a solid debut novel. There are a couple of major coincidences that form plot points in the story, and they'll either make or break a reader's enjoyment of the novel; either you'll accept them and move on, or you'll lose your suspension of disbelief and fall out of the story. I was willing to carry on and swallow the coincidences, but I'm sure it'll be a deal-breaker for some readers.
There is also a lot of emotional conflict, most of it tied to both the death of Kain's wife and the rediscovery of his long-lost flame, but there's also some deep-seated angst regarding his former best friend, whom Kain now despises. There were several times I just wanted Kain to cowboy up and quit weeping into his whiskey. If I wanted to be cheeky, I'd refer to Kain as an "Emo Assassin", but since the story moves at a pretty brisk clip, the maudlin moments don't slow the story down, and I think it helps distinguish Kain from the legion of near-robotic Grim Hired Assassins out there. Some other reviewers clearly liked a more complicated, emotional protagonist, while others found it annoying. As usual, your mileage may vary.
So if you're interested in a cool Hired-Killer Thriller, consider picking up THE ASSASSIN'S PRAYER. And if you're such a cheapskate that you don't want to invest $2.99 on the book, check out some of his other works, such as "The Killing Question" and "Resurrection Bullets". Allen has quite the collection of varied short stories, and I'm sure there's something for everyone.
In the tradition of action-adventure stories like those describing the exploits of Mack Bolan, protagonist Travis Kain cuts a wide and bloody swath through his targets as well as anyone who gets in his way (either by choice or unfortunate circumstance).
Unlike those action-adventure books I read through the 80s and 90s however, Allen also gives us the chance to look behind the curtain, and into the mind of his protagonist, Travis Kain, who is more than a simple trigger puller. Allen builds and maintains an empathy for Kain that is undeniable (and at some points confusing/conflicting, given the ankle-deep gore that splash readers during a number of the explicit scenes of violent mayhem). This duality makes for a delightful guilty pleasure.
I can't wait for more fiction from the mind of Mark Allen, my favorite 'Chef du Slaughter'!