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Island of the Assassin Kindle Edition
"Depth of Lies" by E. C. Diskin
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Assassins are by nature shadowy figures. Although a fixture of the spy novel, the hired killer tends to receive only superficial characterization; most authors either fetishize them for their lethality or dismiss them as psychopaths. But in Kai Landrie, Roccasalvo has imagined an assassin with a soul, capable of both regret and redemption. Roccasalvo takes Landrie and his profession seriously. The reader, in turn, is forced to consider the full implications of Landrie work, and by extension the last decade of American foreign policy.
The result is a compelling portrait of a solitary man who focuses his talents on one unusual goal: killing Islamic terrorists before they can attack civilians. Landrie relishes his work, and argues his killings are just, an necessary evil to save innocent lives. Even so, he is troubled. Enter Peter Quince, an urbane priest-novelist, who becomes Landrie confessor and, as a result, a CIA target.
In telling their tale, Roccasalvo deftly explores the darker corners of America's counterterrorism strategy: drone strikes, warrantless surveillance, targeted killing, extraordinary rendition, coercive interrogation. It all boils down to one question: can violence (to people or ideals) ever be used for the greater good?
Landrie and Quince's conversations function as a kind of Socratic dialogue, in which Roccasalvo unpacks the moral implications of the "War on Terror.” Even as he is pursued by the CIA, Quince's efforts to stage his farcical thriller, The Thirteenth Floor, operates as a clever framing device and gives ASSASSIN's heavy themes a touch of levity.
ASSASSIN is a thrilling, thought-provoking read by one of the great unsung prose stylists of our day. Using sparkling sentences reminiscent of Graham Greene, Roccasalvo has written a thriller with a conscience. Highly recommended.