The Kingdom of Assassins by Erik Mackenzie is the exciting and impressively detailed story of an NYPD detective, Mike Maclaymore, who teams up with a Saudi princess to stop a terrorist attack in New York City. It traverses the globe between New York, the Middle East, and Europe, covering every angle of the operation. Throughout the book, there are many twists and surprises, as it is unclear who exactly is responsible for the threat. In this way, Kingdom of Assassins moves like a whodunnit murder mystery as much as a rolling political thriller, as the clues unravel fast and furiously, leading to a surprising climax.
Though the premise of stopping a terrorist attack in the ticking clock vein clearly isn’t a wholly original set-up for a political thriller, in this case it’s a testament to Mackenzie’s research and his aptitude as a writer that raises The Kingdom of Assassins over other books in this popular genre with this sort of storyline. Unnecessarily perhaps, the book is set ten years in the future, and therefore the book very much reads like a scenario that could happen today. This is a truly international thriller, and Mackenzie definitely knows the terrain of each of these locales, and the cultures of all of his characters. An impressive amount of research must have gone into writing this novel, but there is not so much detail as to bog down the story.
The scenario is not mundanely black or white either. Though there are obvious classically-turned villains in the novel, they are not one-dimensional. Another trope of thrillers is for characters to be perfect to a fault: overly skilled, overly beautiful, overly athletic, overly cunning. Mackenzie’s royal princess may be an incredible character – a trained spy and martial artist – but she is still believable. Likewise, the American protagonist is flawed and fully realized, dealing with a broken marriage, among other issues. Mackenzie weaves in enough backstory to make his characters seem like living, breathing people, even as they deal with world-changing events.
This isn’t entirely a character-driven novel, but moreover, it’s a thriller in the truest sense of the word, and there are enough character details to understand each persons’ motivation. In short, the detail makes the novel more suspenseful, and as a result, never drags. In some places, there may be some extraneous dialog, which repeats ideas that have already been expressed, so that could have been trimmed down without affecting the flow of the story with a professional copy edit. The book cover could use some tweaking as well (the book trailer is a lot better). Overall, these issues are minor and don’t affect the book’s presentation to readers.
Erik Mackenzie is definitely an assured writer in the Tom Clancy vein, and likely has bestsellers in his future. If you’re in the mood for a page-turning international thriller, The Kingdom of Assassins is a highly satisfying and thrilling read.
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