In 1973, in the harsh eternal winter of Siberia, Jez Kord silently leaves his wife and comrade Anna behind in what was once a death camp built under Stalin’s rule.
Without a word to anyone else, he treks across the unforgiving plains that span beyond the militarized fences of the complex, determined to prove himself fit for duty; his mission-to-be: destroying the military corruption caused by the drug and flesh operations of local crime lords and the brutal machinations of the mafia. However, his task is hindered by friend and foe, leading to a desperate escape from Siberia for Jez and other members of his team.
Meanwhile, Anna has made way to her own assignment in Turkey, and only Jez knows the extent of the danger waiting for her there. Will the pair escape the ferocious claws of their criminal opponents? The plot thickens in The Man in the Blue Fez: A Birth of an Assassin Novel by Rik Stone.
It’s a fast-paced, yet steady stream of action from here on; the book pushes forward with a natural momentum as it follows an organic rise and fall of tension throughout. The whole read is a very fluid experience as you feel nudged into just another page, just another page, over and over. Impetus to stop is in no way helped by a very solid structure, with each chapter trimmed down and spiced up to deliver a lean and vicious experience full of gorgeous, sometimes heart-breaking detail at every turn.
It’s not difficult to slip into the shoes of protagonists Anna and Jez, no matter the situation. While you’re always rooting for them to escape their situation it’s sometimes difficult to watch them do so; in part as some of their opponents are far more understandable than you’d expect. The Birth of an Assassin series has always had a murky gray morality, and The Man in the Blue Fez really takes this theme to heart.
The read isn’t without a couple of snags; for one, the chronology of the read gets a little jumbled as time goes on and perspectives jump to-and-fro, which complicates a plot that already has plenty of branches and detours. Stone seems to have inherited this same unshakable habit that many historically-inclined authors have displayed over the years, expecting the majority of readers to be comfortable with assembling their own time-lines easily through the read. While plenty of readers will be able to cope, historical fiction aficionados coming to mind, some readers may struggle putting all the pieces in the right order quickly enough to not spend a few pages pondering the order of events after a switch.
Stone’s quietly brutal, beautifully evocative writing is something to behold and it’s great to see a regular output that doesn’t seem to have affected quality of the product at all. Moody, dramatic, and one of the punchiest titles of the series so far, The Man in the Blue Fez might be one of the best of a brilliant bunch in the Birth of an Assassin series, which has proven itself an excellent and diverse historical action-drama series.
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