The Final Hour by Tom Wood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book#7 of Victor The Assassin series in a masterclass in crafting the high stakes spy genre, which has been converted into bang, bang, shoot, shoot of late. The shadowy world of spying and assassination is not a high stakes James Bond movie. It is a rather mundane, slow chess match where the opening moves are all about setting up your pieces in such a way to take advantage of and exploit your opponents weakness whenever revealed.
Antonio Alvarez is one such operator. Victor spectacularly screwed up Alvarez's op in Book#1 of the series when we are introduced to Victor. Since then Alvarez has been biding his time and waiting for revenge. He knows he cannot go after Victor while he's in the Company and Victor is being protected by the #2 in the Company's clandestine affairs - Ronald Proctor.
So when Alvarez gets his chance to move to the top of the food chain as the director of ONI, he's finally in a position to do something about Victor. Alvarez is a straight guy who is firmly on the side of right and believes that any American blood spilled should be avenged and Victor being supported by the Company after spilling American blood does not really sit well with him. So now when Proctor and Muir are at their weakest, Alvarez pounces. He sets up the chess board with the decks stacked on his side and sets himself as a bait to get close to Victor.
The key thing to know about Alvarez is that he identifies Victor's Achilles heel and then goes for the jugular to destroy Victor when he's exposed.
On the other side of the equation, we have Victor chaffing at the leash put on him by the Company and SIS. Victor has never been good at following orders or letting others tell him what to do so he wants out from under both his masters. We also see a side of Victor where he is trying to find a hobby that suits him once he has left behind his life, we see him at a MMA gym, making a confession at a church and getting a piano lesson in different places. While these attempts are happening, we see the different facets that Victor allows people to see about him. He changes his personality and his body language as easily as a chameleon.
Raven and Victor meetup after a year with Raven recovering from Victor's attempt at poisoning her. Well it should be said that Victor spared her rather than her surviving. But Raven is now fighting to get fit and stay off the radar of her powerful organization which wants to either put a bullet in her or get her to work for them again depending on who's bargaining with Raven.
Tom Wood has with this book, turned the page on Victor's life, while we get a glimpse of Victor's present life, his past is still tightly shut with Woods hinting at it tantalizingly but never revealing any details. This was a change in pace from other books where Victor has a defined mission and we see him plan and go about achieving it. In this one, the predator is the prey and in a digitally connected world, we see the pains and the effort that he takes to keep himself hidden.
New characters, new places and new sinister players are introduced in this book, which sets up the story for the next book. In the world of shadows, allies can easily become your enemy as easy as your enemy becomes your ally. As Victor says to Raven at one point, "You are not my friend, but an acquaintance" and that in itself that Victors loyalty is to himself and no one else.
He's the ultimate lone wolf!!