Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On Target by Mark Greaney

book cover

On Target
by Mark Greaney

ISBN-13: 9780515148459
Mass Market Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Jove
Released: Sept. 2010

Source: Unrequested review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, modified from back cover:
Four years ago, Court Gentry was betrayed by his handlers in the CIA. To survive, he had to eliminate his own brothers in arms. Now, as a master assassin known as the Gray Man, he makes his living killing other people. But his own life is put in the crosshairs when his old CIA team leader, whom he thought dead, finds him.

The man will kill Court unless he agrees to a difficult assassination mission (offered by a Russian criminal boss), but with one crucial change: Instead of assassinating Sudan's president, he'll kidnap him instead and return his quarry to the very CIA team that turned on him. In return, the CIA will remove it's shoot-on-sight order on him.

With his ruthless Russian employer on one side, his former CIA team on the other, and an impossible mission ahead, Court Gentry would kill to get out of this one alive...

On Target is a military-type thriller that reads like an action movie in novel form. The target audience appears to be men. The sole female character was a damsel-in-distress who was fatally (if not for Court) naive and determined to ignore all sensible advice. I suspect, though, that male readers will sympathize with Court being the hero while dealing with an incomprehensible woman.

While I liked that Court had a moral standard and a human side, he came across as way too soft to be an assassin-for-hire. He refused to kill anyone unless he absolutely couldn't survive their attempts to kill him. This included his targets. The plot also had logic holes, like a superior said that it was worth the deaths of everyone on the team to get the kidnapped president out of the country, yet he's the last one in line to be extracted (thus causing more danger and complications).

However, the novel was packed with non-stop action and close escapes from mortal danger. If you want a fast-paced, action-packed, suspense-filled read, this novel will give it to you. Also, the author clearly researched the details about the job, locations, and culture, and that helped bring the story alive in my imagination. Yet some aspects still didn't come across as realistic because they're exaggerated. (For example, I've read the author's source for how to tell if a person is lying, which that book says isn't a sure thing, but the author makes Court a no-fail expert at it.)

There was no explicit sex. There was a lot of cussing, especially once you get into the story. There was a lot of violence, though it wasn't very gory. Overall, it was an exciting action thriller, and I'm guessing that men who enjoy action movies will probably enjoy this novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
At a pharmacy he bought a pack of acetaminophen tablets and a bottled water. He'd been injured a few months back, a bullet through the thigh and a knife blade into his gut. The pain had lessened by the week. The body had incredible power to heal, so much greater than that of the mind. Court had grown dependent on the pills and injections: Vicodin and OxyContin, Demerol and Dilaudid. A surgeon in Nice had kept him supplied since the operation to clean and close his abdominal wound, and Gentry had popped pills each day since. But he'd purposely left them behind when he boarded the freighter; he'd gone over a week now without his meds, and this self-imposed detox was making him miserable.

The acetaminophen was no substitute for a heavy narcotic, but his mind found comfort in the ritual of swallowing the tablets nonetheless.

Three hours after leaving the boat, he checked in to a Chinese-run budget hotel in a narrow alley off Parnell Street, a half mile north of the river. His room was dark and dank and smelled of mold and frying grease; the restaurant two floors below him blew the stench through the vents. A near-horizontal rain beat steadily on the dirty window but failed to clean it; the oily grime covered the inside of the glass.


Laura Fabiani said...

I like action-packed thrillers but sometimes the cussing and violence gets to me.

Genre Reviewer said...


Yes, same here. :)

Anonymous said...

agree with your review except for one point.....about Ellen
if a lawyer is suddenly pushed into that mad arena as shown in the book, i am sure very few would show the strength of character and determination shown by Ellen.
I have it (on experience of other people) that a person unused to sudden, mindless violence finds it very difficult to cope with it.
Also the 'super'hero's thing with drugs was an interesting side plot.
And....i really liked the president...of sudan (as a character only)

Genre Reviewer said...


My problem with damsel-in-distress Ellen was not so much that she had trouble coping or that she made bad decisions but that she never seemed to make good decisions. She just kept making things worse and worse and taking others down with her.

I'm pretty sure most women don't enjoy reading a story where the one female character is stupidly stubborn ("Drink the water or I'll die? But it's dirty!") and has to be saved from herself.