3 out of 4 stars
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I don’t usually read political thrillers. I like the genre but it’s not exactly my cup of tea, you know? I’d much rather read a fantasy novel. Or ten. I like escapism and swords.
That being said, James E. Doucette’s The Last Assassination is a book I enjoyed enough to give it 3 out of 4 stars. While it wasn’t unexpected that it would get that rating, it was unexpected that I would even read it.
The novel is a political thriller filled with assassination, spies and intrigue. When Jesse Plotnick is accused of blowing up a hospital in Syria after a mission gone wrong, his father, Mark, sets out to find out the truth. Converging with this is one half of the Dagger, Phillip Boudreaux, and his quest for revenge after the death of his family members at the hands of terrorist factions.
To summarise it more would be to give away the game. The book is fast-paced and moves from point to point with a precision worthy of the skill of the characters in it. I really appreciated this because my concern was mainly about the central mystery surrounding the bombing of the Syrian hospital and how it happened. That there was very little to distract me from that boded well for the novel from the beginning, and I enjoyed the way it continued throughout the novel.
A benefit of this was that it allowed Doucette to work on his characters to an extent where even those with the least time on the page got some form of backstory and development. From the Russian officer, Petrov, to Phillip’s wife, Samantha, I felt like these minor characters had a life and a dynamic appeal to them. However, it did mean that a lot of it was given through exposition, so the relationships felt flat even as the characters came to life.
Another great thing about the book was the level of detail that Doucette puts into the central plot and how meticulous the planning is. There are so many moving parts but he never seems to lose track of it. In fact, the novel is so tightly plotted that the room that is left for error is left entirely unfilled as each piece of the puzzle falls into place neatly.
I say neatly, but that’s not it, exactly. It’s almost like Doucette took the conclusion of the mystery and worked backward from it until he got to a sensible starting point. The result, of course, is a plot twist I didn’t see coming. It was a good twist too because the author laid down so many red herrings throughout the novel that it was completely hidden until the reveal. When it came to light, however, it made sense given what we know about the characters and how their values shaped them.
That being said, the book wasn’t all perfect. Despite the pacing and the planning, I felt like some of it was more told to the reader than shown, reducing the emotional impact. As a result, events that should have had more of an impact didn’t, leaving the book feeling more than a little uneven. This was a downside because as mentioned, it meant that the human aspect of the story that involved the characters’ relationships felt flat and static while the more exciting bits like the assassinations Phillip engages in were muted at best.
James E. Doucette has something of a conundrum in The Last Assassination. Any other book with its flaws would get a lower rating from me, but the narrative points and character development somehow work for this novel. I think, if you’re looking for a thriller that’s more interested in developing individual characters and playing a political puzzle game, this is the book for you. It’s fun, quick, and I think it’s pretty good despite the parts that left me unsatisfied.
Check it out and happy reading, y’all!
The Last Assassination
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