The Killer Ascendant
A “literary page-turner” and a Wall Street Journal annual Summer Reading Roundup pick!
“Barry Eisler has enjoyed phenomenal success with his series of John Rain thrillers. Himself a former CIA agent, Mr Eisler brings detailed knowledge of the covert world and his books’ verisimilitude boosts their appeal… Aficionados will find plenty to enjoy: the action is slick and fast, and the plot tightly choreographed.”
“For a high-end assassin contemplating life changes, friends may be both assets and liabilities.
In his sixth John Rain thriller, Eisler has let his killer-for-hire protagonist grow emotionally. In terms of his budding romance with Mossad agent Delilah, that’s a plus, although Rain finds his burgeoning sense of peace and relaxation unnerving. Such attachments prove dangerous, as well, when Rain’s associate, Dox, another hit man for hire, is taken hostage. Dox’s captor, former CIA operative Jim Hilger, wants Rain to do three hits for him, each on a deadline and each supposed to look like a natural death, Rain’s specialty. Although Rain rightly suspects a set-up, and that the third hit will be him, his loyalty to Dox, who had saved Rain’s life, draws him in. Killing used to be simply a job, and the fact that the first two hits seem to be innocent family men should be of no consequence. But Delilah has pointed out that Rain has choices, and that his choices have real-world repercussions. So when the half-Japanese Vietnam vet feels his inner killer taking over, he must contemplate what he is giving up, whichever way he chooses. Although this thriller edges the fascinating Rain series closer to its seemingly inevitable end, it is still full of fast, fun fighting and the kind of spycraft that will have readers watching for tails on the street. Action that jumps from Bali to Paris, San Francisco to Saigon, New York to Rotterdam, and that involves not only Rain’s personal quests but also a possible dirty bomb, keep the story moving. A bang-up finale may happen too fast, but the teamwork involved plays up Rain’s crisis.
Along with the high-tech gadgetry and low-tech blood and guts, Eisler has also let us into the head of a brilliant and extremely conflicted protagonist.”
“Pity John Rain. All the Japanese American contract killer wants to do is retire and live happily with his girlfriend, a beautiful Mossad agent. But little things keep getting in the way. For instance, his close friend and sometime partner, Dox, has been kidnapped. The abductor is Jim Hilger, a CIA agent whose schemes have been foiled by Rain a few times in the past, and who is now looking to use Dox’s life as leverage to force Rain to commit a series of assassinations. But Rain is nobody’s fool: he knows he can’t trust Hilger to live up to his end of the deal, and there’s only one way to make sure Dox stays healthy. Readers may wonder how many stories there are to tell about a hit man who wants to get out of the life, but so far Eisler hasn’t run out of believable scenarios. This one is as good as its five forerunners, and here’s hoping the author has a few more stories to tell.”
—David Pitt, Booklist
“Once upon a time, things were easy for John Rain. Or as easy as life could be for an assassin. Yet now, in his sixth outing, Rain’s formed too many attachments, and they’re causing him grief. His pal—a Marine sniper named Dox—has been kidnapped. Unless Rain extinguishes three specific people in a short amount of time, Dox is a goner. Meanwhile, Rain’s girl, Delilah, is urging him to give up his deadly and itinerant life, the only one he’s known. With a mix of nifty black-ops scenes and moments of emotional explosiveness, Eisler proves himself to be as coolly efficient a writer as his protagonist is a killer.”
“Barry Eisler’s hero, John Rain, is a very real character—though tough and supremely competent in every possible form of combat, he has his vulnerabilities, too. This is the sixth outing for Rain, the Japanese/American former soldier turned master assassin who is now trying to get out of “the life” and settle down in Paris with his gorgeous lover, Delilah the Israeli spy. But rogue CIA operative Jim Hilger has other ideas. He has kidnapped Rain’s best friend, the sniper called Dox (short for “unorthodox”). The message is stark—carry out three hits for us, or Dox dies. So Rain is back in business, and very worried that he is one of the targets that Hilger has in mind. As always, the tradecraft is impeccable, the technology impressive and the tension excellent. Eisler, a former CIA man himself, knows what he’s talking about and writes with real understanding about conflict.”
“… tight structure, fast movement, fight scene setups, conflicts
and killings, a well-placed steamy sex scene, and cliff-hanging
chapter endings that are liable to keep readers up past their
bedtimes flipping pages to see what will happen next… a perfect
summer beach read.”
—Palo Alto Weekly
“Rating: A. A fitting conclusion (only for a while, I hope) to, the John Rain series, which ranks among the best ever written. Top marks for every aspect of this novel and the series as a whole. Complex, eminently readable, clever, exciting, and a whole lot of fun.”
—George Easter, Deadly Pleasures
“The Rain thrillers can be either completely absorbing or massively off-putting because of the supercharged arrogance and hubris of their hero. If the latter doesn’t bother you, this could be the escape read of the summer.” (Pick of the Week)
—Rocky Mountain News
“A sure sign of Eisler’s craft is the way he spins new and seemingly impossible predicaments from which his protagonist must emerge intact. His works continue to improve, without lapsing into the coziness so common with series characters. As opposed to stock thrillers that reach a climax followed by the usual happy ending, Eisler strings together several climaxes, giving readers a few extra pops. And they’re all good ones.”
—The Japan Times
“…both suspenseful and introspective; a combination that few authors can manage with such dexterity…”
“By far the best of the six John Rain novels and easily Barry Eisler’s most ambitious work… As always, Eisler is a stickler for detail, painstakingly showing how the tradecraft involved in surveillance and assassination is carried out in the sunlight and in the shadows. He also continues his practice of taking his readers into the nooks and crannies of the world’s greatest cities, wandering off the beaten path a bit to describe exotic locales from a native’s point of view. And suspense? You’ll be doing a balancing act on the edge of your chair from the first page practically to the last.
However, The Killer Ascendant is much more than an exquisitely written spy thriller. It is also, as with the best work of the genre, a psychological study, an up-close-and-personal illustration of the battle between light and darkness that is carried out on scales large and small on a day-by-day basis. This novel has something for everyone, and is required reading for Summer 101.”
“Like all genre fiction, the espionage thriller has its conventions, certain things the author is expected to provide. High-tech gadgets? Check. Cool, ruthless hero? Check. Exotic international settings? Check. Wisecracking sidekick? Check. Double-crossing villain? Check.
In lesser hands, The Killer Ascendant could have been a standard-issue, cookie-cutter spy thriller of the sort that clog the shelves of airport bookshops around the world. But John Rain is not a standard-issue protagonist and Eisler, for all his respect for the convention of the genre, does not write cookie-cutter novels.
Rain is a thinking man’s James Bond…. What sets Rain apart is Eisler’s ability as a writer to get inside the psychology of the character’s almost split personality. Rain is surprisingly human and self-aware for an action hero.
Rain recognizes the sociopath inside himself and worries that with each job, he is coming closer to turning into “the iceman” for good. It is this depth that makes the character, and by extension the book, believable and what sets Eisler head and shoulders above the pack of run-of-the-mill thriller writers.”
“…an exciting, fast-moving tale… [Eisler] writes good dialogue and action scenes and gives his characters a fair amount of depth… a skillful spy novel…”
—The Washington Post
“Eisler is certainly one of the best thriller writers when it comes to describing trade craft, much of which he learned while working for the CIA. He is also among the best when it comes to vividly describing hand-to-hand combat—and Rain has never had to be better just to stay alive.
If this is the last John Rain novel, it is a fitting send-off, but it would be foolish to write off a character still capable of producing these kinds of thrills.”
—Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
“Eisler keeps [Rain]—and us—on [a] razor’s edge throughout. This novel of action and suspense will make you sweat. A first-rate read. RECOMMENDED.”
“In his sixth rendition of contract killer John Rain, Eisler plunges our favorite assassin into a race against time and his own inner demons to save his best friend, former Marine sniper Dox… The battle between Rain’s super-sized id and stunted ego—a Freudian David and Goliath—is at the book’s center… As [is] the tentative, but intense, relationship between Rain and the intriguing Delilah… It will be interesting to see where Eisler takes them in the future.”
“In the first several pages, something magical happens: all the exposition you’ll need on the world of this series and the protagonist John Rain is conveyed through an intense action scene and in as few words as possible. Antagonist Jim Hilger and his mercs plan and carry out a kidnapping of Rain’s close friend, and sometimes partner on dangerous jobs, Dox. You quickly learn how dangerous John is because they approach Dox with extreme caution and Hilger warns his men that Rain is even more dangerous than their target. Hilger’s motivations aren’t readily clear on why he wants to get to Rain through Dox, but if you’re patient, it all becomes clear in this sprawling thrilling (probably) last chapter of John Rain’s journey to becoming a better man.”