Blasting back to the past and future

Book review by Sebastian Lim

Title: Back Blast

Author: Mark Greaney

Publisher: Berkley

ISBN: 9780425282847

Year Published: 2016

In Back Blast, Mark Greaney returns to the franchise that launched his career as an author. This is the fifth novel in his Gray Man series and the first instalment since 2013’s Dead Eye.

The Gray Man, an ex-CIA operative, is a legend in the world of spies and contract killers. He only takes jobs that he approves of, and never misses his target. He’s methodical and absolutely lethal.

He’s also a man with a regular name, Court Gentry, though hardly anyone knows him by that name anymore.

This high-energy thriller pits a highly trained killer against a powerful and unexpected foe.

Gentry is a wanted man with many other names, too: Sierra Six, Six, Violator, and The Gray Man. When Denny Carmichael, the CIA’s Director of National Clandestine Services, learns that Gentry is back in the United States, he decides it’s time to terminate him. Or be terminated himself as he knows Gentry will be coming to kill him. Carmichael has been hunting Gentry for the past five years.

Years ago, Gentry was “burned”. The CIA decided he was a liability, so they issued a “shoot on sight” order with his name on it. The aftermath of their decision, and how Gentry responds to finding out the Central Intelligence Agency has cut ties with him, is the plot for

the first novel in the series, The Gray Man.

Since then, Gentry has been on the run and under the CIA’s radar. He works for himself, killing for a living. Finally, after years on the run, Gentry decided to go back to the United States, in an attempt to find out why he was “burned” in the first place and to straighten things out once and for all.

Gentry heads to Washington, but the CIA is tipped off about his return by the Israelis. The CIA has absolutely no intention of letting him do anything to help clear his name, and fully intends to execute the standing SOS (shoot on sight) order that was previously issued – and is still standing.

To uncover the truth about his past, Gentry starts looking for old contacts who can enlighten him on why he is given the SOS order. Soon he learns that there is a dirty little secret that powerful people desperately want to keep buried.

In the end, Mark Greaney does a wonderful job answering the main question fans of the series have been wondering since the first novel: What the heck happened to get Gentry “burned”, causing all of his friends, co-workers, and his country to turn against him?

If you enjoy spy novels, whether you’re an ardent fan or a newcomer to the series, you won’t be disappointed with this book. Back Blast offers readers all the excitement and suspense that spy action thrillers do, and is one of Greaney’s best books so far.

Back Blast can be read on its own as a standalone novel. The author manages to sprinkle the necessary background information throughout the book, so you can start your journey with Court Gentry in the US, without having to wonder what happened before. You’ll learn everything along with him and get to decipher the secret at the same time he does it at his own very fast pace.

The Gray Man series features some of the best action sequences written, as that’s Mark Greaney’s specialty. Greaney is at his best with these types of explosive stories featuring espionage, bullets, and nonstop action. He also weaves in enough twists and turns to keep the reader off balance and guessing until the very end.

If you enjoy the Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum, you’ll love the Gray Man series. There are many similarities between the characters and their pursuit to find the truth about their pasts, with Greaney’s books being slightly more violent in nature. Enjoy.

Sebastian Lim is an experienced journalist and editor who now runs his own book review blog — The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of The Weekly-Echo.