Featured Review: ‘Lone Wolf’ by Gregg Hurwitz


New York Times bestseller Gregg Hurwitz’s ninth Orphan X novel follows series hero Evan Smoak, a former government assassin who left the program that made him into a lethal agent before recreating himself as a Punisher-like vigilante, as he takes on one of his most challenging missions yet—one so grueling that for the first time, Smoak begins to question whether or not he can continue protecting those in need as The Nowhere Man.

“Do you need my help?” It’s the line Evan Smoak always asks upon answering his RoamZone phone, usually just before the person in need cries out and explains their dangerous situation to Evan—a former assassin codenamed Orphan X but now better known as The Nowhere Man, a mysterious vigilante who strikes fast to solve problems, then disappears forever—and asks him to get involved. More often than not, Smoak does get involved, which has led to him going head-to-head with killers, thugs, mercenaries, and all kinds of unsavory types. For Evan, who lives his life by a set of commandments, one of the tricks to compartmentalizing and successfully carrying out his missions is commandment four: Never make it personal. When things become personal, there’s a chance for emotional attachment, creating vulnerabilities and weaknesses for enemies to exploit. It’s why Evan has spent decades perfecting his craft, allowing him to detach from a person or situation and walk away at a moment’s notice without a second of hesitation.

But this time, when his phone rings, Evan answers, and he’s shocked to learn that the voice on the other end belongs to his niece, Sofia.

A pre-teen, Sofia is the daughter of Evan’s half-brother, a man Evan barely knows. And he’s never even met Sophia. Moreover, her “problem” isn’t exactly the kind of mission Evan typically takes on. What does she need help with? Well, her dog, Loco, is missing. Lost pets aren’t exactly Evan’s specialty, but after weighing the pros and cons, he finally agrees, albeit a touch reluctantly, to help out. Eventually, with the help of his Protégé, Joey—a tech wizard who plays Ned, the “guy (or in this case, girl) in the chair” to Evan’s Spiderman—Evan tracks down the dog. But when he goes to retrieve Loco, he accidentally runs into Karissa Lopatina, an assassin who quickly proves to be Evan’s equal in nearly every imaginable way. Karissa, better known in some circles as “the Wolf,” is a ruthless killer whose latest victim is Dr. Benjamin Hill, an expert in artificial intelligence. Now that their paths have crossed, Evan can’t just punch an “undo” button and go back. Forced to recalibrate and plan a new course of action, Evan inevitably finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with Karissa while also discovering a plot set forth by a genius tech billionaire that could have unthinkable ramifications and forever change the world as we know it today. 

With things escalating quickly, Evan Smoak once again finds himself facing unthinkable odds. Lucky for him, the man they call Orphan X thrives when his back is against a wall.

The real magic of this series isn’t that Evan Smoak is a former assassin working as a vigilante; it’s that he’s trying to learn how to become a regular person while working as a former assassin turned vigilante. That’s an important distinction because it’s what sets Hurwitz’s series apart from, say, Batman—or even 007 and Jason Bourne. Evan never had a normal childhood. Neither did Bruce Wayne, James Bond or David Webb. The difference, though, is that ever since Evan was plucked from a dingy orphanage at a young age, he was molded into a killer and turned loose by the CIA to wipe out enemies left and right. Forget childhood. He’s never even been a normal person, forced instead to live his entire life like a fish out of water, his face pressed to the glass, longing to partake in moments he observes from the world that’s passing him by. He’s come a long way since the first book (Orphan X, 2016), where he had almost zero hero interaction with anyone other than the people calling for his help. Now he’s got Joey, a seventeen-year-old defacto step-daughter of sorts, and has allowed himself to become invested in relationships and feel emotion. That arc and his growth, which Hurwitz–who has zero weaknesses as a writer–has managed brilliantly, is what makes this series so special and allows it to stand out among a crowded field.

However, the emphasis on character doesn’t mean that Hurwitz is lacking in the plot department. Not one bit. Readers will take a great interest in Karissa Lopatina, who gives off strong Candy McClure (Orphan V) vibes, not to mention the threat scenario involving AI, which—alongside Mark Greaney’s The Chaos Agent—is both the most fascinating and terrifying concept involving artificial intelligence in a book coming out this year. Overall, Hurwitz’s ability to continue finding ways to keep his series fresh while always advancing it forward is second to none and is what’s led to Orphan X becoming one of the premier franchises in print today.

Gregg Hurwitz seems to have found a new gear as he kicks things up a notch, ramping up the action and tension to deliver the most fascinating and compelling Orphan X novel to date. Think Jason Bourne on steroids . . . Lone Wolf is one of the year’s first must-read thrillers.

Book Details

Author: Gregg Hurwitz
Series: Orphan X #9
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250871735
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: February 13, 2024



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, is also in bookstores, and his third book, OUT FOR BLOOD, comes out on June 4th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. To interact with other readers and talk about your favorite books and authors, join The Real Book Spy’s Discord server.


Facebook Comments