Review by Sandra Ruttan

John Rain has a personal issue that might be enough to draw him out and make him vulnerable to his enemies. A man with a problem and a well-developed talent for killing people, it makes sense that when Rain’s personal and professional lives collide the body count will be high.

In The Last Assassin, John Rain discovers he has a son. Rain’s history with the child’s mother complicates the situation, which is worsened by the revelation that the mother and child are being watched by Rain’s enemies. As a result, Rain is not on top of his game, distracted by his emotions and his concern for the safety of the boy and his mother.

Add in a lover, a woman who knows how to operate in Rain’s world, and powerful enemies who have a personal grudge against Rain and you have all the ingredients for an action-packed thriller.

Eisler skillfully weaves the history in, bit by bit. As someone new to his work, I had no difficulty following the storyline or absorbing the critical details. Gradually, a clear picture of what led to this point in Rain’s life emerges, together with sudden revelations that shift your expectations about what’s happening and how things might unfold.

It is also true that some twists in the story rely on well-trodden ground in fiction. Rain is the stubborn, independent man who won’t open up, even to the women on the edge of his life. The vindictive woman assuming she’s been scorned takes matters into her own hands and determines the outcome for Rain long before he’s finished pursuing his own solution to the problem.

There was one thing I was puzzled about. Delilah references a character named Dox on page 22. In the context of what was said, I understood this was a person she’d been romantically involved with quite some time ago. Rain works with a friend named Dox, and I wondered if it was the same person, but when Delilah and Dox were together (page 216) it seemed evident he wasn’t someone she’d been involved with before. It was a point of confusion I had for almost two hundred pages and I did wonder why the same name had been used. However, that’s a minor issue.

Given the nature of the targets and the level of discretion they used in all other manners, I felt the recon near the end of the book came a bit too easy. Rain’s plan also relied heavily on something they could have no absolute guarantee of control over (the location of the inside man). While Rain was operating alone, I expected potential mistakes of that magnitude, because his emotions were overriding his logic. However, as a team of professionals, I would have expected one of the others assisting him with his final targets to point out the obvious flaw in the plan.

There were a few other niggling points for me, but they were minor and discussing them would involve critical spoilers. All things considered, I felt that this was an enjoyable read. Anyone who likes fast-paced thrillers with plenty of sex and action should like The Last Assassin.

As an aside, I feel Eisler demonstrates he’s capable of vivid description, tight pacing and solid storytelling. I also know from reading his blog that Barry is intelligent and has a keen interest in politics and social issues. I’d love to see Barry Eisler combine his writing strengths with his insights and write a political thriller with some real substance to it that delves into the heart of critical issues of the day.


Sandra Ruttan’s debut suspense novel, Suspicious Circumstances, will be released in January 2007.

Praise for Suspicious Circumstances:

“A gripping adventure, a large cast of marvelous characters, and twists that follow turns. Read it. You’ll love it too.”
Robert Fate, author of Baby Shark

“Sandra Ruttan has graced the world of psychological thrillers with this fast-paced, absorbing tale, fraught with corruption, murder, mistrust, a number of unconscionable villains and two exceptionally likable protagonists, all craftily entangled in a delightfully twisted plot. Sit back and be prepared to get lost in this riveting story, because you won’t want to put it down until you’ve turned the very last page.”
JB Thompson, author of The Mozart Murders

"Suspicious Circumstances is a plot with endless twists and turns, lots of unexpected heroes and villains, and enough unanswered questions to keep you reading to the very end!"
Julia Buckley, author of The Dark Backward

“Suspicious Circumstances twists and turns and twists again, leaving the reader breathless and unsure which end is up. And that's just the beginning. Ruttan's deft touch intrigues and satisfies, making her a powerful new force in the mystery field.”
JT Ellison, author of All The Pretty Girls, MIRA 2007

“A well executed procedural with a spark between our protagonists, an excellent feel for political machinations on a small town scale and a plot that twists and turns like a bad tempered rattlesnake.”
Russel D. McLean, Crime Scene Scotland

Return to Fall 2006 Table of Contents

© 2006 SPINETINGLER Magazine - All rights reserved

Baby Love
If It Bleeds
Behind You!
No Help For The Dying
A Kind of Puritan
A Thankless Child
A Certain Malice