by Mark Dawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read Mark Dawson’s The Cleaner a few months ago. It was clever, fast-paced, and part of a series (always a plus for me), so was excited to find “The Asset” (Thomas & Mercer 2016) on NetGalley. Dawson writes a lot of series–at least four I’m aware of–and “The Asset” is part of his Isabella Rose series. He wastes no time getting into the action starting with a bang–literally–as an RPG takes down a 747 right after take-off. Readers get a procedural in how terrorists might easily accomplish this and then become part of the gut-wrenching efforts of the pilot as he tries to save his doomed plane.
Though we meet the antagonist–called simply the Asset–early, she doesn’t reappear until well into the book where we find out what an amazing character she will be in the series. The terrorist act is part of a larger plot that includes the kidnapping of Isabella Rose which causes Pope to go to the rescue of this 15-year-old new agent. As far as I can tell, his attempt to rescue her is not part of his job, but for personal reasons, reasons which I’m not yet sure about. And while Isabella has ample opportunities to showcase her agent talents, we don’t find out how truly competent and deadly she is until well into the story.
Dawson is an excellent storyteller. His choice of words, description of the setting, emotions–all put me right in the story, unable to stop reading because I needed to see what happened.
“Twisted metal rods poked out of blocks of concrete that had been cleaved in two. Souks and mosques were reduced to rubble, chunks of debris littered the roads and clouds of thick dust hung in the air. They drove through public parks with no trees, everything chopped down for firewood. They passed the hulks of burnt-out vehicles, men and women queuing at bread lines, and long queues of traffic around the fuel stations that still had fuel to sell.”
I had only three problems with this book:
- From the beginning, I felt like I’d jumped into the middle of the story (which I had–the prequel is The Angel). I didn’t have enough information to truly understand why Pope was doing what he was and how Isabella–only a teenager–was able to do what she did. I wish I’d read the earlier Beatrix Rose series that dealt with Isabella’s mother, described as the “headlong fight for justice of a wronged mother”. When she dies, she leaves her well-trained daughter to follow in her footsteps.
- The Asset appears in the story only twice–both with breathtaking violence. All I know about her is from the series blurb–that she’s pursuing a Kill List of six people.
- The story ends as it began–as though I’m in the middle of a longer tale. There is no plot resolution, no epiphany, no character growth so I can leave satisfied.
Despite my story ‘problems’, I have every intention of reading more of this series. Dawson is too good a storyteller and the overarching plot, with the unrevealed backstory about Pope’s involvement and the Asset’s unusual assassin skills, too compelling to quit now.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy and To Hunt a Sub, her debut fiction. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member forJournal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her nonfiction books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.