Back in Jan 2016, I had the pleasure of reviewing The Coalition, book two in Samuel Marquis’s Nick Lassiter-Skyler Thriller Series. At the time, I wrote “novelist Samuel Marquis has accomplished something rather rare. In The Coalition, Marquis has injected fresh air into the often thread-bare genre of political conspiracy and assassination thrillers . . . only part of the saga deals with conspirators and killers and Machiavellian power moves. Much of the story deals with character regrets, guilt, and self-discovery on very personal levels that humanize even the villains.”
I could make the same claims for the Fourth Pularchek. This time around, the multi-faceted female assassin Skyler from The Coalition and Nick Lassiter from 2015’s The Devil’s Brigade become major characters together in yet another epic struggle. Again, the lines between good and evil, right and wrong are as blurry as any moral distinctions can be. Explorations into personal motivations, moral codes, and especially family history get even deeper in Marquis’s new novel.
For example, Nick Lassiter learns his biological father isn’t the man he thought but is rather the Polish billionaire and intelligence commander Stanislaw Pularchek. Pularchek heads an organization that hunts down and kills Islamic terrorists but more particularly ex and neo-Nazis, especially those connected to genocidal atrocities during World War II in Poland. Once Pularchek learns he has a biological heir, he does all he can to give Lassiter a full indoctrination into his family’s history which partially explains Pularchek’s series of vendettas against those he sees as pure evil.
One of Pularchek’s weapons is the female assassin Skyler who is fulfilling a promise to be a guardian angel for Pularchek while she hopes to finally retire from the sniper game. In fact, Skyler becomes something of a secondary character in the book, lurking in the background protecting her boss. At the same time, the world’s intelligence agencies are puzzled as they are certain Pularchek is pulling many deadly strings but he always has a very public alibi. There always seems to be a Pularchek double at the scene of the crimes and many speculate the billionaire is cloning himself.
The main adversary to Pularchek, Skyler, and Lassiter is German intelligence operative Angela Wolff, granddaughter of a Nazi general who wasn’t prosecuted at the Nuremburg trials. In Angela’s view, she is due an inheritance from her grandfather that Pularchek now possesses. Angela is willing to destroy anyone or anything that gets in her way.
While we learn much about Wolff’s motivations and desires, there’s really nothing to redeem her actions. We also meet other reprehensible characters in governmental agencies wanting to keep secrets secret or profit from the Nazi treasures themselves. Perhaps it’s not surprising the main protagonists don’t just battle with Wolf and her German mercenaries, but with powerful higher ups that nearly derail all of Pularchek’s efforts to cut down on the number of international villains.
The story is one set in a variety of vividly described settings from Washington D.C. to Berlin to Warsaw to Vienna. The action is non-stop and gripping with no shortages of surprises, especially in the final chapters. In the novel, Marquis brings together many of his established tropes and interests, notably incorporating his in-depth knowledge of World War II. (Another of Marquis’s trilogies focuses on WWII with Bodyguard of Deception and Altar of Resistance, the first two volumes published to date.) The Fourth Pularchek, a very enigmatic title, is scheduled to come out on the anniversary of D-Day, June 6.
If you haven’t tried a Samuel Marquis novel yet, here’s a good one to get introduced. If you’re already a fan of the award-winning novelist, this one won’t disappoint.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on May 5, 2017: