The premise of Chis Holm's latest series is simple - Michael Hendricks is a hitman who kills other hitmen - and, with Red Right Hand, the second entry after last year's The Killing Kind, Holm is already showing there's enough elasticity in this concept to make Hendricks a welcome new anti-hero for thriller buffs.
After a terror attack in San Francisco, Hendricks is put on the tail of a retired killer, one thought long-dead by the FBI, in the hopes of moving one step closer to bringing down the global criminal enterprise known as The Council. Along the way, his path toward revenge against The Council gets a bit bumpier than anticipated, which is bad for Hendricks but good for readers since it gives Holm plenty of chances to write nifty action sequences as his characters stomp around SanFran and engage in some long, twisty games of cat and mouse. (Movie Geek note: action film fans will likely recognize some of the tertiary character's names as being lovingly borrowed from a few Hollywood directors, and you can feel the cinematic influences seeping into the pages here. Seriously fun stuff!)
In terms of characterization, Holm is free to allow Hendricks to run wild, having already previously established this dude's background and place in society. Some additional details to Hendricks's personality are shaded in, giving him a welcome touch of humanity even as his overall mission plan maintains an appropriate level of gray. His relationship with tech-savvy Cameron is fun, and she's a new character here that I hope gets additional time to shine in future volumes. And although Hendricks is, by and large, a "good guy," he's still a pretty far cry from being a saint despite having a strong moral compass. His job as a hitter of hitmen is largely dependent on the targeted victim being able to pay an exorbitant fee and determine just how much his or her life is actually worth in order to properly motivate and secure Michael's assistance. The lack of pure altruism is what makes this guy so interesting to me, and I'm hoping we've got a good number of Hendricks titles ahead of us as the years go on.
Lesser authors, I suspect, would be tempted to take the premise of 'killer of killers' and merely cut-and-paste their prior efforts and slap a new title on it. Red Right Hand avoids this, and while the series premise remains strongly intact, Holm puts enough wrinkles into the story to twist expectations enough to keep things feeling fresh. Setting his story against the backdrop of a terror investigation raises the stakes, while also putting a bit more meat on the bones of the story's framework without dulling the thrills. Holm manages an easy, breezy pacing and keeps things chugging along seemingly effortlessly.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title for review from the publisher via NetGalley/Edelweiss.]