The Mark of the Assassin

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

President James Beckwith faces a difficult reelection until 250 people are killed in a missile attack on an airliner off Long Island. After Beckwith orders retaliatory strikes against the Sword of Gaza, the Palestinian terrorist group believed responsible, he wins the election easily. CIA agent Michael Osbourne, however, begins to suspect that the attack has resulted from appallingly cynical political and financial motives.

The depth of the conspiracy begins to become clearer after the murder of a reporter looking into the ties between the President and ruthless industrialist Mitchell Elliott. However, those powerful enough to get away with murder can also stop Osbourne before he harms them, and soon the assassin known as October is on Osbourne’s trail. Years earlier, October murdered the agent’s British lover in front of Osbourne, and now pregnant Elizabeth Osbourne confronts the same possible fate.

Author Daniel Silva, a former Cable News Network (CNN) producer, knows Washington, D.C., and the American political scene thoroughly. Despite the unlikeliness of the conspiracy at its center, THE MARK OF THE ASSASSIN is more credible than Silva’s World War II thriller THE UNLIKELY SPY (1997) because the writer seems more confident of the details of his story and is more inventive. Silva, who owes a much larger debt to Ken Follett’s blend of pop adventure and romance than to John le Carre’s ambiguous world of espionage, fails to make the Osbournes especially interesting, but his portrait of the highly complex October offsets such defects. Not only trained but actually raised by the KGB, seemingly soulless but with the passion of an artist— he paints—October is one of the most memorable villains in spy fiction.