“Predict the threat. Prevent the attack. Protect the Principal.” “Assess the threat. Counter the danger. Escape the kill zone (or A-C-E).” “Billionaires. Bullets. Betrayal.”
British author Chris Bradford sure knows his way around acronyms, alliteration and catchy rules-of-thumb as central thematic set-pieces in his high-octane action-adventure series, Bodyguard.
And kudos to Bradford, he succeeds in tastefully involving the aforementioned three at key points throughout his fifth and latest novel in the young adult fiction series, Assassin.
Bradford’s works must, of course, be read bearing in mind he is a talented method-writer who, as he professes, practises what he preaches. He has spent years immersing himself in close protection techniques, combat training, and martial arts, transforming himself into a certified bodyguard and instructor.
And the authenticity of his breadth of knowledge, experience and other practical research is telling in all his books. And did I mention he is a professional musician who once performed for the Queen of England?
Bradford, most known for his hit young readers’ series Young Samurai, is uncannily Dan-Brownian in the way he ingeniously manages to assimilate eyebrow-raising information with his fast-paced plot, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat. Particularly impressive is that he is able to do so for a younger audience. Assassin is no different.
As a fan of both this series and of Franklin W. Dixon’s detective-fiction The Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers series, I could not help but note the strikingly similar vibes in both. Though, perhaps more so than Dixon, Bradford elaborates in finer detail the relevance of child crime-fighters – “the best bodyguard is the one nobody notices” is one of his mantras.
Assassin, like its predecessors, takes you on a rip-roaring action-packed ride through its writing, with almost every chapter being brief and punchy.
Bradford starts every chapter without preamble, throwing the reader right into the thick of things, managing to make you hold your breath from the beginning of each chapter and allowing only the occasional moments of reprieve.
The book continues the adventures of the now highly-esteemed “buddyguard” Connor Reeves, as he is assigned on his next bodyguard mission to Russia to protect a billionaire politician’s son.
The mission is far from straightforward as young Connor attempts to navigate through deeply daunting challenges and an influx of lies and deceit.
And then there’s his unbothered Principal, bloodthirsty bullies, his own difficult buddyguard partner Jason King, the deadly Russian Bratva (ie, Russian Mafia), and a host of others who have the ability to stealthily tip the scales in their favour.
This novel digs deeply into the themes of trust and deceit, loyalty and rivalry, brutality and violence, and revenge and redemption, going even further than before in walking that fine line between obeying orders and questioning their morality.
Connor and Jason’s strained relationship as rival buddyguards assigned on this mission is apparent, with Bradford taking cues from previous books to establish context and atmosphere well enough.
Assassin, like its predecessors, involves both a lesson and a mission. And you can be sure the training scenarios don’t happen without good reason.
This book is not short on surprises. It purposefully and strategically misleads the reader before slamming them with a jarring “revelation.”
Bradford also manages to, often in simple ways, fool you with certain illusions throughout. If you are sharp enough, you might catch a few things and see them coming. Maybe.
While not quite having the same “out of the frying pan and into the fire” plot twists noteworthy of the previous novels, there’s always something shocking thrown in that you will not be able to guess unless you have been paying absolute attention throughout the novel – another Bradford signature.
Assassin may not trump the more high-stakes action of Hostage (2013), the imminent-danger feels of Ransom (2014), the treacherous survival realism of Ambush (2015), or the surprising twists in Target (2016), but Bradford nevertheless does exceptionally well to keep readers invested.
It’s questionable whether the Bratva-run Russian-landscape-setting being most dangerous for a bodyguard can outdo that of the pirates in the Somalian seas or the guerrillas and predatory creatures in the Burundian wildernesses. Still, Bradford makes it all the more believable and realistic with a touch of the “war-torn rogue city” element and upping the ante on cold brutality.
Bradford progresses the overarching plot of the series itself while presenting Assassin almost as a standalone with the necessary references to Connor’s past missions. Part of the overarching plot, of course, includes the itching need fans have to find out about uber crime organisation, Equilibrium
In all, despite not quite reaching the full heights of his prowess, Bradford does well to provide a thrilling and entertaining read. Bodyguard fans will enjoy Assassin.
Assassin (Bodyguard #5 )
Author: Chris Bradford
Publisher: Puffin Books, young adult thriller