I’ve read reviews of this book online. One in particular amused me. It questioned what I refer to as ‘The gap of credibility” in the story. They’re joking, right? They pointed out that one of the characters (Chris) asks for a name of a dentist and the one they get lives in another part of the world. What they neglect to tell the unsuspecting is that the man who gave the name of the dentist to Chris did so because of an obligation. He’s a priest that operates a safe house (blackmailed to do so) and when he sees two people who have worked together before show up at his place, he becomes suspicious. I mean he’s not a complete idiot. A guy named Chan shows up who hates opium dealers, which there is one staying at the safe house. Chris, who has worked with Chan before, has asked for a dentist. Hmmm…. Pull the teeth of someone and dump the body… you might not be able to identify it, right? So wouldn’t it make sense if this is what the priest thought they intended to pick a dentist far, far away to complicate things?
I’ve been a fan of this writer for a very long time (remember my reference of 1987?) and there’s one thing I know he does for his book- research. No kindergarten BS for Morrell. He’s either done what he’s writing about (he’s taken survival courses, for example) or he consults people who have done it themselves. Not wanting to be someone who teaches a kid how to put a bomb together, he often leaves out some of the details. Smart man the way society today places blame on everyone but the person who did the deed. Okay, let’s not get me started on how I feel about that.
The messageboard I belong(ed) to rooted its beginning as a secret society so posting this review there made sense because a lot of what was in the book fit. This passage for example where Eliot, the man who trained the two main characters to be killers, explains why he grows roses:
“They’re the emblem of our profession. I enjoy the double meaning. In Greek mythology, the god of love once offered a rose to the god of silence, as a bribe, to keep that god from disclosing the weaknesses of the other gods. In time, the rose became the symbol for silence and secrecy. In the Middle Ages, a rose was customarily suspended from the ceiling of a council chamber. The members of the council pledged themselves not to reveal what they discussed in the room, sub rosa, under the rose.”
This book was published originally in 1984. I read it perhaps two years afterwards. I really don’t remember but I felt inclined to re-read it when I heard they were making a movie from it. Now they did make it into a made-for-TV in 1989. When it happened, I was thrilled being a fanboi of Morrell. Boy was I disappointed. I mean, even more so than the horrible rendition of Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery. I’m hoping they do a better this time around since it’s going to the big screen. At thte time of the re-write, I haven’t seen any more news on the movie.
When this first went to the editor, he liked the book but remarked to Morrell that it seemed like it was missing something. Indeed it was. Morrell’s not a big fan of the whole ‘flashback in the middle of the book’. He felt that the piece missing would not work at the beginning of the book so he cut it out. When the editor asked for the missing part and read it, he insisted it be put back in. It really needs to be there because its background information on how the two main characters met each other and how they were manipulated into becoming what they were in present time.
Now on to the characters. Chris Kilmoonie, AKA Remus, was abandoned by his mother at a young age after his father, a military pilot, was shot down. He’s taken away from his home and put into a boy’s home in Philadelphia where he meets Saul Grisman AKA Romulus. Being basically orphans (you never do find out how Saul ended up in the boy’s home), they cling to one man who shows them affection- Eliot. What’s the worst thing someone you trust can do to you? Betray. Seems Eliot thinks Saul is past his prime and has made sure he gets set up to get killed. Problem being, he had Saul trained too damn well and Saul slowly figures out what happened.
Saul turns to his ‘brother’ Chris who contacts Saul at Eliot’s request. When the two of them get together and start piecing things together, along with Saul’s one-time girlfriend Erika Bernstein, they realized they were nothing but trained assassins. Worse yet, they did everything their whole lives to please Eliot. Well, brother, payback’s a bitch.
They uncover that they weren’t the only orphans on Eliot’s favorite list. Enter Castor and Pollux, the two newest children of Eliot. When the old man realizes that his former child stars are getting too close to the truth, he runs but doesn’t get far.
I don’t want to give it away completely because like I said, this is my favorite book and the one that got me hooked on David Morrell. Rambo? Yeah, that was his creation but Rambo died in his version. You see my hate for Hollywood now?
This book was re-release with a different cover than what I have for an image and it should be available at your local library to borrow.