Birth of an Assassin is the debut novel by the author Rik Stone. I received a copy to read and review as part of a book tour. I do love books with assassins, and I even had an idea of what the book would be – how an assassin is made, due what circumstances he becomes one.
The story takes place in Russia – in Moscow back in 1947, just after WWII is over. The main character is a very young Jewish guy called Jez Cornfield, only 15 years old, who wants to become a solder in the Red Army, but instead is pointed to the wrong building by some ‘well meaning’ folks. He ends up in the building of the KGB. Too late he realizes where he is, however now he can’t leave, so he joines the KGB. And afterall it can’t be much worse than the actual army, can it?
Pretty much the rest of the book, save for the very ending, is all about his rise in ranks at the KGB from that naive 15 year solder to a bright and deadly combatant, thus becoming quite a useful asset, and thinking that he has a really good life. Which indeed, he has, right until things go awfully wrong, which turns his entire life upside down.
Without realizing he enters a world of corruption and crime, which touches him too. He soon realizes that nothing is what it looks like, and betrayal is a main part of the world he entered years ago. Specifically his betrayal by the very people whom he trusted most. And when his sisters’ lives are endangered, Jez decides to take things into his own hand (namely his sniper gun) and fight against those very people anyway he can: by becoming an assassin, this time working for himself.
I have to say that the book is not really what I thought it would be. Sure, it is a thriller, but the thrilling part only started at the three quarter mark. Until then it was quite uneventful, save for his friendship with with Captain Viktor and his budding romance with Anna Puchinsky, both who will play crucial parts in Jez’s journey to become what is he supposed to become.
If I hadn’t know that the story is fiction, I’d have mostly believed it’s a non-fiction book about a famous assassin in the USSR, because that’s exactly how the book reads. Having lived my firs t 20 years in an (ex)communist country, neighboring Russia, I was well familiar with what was going on in our parts of the world during the Cold War (my relatives who were there told many stories about it). So it was quite intriguing in its own right.
We got to see just how corrupt those in power were and that human trafficking was going on back then as well. However we also got to learn about a few people like Jez, who would rise above all this and fight their way through corruption to right a few wrongs.
I really enjoyed seeing Jez’s hero journey from that naive lad to that complex human being that he became throughout all this. Sure he is now an assassin, using everything he’s learned in the military against the bad ones, however he is also very decent and his moral compass and his humanity are all there, intact, without being touched by the corruption going on around him.
Overall the book was a fun read, albeit a bit long, but quite rewarding. Not at all what I expected, but so much more for it.
To read more about Birth of an Assassin or to get the book, head over to Amazon to check it out.
About the author
Do children born into poverty become impoverished adults? It happens; pitfalls and roadblocks to advancement are everywhere. Rik Stone grew up poor amidst the slum-lands of fifties North East England, and left school at 15 without any academic qualifications.
He worked in the shipyards on a local river and later went into the merchant navy. Further down the line, he worked quarries in Essex in South East England.
But life was without horizons until, contrary to what his teachers had told him, he found he was capable of studying and completed a BSc degree in mathematics and computing.
Life got lucky for him when he took company pension at 50 and began writing. And now, here he is offering up his debut novel Birth of an Assassin, the first in a series.