The Gentle Assassin – Ryan David Jahn

Published September 2014 by Pan Macmillan


It wasn’t every day you had the chance to track down the man who’d killed your mother.

In 1964, Andrew Combs’ mother is killed in front of him. His father Harry vanishes soon afterwards. Twenty-six years later Andrew wants revenge. There’s only one way he can let go of his past and become the man he wants to be: track down and kill his mother’s murderer. His father.

But while Andrew thinks he knows what happened all those years ago, the truth is far darker. For Harry Combs turns out to be a man of many secrets.

As shadowy figures from Harry’s past threaten his life, and Andrew inches closer to killing him, the two men find themselves playing a very dangerous game of life and death. And only one of them can survive.

A brilliant thriller with the pace and tension of Mark Billingham and the laconic style of Ramond Chandler.

My thoughts

This is the first Ryan David Jahn thriller I have read. It was rather a quick read and one that made me think (probably too much) about what the psychological affects of being a killer or an assassin, and how people live with themselves afterwards. It is unusual, as the story seems to be more of a character study. We follow a dysfunctional father/son relationship. Jahn has a way of making his characters complex, disturbing and understandable.

The story takes us to the 1980s. Andrew Coombs’ mother was killed, when he was a small child. The murderer was his father, Harry. Andrew was then abandoned. Andrew is consumed with the idea of tracing his father and getting revenge. Harry was an assassin, a killer, and has since retired from that life. He is living with an alcoholic wife, in the back end of beyond. Andrew and Harry reunite, father and son together again, with moving and sad repercussions.

The ‘Gentle Assassin’ is Harry, the ex-killer who has moved on his life. Meeting his son brings him hope and a wish for reconciliation. Andrew seems to have abandonment issues with his father and is seething with anger. He sees his father as a cold blooded killer and is surprised to find human kindness. Harry might be living incognito, but he still has the skills of a killer at his finger tips.

I found it very moving seeing both Harry and Andrew try to negotiate an impossible relationship. Andrew had a very deep sense of morality, of what was right and wrong. He wants justice for his mother. It doesn’t take much for him to start to become his father. And Harry seemed to be very emotionally unaware, unable to read this in his son. This just hinted at the coldness and psychological issues within Harry. Total sociopathic tendencies. He wanted rather naively for the past to be forgiven and to earn the love of his son. I wanted them to find a way forward, somehow.

I loved the way it was written and how I got sucked into the world of these two very sad damaged characters. A clever character driven thriller!

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for my review copy!


About Northern Crime

Reviewer with a mind of her own. This is a collection of book reviews, which started in 2014. Mostly crime and odd other genres thrown in. Some I loved. Some I loathed. You get the picture.
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3 Responses to The Gentle Assassin – Ryan David Jahn

  1. crimeworm says:

    Would you recommend this? Is it on NetGalley? Haven’t actually seen it elsewhere, sounds intriguing though…

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