The latest in the Amsterdam Assassin series is the best yet. Like the others, it strikes a balance between action thriller and psychological suspense. The immersion in Japanese culture as well as Amsterdam life is masterful. There are layers upon layers of complex manipulation, making the imagery of strategy games, both chess and the Japanese game of go, key elements in setting the tone. As always, Halm writes both love scenes and fight scenes with intimate realism and finesse. Neither the sex nor the violence is gratuitous. Both are part of the development of deep and intriguing characterization. Halm portrays the protagonists and antagonists in their full humanity, with no sense that one side of the law or the other is inhabited by morally superior people. It’s not even clear that there really are two sides to the law. The story reveals a multi-dimensional moral universe, nothing as simple as good vs. evil or cops vs. criminals, in a plot that flows from Jamaica to the Netherlands and back with unending suspense.
I’m reviewing early because I recommend reading this series from the beginning and reading the short fiction as well All the prior works lead up to this one. Though each novel tells its own complete tale and reaches a resolution, reading the books in sequence lets the reader follow a unique and compelling set of characters through a larger—and habit-forming—story. Start now. Ghosting comes out December. 1
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This long short story or short novella is one of the four of its kind that make up the Amsterdam Assassin Series along with three full-length novels. (I’m glad to know that a fourth novel is on the way.) One of the many things I like about this series is that Halm’s style is so unique and his characters so original that I can’t describe his work by referring to other books or authors. The protagonist is a professional assassin—a complex woman, strong and unusually intelligent, with expertise in many areas related to her occupation. In Fundamental Error, Katla’s skills with technology and explosives and her capacity for careful planning, self-control, and observation are central to the plot. There’s a deceptive calm to the narration that somehow raises the tension. The shifts in time and point of view are structured masterfully, shifting back and forth between the minutes before a terrorist’s attempt to blow up an Amsterdam shopping center and the weeks leading up to the attack. The target’s horrific goal makes this story less morally ambiguous than the others. I didn’t feel the “Oh my god, I’m rooting for Katla and she’s an assassin” amazement that has struck me as I got swept up in the novels and the other Killfiles. Not that I mind having that experience. In fact, it’s one of the marvels of this series. Halm somehow makes a woman whose job is unsympathetic—to say the least—into a riveting lead character for a series.
If you’re new to the series, you could start here (free)
Or jump in with the first full-length novel in the series, Reprobate, for only 99 cents
You can see my reviews on the Goodreads links for all the other books and Killfiles in the series.