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by John Altman
Severn House, September 2015
224 pages
ISBN: 072788509X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

John Altman's DISPOSABLE ASSET is a suspenseful thriller with a female protagonist who has the ability to escape from the direst of circumstances. With uncanny, Houdini-like powers, Cassie Bradbury uses disguise, manipulation, tradecraft and sheer physical force to escape from impossible situations and places, including a locked underground prison cell, a burning car, a frozen river plunge, and an entire country that is searching for her with no holds barred.

As the book opens, Cassie is in the process of assassinating someone inside Russia whom she believes to be a wicked man. She accomplishes the killing with the skills of a stunt pilot and a Navy Seal. She flees the man's home, but when she arrives at her safe house, she realizes that she has been set up and is about to be killed. She also discovers that the person she has killed was not the evil man she was told he was but rather someone similar to Edward Snowden, who had been sharing his computer files with the Russians. She has been betrayed, and now she wants revenge against Quinn, the man who both recruited her and set her up.

Then the scene shifts to Ticonderoga, New York, where Sean Ravensdale watches his small son play. Then Ravensdale has a visitor, an old colleague named Andrew Fletcher. Through their encounter, we learn that Ravensdale is a disgraced CIA operative who had fallen in love with a Russian spy. They had fled to America where they married and had a child. Then the Russians captured his wife, Sofiya, and he believes her to be dead. Ravensdale does not want to leave his son Dima, but Fletcher talks him into going back into the field to find the person who committed the atrocity in Russia.

The reader does not know whether to feel pity for Cassie - an orphan, plucked off the streets and threatened with prison if she did not go along with a training program and learn to be an assassin - or horror at the series of murders she commits in order to escape. Some of the people she kills are those who stand in her way, but others are just collateral damage. Pedestrians die as she crashes into them, unwitting strangers die when they happen to pass her by, bystanders are shot as the police aim for her. She trusts no one, so that anyone who helps her is in harm's way.

This thriller is high on adrenaline, and perhaps low on believability. However, following Cassie's unlikely journey is mesmerizing and will be an exciting trip for the reader who enjoys non-stop action.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, August 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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