After his wife is kidnapped, a retired assassin must confront his own morality to save her.
‘The Assassination Run’ started life as a TV series of the same name in 1980, penned by screenwriter Jack Gerson. The show starred Malcolm Stoddard as Mark Fraser and Mary Tamm as Mark’s wife Jill. Doctor Who fans will recognise Tamm as having played the first incarnation of Romana. In the same year, Gerson adapted the TV series into a novel.
Mark Fraser was recruited by The Firm shortly after University as a paid killer. When he’s ordered to kill a man who turned out to be innocent, he resigns in horror. Unfortunately, his reputation remains and soon he attracts the attention of some Marxist revolutionaries. While Mark is rampaging across the planet looking for his wife, Jill confronts their ideology. Before long, Mark is faced with a singular choice: kill another innocent man or lose Jill. But what really bought terrorists to a small Scottish village?
Our pals at Big Finish have been turning the late Jack Gerson’s work into audiobooks for a couple of years now. As well as reviving ‘The Omega Factor’ – the 1979 series he created – they’ve adapted five of Jack Gerson’s full-length novels. Including ‘The Assassination Run’ and the novelisation of its sequel series ‘The Treachery Game’.
Dan Starkey reads this audiobook and proves to be an excellent choice. This story is crammed with characters, most of whom are Eastern European. Despite this, Starkey manages to give every single character a unique and memorable voice. He particularly impresses when he flawlessly switches between Scottish, Russian and English accents (and back again) in several long sequences of dialogue.
The story moves quickly as Fraser jumps between countries to unravel the conspiracy at the heart of Jill’s disappearance. And this is where I think the inevitable hangover from its TV origins becomes apparent. There are three, admittedly very exciting, car chases in the first third of the story alone. They’re very well realised action pieces with Gerson managing to pack a lot of detail into short sentences. Starkey gives it an excellent rhythm which enhances the narration wonderfully.
However, it gets a bit repetitive after a while and feel more like the trappings of a slightly formulaic mini-series than the logical narrative structure of a single work. That being said, having a protagonist who’s always on the move does help keep a lively pace.
The Other Half
Luckily, some of Jill’s scenes really break the chases up with a chance for Gerson to wax on his views. Captured by a group of terrorists waiting for Mark to complete his assignment, the characters get a chance to interact. Both sides get to question the others worldview and assumptions. Some of the arguments that each side bring up resonate with modern issues. These ideas are not new these days, but it’s very well articulated through dialog. Though Gerson is less well-remembered than he perhaps deserved, it’s clear that his ideas have left an impact. For a story that hinges so much on a single man’s morality, the reader is forced to confront their own.
With a surprisingly intimate story, breathless pace and masterful narration by Starkey, this is a spy thriller in the most literal sense.
Story – 6/10
Narration – 10/10
The wife of Mark Fraser, a former British agent, disappears while shopping in a remote Highland village – kidnapped by a group of ruthless terrorists.
Desperate to rescue his wife, Fraser attempts to unravel a tortuous web of intrigue and violence. His mission takes him to the tourist resorts and remote mountains of Southern Spain where he meets many old acquaintances from MI5, and the KGB. There he learns that to save his wife, he must kill an innocent man.
(Please note this is a significantly sized download-file – be aware of any data-charges your network may incur, and that you will need twice the filestore available on your computer or device to unzip the file)
Written By: Jack Gerson
Directed By: John Ainsworth
Read by Dan Starkey