The Gray Man goes to Berlin, and the movies

The 10th thriller in the Gray Man series follows news of a Netflix film

By Peggy Burch, for

Mark Greaney’s invincible assassin Court Gentry has earned the title of his 10th adventure, Relentless. The series of action thrillers took off in 2009 with The Gray Man, and over the years, the feared and revered ex-CIA agent who can disappear in a crowd has left a trail of bodies in the global ghost world of counterintelligence. Lately, he’s worked in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Syria, Bosnia, Croatia, Italy, and Los Angeles.

He’s still in the United States when we first catch up with him in this installment. He’s now an off-the-books CIA contractor, recovering from severe wounds in a secret hospital in Maryland when his master yanks him off the IV antibiotics and dispatches him to Venezuela to retrieve a rogue National Security Agency official. Gentry arrives just ahead of an eight-member squad of mercenaries whose ballistic tactics are not subtle. They’re seeking the same NSA source, and after they bomb the house he’s occupying near Caracas, it implodes. They kill their target, but not before Gentry learns that the victim had been working for a shadow corporation in Berlin that focuses on Iran.

Soon Gentry is on the ground in the German capital. The Gray Man is in love and begs his way onto the Berlin mission to back up Zara Zakharova, the former Russian intelligence officer who, like Gentry, now works for the covert CIA program. And while Gentry is being pursued by the pack of mercenaries he crossed paths with in South America, Zakharova is being followed by a crew of Russian assassins. The murderous gangs — one led by a drunk with a death wish, the other composed of American ex-soldiers whose war-zone skills look crude on the streets of a European city — provide a little comic relief in this violent parallel universe.


By Mark Greaney  
512 pages  

As Greaney’s fans know, his fictional players function in recognizable, real-time political scenarios. The Memphis-based author described himself as a “news junkie” in a recent interview with The Daily Memphian. His father worked on a Memphis TV news team, he noted, “and I spent every breakfast and every dinner for my entire childhood talking about things happening around the world. For my novels I use pieces of the real world because they are interesting to me and I see how to weave them into a thriller.”

In Relentless, a private German company is recruiting intelligence officers for what appears to be an Israeli mission to oppose Iran; recruits have signed on because they are unhappy that the European Union is relaxing its stance on U.S.-imposed trade sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Once inside, the agents discover that something more treacherous is underway. As one of the company’s key operatives asks, “When did we become the bad guys?” And some of those who ask questions suddenly turn up dead.

Greaney’s Gray Man plots are taut and well constructed; recurring characters are well drawn; and the title assassin has grown wiser and wittier as the years pass. No surprise then that the Gray Man’s next move will be to the screen: Netflix is investing $200 million in the movie version of The Gray Man, with Ryan Gosling as Court Gentry and Chris Evans his adversary. Joe and Anthony Russo of Avengers: Endgamefame will write and direct the film.

In The Daily Memphian interview, Greaney said Gosling is the ideal Gray Man: “I saw him in Blade Runner 2049 and thought he’d be amazing as Gentry. It was a very physical but also a very understated performance, which is how I write Gentry.”

Formerly the books editor at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Peggy Burch is now the arts and culture editor at The Daily Memphian and a member of the Humanities Tennessee Board of Directors. She holds a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Mississippi.

Humanities Tennessee founded Chapter 16 in 2009 to provide comprehensive coverage of literary news and events in Tennessee. Chapter 16 maintains partnerships with newspapers in each major media market statewide; their content appears in print each week locally through the Memphis Commercial Appeal and online here on StoryBoard Memphis.

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