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Mid-Valley Live: Greaney's Gray Man is a series for summer reading

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As a longtime Tom Clancy fan I continued to read the novels under his name long after he passed.

Several surrogate authors have put out novels under the Tom Clancy banner through the years and although I don’t expect the deep dives into military technology and strategy that Clancy was known to take, I usually enjoy the reads.

One author in particular caught my attention. As I finished the final pages of “Commander in Chief,” I realized how much I enjoyed the writing and storytelling.

The author was Mark Greaney. I discovered that Greaney had not only continued carrying Clancy’s banner but had worked with him during the final years before his death.

Greaney also had an ongoing series of his own focusing on the exploits of Court Gentry, AKA the Gray Man.

I figured it was worth a shot, so I found the first book, aptly titled “The Gray Man.”

I devoured it in no time and went on to the second, third and on. I recently wrapped up “Relentless,” the 10th in the series. Greaney has No. 11, “Sierra Six” coming in 2022.

My first impression was Gentry was a sort of Jason Bourne, a former CIA agent cast aside by the organization and seen as a rogue operative.

Gentry became an assassin for hire, highly trained in martial arts, military strategy, weapons and spy tradecraft. He winds up with a sort of on-again, off-again relationship with the CIA through the books.

Greaney quickly establishes the Gray Man’s fearsome reputation as an unstoppable killer among those who fear the time they might cross paths with him. He seems to be able to move like a ghost to his enemies, both in battle and in his tradecraft, which is helped by his nondescript features and average height and weight.

When in warrior mode, Gentry is ferocious. He can dispatch targets as a sniper, in the midst of a firefight or in close quarters with hand-to-hand skills. His code name, Violator, is well earned.

His drive to see an operation through to the end is relentless and is rarely derailed.

Yet there are moments that show a different side of the Gray Man. He makes mistakes. He has doubts. He has a code of honor.

Gentry will only take on assignments that he sees as righteous. He won’t go after anyone who he considers an innocent or whose crimes don’t rise to the level of a death sentence.

He also gets injured. Constantly. This is never more evident than in “Relentless.” Gentry is in no shape to go into action in the first place as he is talked out of his hospital bed to head across the Atlantic and into harm’s way while battling a serious infection in an injured shoulder.

Gentry takes on terrorists, assassins, enemy operatives, sex traffickers and even his own country’s forces at times throughout the series, yet he finds a way to stay alive and come out on top.

Most of his enemies are unable to see through the myth and take advantage of the man. Greaney has injected a couple of love interests for Gentry into the series, but there have been too many obstacles to overcome for a real relationship to develop.

Gentry also tends to find those interests in the workplace, causing some natural complications.

Zoya Zakharova, a former Russian foreign intelligence officer, was introduced in Gunmetal Gray, the sixth book in the series. She winds up joining forces with Gentry during one of his missions and he helps her find a spot in the CIA.

Gentry and Zakharova have romantic chemistry, but it’s hard to find a few moments together in their business, much less a chance to settle into a serious relationship.

Greaney’s time with Clancy paid off. He is adept at keeping the books peppered with action while spending enough time on character development in the process.

Greaney makes a point of doing extensive research as groundwork for his novels. He will read up on the general subject matter, travel throughout the world to get a feel for the architecture, geography, climate and culture.

He is well-versed in a variety of firearms and has gone through stunt driving school to get a grasp of what it takes to be behind the wheel in a car chase.

The end result is a realistic feel to the writing that is almost impossible to attain otherwise.

For thriller fans looking to start a series this summer, the Gray Man is at the top of the list.

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