Return of the Assassin, the fourth book in the Assassin series, is the the shocking continuation of the saga of El Rey, the Mexican cartel super-assassin whose exploits have branded him with the notorious distinction as the most dangerous man in the world. Faced with impossible choices as he races against time, El Rey must return to a cartel underworld where the smallest slip means instant death, in order to save the life of a young woman whose escape and survival is inexorably linked to his own.
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Q&A with Russell Blake
Q: Return of the Assassin is the third installment in the assassin series. Why the fascination with this story?
RB: El Rey is such a powerful character – at once reprehensible and without any redeeming characteristics, and yet intensely interesting in the way he processes and acts. He’s despicable, a sociopath, a killer in a world of ugly brutality, and yet there is a sort of tranquility to him, a Zen that’s wholly out of place. Perhaps it’s because he has no fear of death, or perhaps it’s because he plays judge and executioner, or maybe it’s just the way he’s wired. For whatever reason, I keep going back to him, imagining further adventures. Can’t help it.
Q: It would seem that Captain Cruz takes a back seat in this novel. By design?
RB: Not really. I just write the story, and in this one, Cruz wasn’t central. The next one, he will be integral, but here he is more on the periphery. Each book in the series has its own vibe and pace – Night is the making of a monster, King is the ultimate assassination story, Return is a mad adrenaline rush, and Revenge is a quest. I don’t want readers to pick up one of these books and not get twists and surprises. So they are all paced slightly differently, and highlight different aspects of the various characters.
Q: Why don’t you end your books in the usual manner? Bad guy gets it in the end, good guy triumphs, love fills the air, closure is found by the final pages?
RB: I bore easily, and read a lot. When I read a book, and the final scenes are where the protagonist is duking it out with the villain, who almost wins save for a nearly miraculous twist, and in the end everything falls into tidy place, I feel a little cheated. I know some readers really want a reassuring, familiar read where their beliefs are uncritically validated and everything is neat, but that’s not how the world works, and there’s a part of me that considers that kind of ending and recoils. I feel like I’m cheating the reader if I let them off light and deliver the predicable. I don’t write to churn out familiar universal stories of hope and redemption. I write thrillers. They can’t be very thrilling if you know how it’s going to end a third of the way through the book.