by Cloggie Downunder (Thirroul): Dark Horse is the seventh book in the Orphan X series by best-selling American author, Gregg Hurwitz. Evan Smoak is busy restoring his refuge on the twenty-first floor of the Castle Heights Residential Tower to its former pristine state when he gets a call for the NOWHERE MAN. Aragon Urrea’s daughter has been taken from their South Texas town by a Mexican drug cartel.

When he eventually decides that he can work on this man’s behalf, if certain strict conditions are met, Joey’s online skills give him an entry into the much-feared Leon Cartel, and his talent for bluff gets him in close to El Moreno, to the chagrin of the man’s lieutenants. When he eventually connects with Anjelina Urrea, there’s a wrinkle in the situation that need a massive alteration of his plans.

In this instalment, Evan spends a good bit of time in a sewer, watches an ultrasound, is faced with numerous scenes that really challenge his control over his OCD, and is distracted from his main mission by a medical emergency involving his ongoing love interest.

A visit to Evan’s personal arms dealer, Tommy Stojack is required for some very fancy gear and, as well as the usual firearms, knives, fists and feet, weapons wielded include a pencil, a scalpel, a defibrillator, a crowbar, a fully grown lion, and a Mont Blanc fountain pen. Readers should be prepared for a lot of violence, some of it especially cruel, some truly nasty characters, and a very high body count.

Joey Morales is a breath of fresh air and the perfect foil for serious Evan: every page that features Joey is pure entertainment. Her assistance, in his absence, with refurbishing Evan’s recently-destroyed condo becomes a bone of contention, though. His Castle Heights neighbours always add humour and tension relief. As usual with this series, it’s best to don your disbelief suspenders from page one and just enjoy the ride. Entertaining action drama.