It seems Gregg Hurwitz takes pains not to write the same novel over and over again. He also allows his serialized characters and relationships to evolve and change. It is thus that Evan Smoak, also known as Orphan X, stands out in the modern landscape of preternaturally capable hard-boiled heroes.

Much like John D. MacDonald’s Travis Magee, Evan steps in when someone’s situation is truly desperate and the law is either unable or unwilling to be of any help. And he’s not afraid to go scorched Earth and rack up an impressive body count to get the job done. But Evan’s greatest challenge lies in developing real relationships, and it is this struggle and his ongoing evolution toward becoming a whole human being that makes this series singularly compelling.

This latest novel, Dark Horse, has Evan somewhat reluctantly agreeing to save the daughter of a drug lord who has been kidnapped by another drug lord. However, you can’t judge a drug lord by its cover, and Evan has to re-examine some of his assumptions regarding what it means to be a good or a bad man. Like all of us, Evan doesn’t always get it right as he navigates through the world’s ever-murkier moral landscape.

If you’ve never read one of Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X novels, do yourself a favor and pick up the first one, Orphan X, today. They’re a blast to read. Deftly plotted, suspenseful, fast-paced, and often audacious, this series has become one of my favorites.