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The Mark of the Assassin

The Mark of the Assassin

4.2 50
by Daniel Silva

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CIA Agent Michael Osbourne stars in this suspenseful series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel Allon novels.

When a commercial airliner is blown out of the sky off the east coast, the CIA scrambles to find the perpetrators. A body is discovered near the crash site with three bullets to the face: the calling card of a


CIA Agent Michael Osbourne stars in this suspenseful series from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel Allon novels.

When a commercial airliner is blown out of the sky off the east coast, the CIA scrambles to find the perpetrators. A body is discovered near the crash site with three bullets to the face: the calling card of a shadowy international assassin. Only agent Michael Osbourne has seen the markings before—on a woman he once loved.

Now, it’s personal for Osbourne. Consumed by his dark obsession with the assassin, he’s willing to risk his family, his career, and his life—to settle a score…


From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

When CIA agent Michael Osbourne is sent to investigate the tragic bombing of an airliner, he notices the mark of a notorious assassin on one of the dead: three bullet holes to the face. Now it's up to Osbourne to seek out the killer's employer, as well as the savage man who has evaded Osbourne for years.
Library Journal
For his second thriller, Silva turns from World War II (The Unlikely Spy) to a modern intelligence milieu with corrupt government officials and wealthy special interests. The title character, October, is a contract master assassin released by the KGB 30 years ago. CIA agent Michael Osbourne, a terrorism expert, saw October kill his girlfriend and badly wants to capture him. Then the investigation of a missile-downed airliner off the coast of Long Island reveals a body with three shots to the faceOctober's signature. Osbourne's need to attend to his marriage while trying to stop October's completion of a multiple-hit contract and to uncover those financing it lead to a violent denouement. With concise, vivid character sketches, Silva weaves a swiftly paced, internationally tangled plot. Fans of Ludlum and Forsyth will look for this Literary Guild selection.-- Louise Saylor, formerly with Eastern Washington Univ,. Libs., Cheney
Entertainment Weekly
...[A] must-read for conspiracy buffs...
Kirkus Reviews
Silva, whose debut, The Unlikely Spy (1997), put the WWII thriller back on the map, brings the genre up to date with a vengeance in an exhilarating story that roots razzle-dazzle espionage heroics in contemporary political headlines. The Islamic fundamentalist group Sword of Gaza has apparently claimed responsibility for the Stinger missile attack that brought down TransAtlantic Flight 002, and the President, lagging in the polls a month before the next election, has responded by recommending a costly new antimissile defense system. But wiser heads at the CIA don't believe that Sword of Gaza shot down the plane. Michael Osbourne in particular has reason to remember the signature wounds in the face of the dead terrorist found near the Stinger launcher, since years ago his lover was killed in the same distinctive way. Now that Michael and his wife Elizabeth are trying for their last chance to have children, he's called away from her side to go after his bˆte noir, the freelance assassin dubbed October, who all but pointed the Stinger at Flight 002, and who's now agreed to execute all the accomplices to the deed. Michael would be even more worried if he knew about the troubles he had much closer to homeþfor example, the Society for International Development and Cooperation, those warmongers whose tentacles reach high up in the Agency and the White House itself. The closer Michael gets to October, who's now taken out a Society contract to liquidate Michael, the greater the danger to himself, his wife, andþthanks to a gleefully inventive series of plot twistsþthe American political system as we know it. TWA Flight 800, Star Wars, Whitewater, Vince Fosterþthey're allhere, together with enough soothingly familiar spy stuff (the beautiful killer, the triple-cross, the conspiratorial military-industrial complex) to wring a sigh of pleasure and recognition from the most rabid paranoiac.

From the Publisher
“A terrific thriller…one of the best-drawn fictional assassins since The Day of the Jackal.”—The San Francisco Examiner

“A must-read.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Split-second suspense by an inventive ace of the genre.”—Newsday

“[A] fast-moving, bang-bang thriller.”—Los Angeles Daily News
“Compulsively enjoyable…Silva keeps the double-crosses moving at [a] frenzied clip.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“A taut spy thriller…Silva’s writing is clean, his characterizations pithy. And he keeps readers guessing.”—New York Post

“A strong, driving pace...Its two main characters cannot be denied.”—Chicago Tribune

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Penguin Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt


Off Long Island, New York

THEY MADE THE ATTEMPT on the third night. The first night was no good: heavy cloud cover, intermittent rain, windblown squalls. The second night was clear, with a good moon, but a bitter northwest wind made the seas too rough. Even the oceangoing
motor yacht was buffeted about. It would be hell in the Boston Whaler. They needed a calm sea to carry it off from the Whaler, so they motored farther out and spent a seasick night waiting. That morning, the third morning, the marine forecast was promising: diminishing winds, gentle seas, a slow-moving front with clear weather behind it.
The forecast proved accurate. The third night was perfect.

HIS REAL NAME was Hassan Mahmoud, but he had always found it rather dull for an Islamic freedom fighter, so he had granted himself a more venturous nom de guerre, Abu Jihad. He was born in Gaza and raised by an uncle in a squalid refugee camp near Gaza City. His politics were forged by the stones and fire of the Intifada. He joined Hamas, fought Israelis in the streets, buried two brothers and more friends than he could
remember. He was wounded once himself, his right shoulder shattered by an Israeli army bullet. The doctors said he would never regain full use of the arm. Hassan Mahmoud, alias Abu Jihad, learned to throw stones with his left.

THE YACHT WAS 110 FEET in length, with six staterooms, a large salon, and an aft deck large enough to accommodate a cocktail party of sixty people. The bridge was state of the art, with satellite navigation and communication systems. It was designed for a crew of three, but two good men could handle it easily. They had set out from the tiny port of Gustavia on the Caribbean island of Saint-Barthilemy eight days earlier and had taken their time moving up the east coast of the United States. They had stayed well outside American territorial waters, but still they had felt the gentle touch of U.S. surveillance along the way: the P-3 Orion aircraft that passed overhead each day,
the U.S. Coast Guard cutters slicing through the open sea in the distance. They had prepared a cover story in the event they were challenged. The vessel was registered in the name of a wealthy French investor, and they were moving it from the Caribbean
to Nova Scotia. There, the Frenchman would board the yacht, along with a party of twelve, for a month-long Caribbean cruise. There was no Frenchman--an officer in a friendly intelligence service had created him--and there most certainly was no party of twelve. As for Canada, they had no intention of going anywhere near it.

THAT NIGHT THEY OPERATED under blackout conditions. It was clear and quite cold. The bright half-moon provided enough light to move about the decks easily. The engine was shut down, just in case an infrared-equipped satellite or aircraft passed overhead. The yacht rocked gently on the flat sea. Hassan Mahmoud smoked nervously in the darkened salon. He wore jeans, Nike running shoes, and a fleece pullover from L.L. Bean. He looked up at the other man. They had been together ten days, but his companion had spoken only when necessary. One warm night, off the coast of Georgia,
Mahmoud tried to engage him in conversation. The man simply grunted and walked to his stateroom. On those rare occasions when he did communicate verbally, he spoke in the precise accent-less Arabic of someone who has studied the language diligently but not mastered its subtleties. When Mahmoud asked his name, the man ran his hand over his short black hair, pulled at his nose, and said if names were necessary he should be called Yassim. He most definitely was not a Yassim. Mahmoud had traveled well for a boy from the camps of Gaza; the trade of terror made that a necessity. He had been to Rome, and he had been to London. He had stayed many months in Athens and hidden with a Palestinian cell in Madrid for an entire winter. The man who wished to be called Yassim and spoke with a strange accent was no Arab. Mahmoud, watching him now, tried to assign geography and ethnicity to the cocktail of strange features possessed by his silent accomplice. He looked at the hair: nearly black and shot with gray at the temples. The eyes were a penetrating blue, the skin so pale as to be nearly white. The nose was long and narrow--a woman's nose, he thought--the lips full and sensuous, the cheekbones wide. Maybe Greek, he thought, maybe Italian or Spanish. Maybe a Turk or a Kurd. For a mad instant, he thought he might be an Israeli. Mahmoud watched as the man who wished to be called Yassim disappeared down the companionway and went belowdecks. He returned two minutes later, carrying a long, slender object. Mahmoud knew just one word for it: Stinger.

YASSIM, WHEN HE SPOKE, treated Mahmoud as though he knew nothing of Stingers. Mahmoud knew them quite well, however. He knew the shoulder-launched version was five feet long and weighed precisely thirty-four and a half pounds. He knew it possessed heat-seeking, passive infrared, and ultraviolet guidance systems. He knew its effective range was about three miles. He had never actually fired one--the things were too precious and too costly to waste on a test firing--but he had drilled for dozens of hours and knew exactly what to expect.

"It's already been preset to seek out a large four-engine aircraft," Yassim was saying. "The warhead has been set to penetrate the target before exploding." Mahmoud nodded and said nothing.

"Point the missile at the target," he said patiently, in his accentless Arabic. "When the guidance system has acquired its target and locked on, you will hear the tone in your ear. When you hear the tone, fire the missile."

Mahmoud tapped out another Marlboro and offered one to Yassim, who waved his hand and went on with his lecture. "When the missile is away, simply lay the empty launch tube in the Whaler and return to the yacht."
"I was told to throw the launch tube into the water," Mahmoud said. "And I'm telling you to bring it back here. When the airliner goes down, the Americans will scan the sea floor with sonar. There's a damned good chance they'll find your launch tube. So bring it back with you. We'll dispose of it farther out." Mahmoud nodded. He had been told to do it differently, but the explanation for the change in plans was reasonable. For twenty minutes, they said nothing. Mahmoud toyed with the grip stock of the Stinger. Yassim poured coffee and drank it on the aft deck in the cold night air. Then Yassim went to the bridge to listen to the radio. Mahmoud, still sitting in the salon, could hear the crisp commands of the air traffic controllers at JFK International Airport.

TWO SMALLER BOATS were secured to the stern of the motor yacht, a Zodiac and a twenty-foot Boston Whaler Dauntless. Mahmoud clambered down to the swim step, drew the Whaler closer to the yacht, and stepped over the rail into the forward seating area. Yassim followed him down the ladder and handed over the Stinger. The Whaler had a dual console, split by a passage connecting the forward and aft seating areas. Mahmoud laid the Stinger on the aft deck, sat in the cockpit, and fired the engine. Yassim untied the Whaler, tossed the line onto the deck, and pushed the smaller craft away with a quick movement of his foot. Mahmoud opened the throttle, and the Whaler sliced toward the shore of Long Island.

TRANSATLANTIC AIRLINES FLIGHT 002 departs JFK International Airport each evening at 7:00 and arrives the following morning in London at 6:55. Captain Frank Hollings had made the trip more times than he cared to remember, many times in the same Boeing 747 he would fly that night, N75639. The aircraft was the one hundred and fiftieth to roll off Boeing's 747 assembly line in Renton, Washington, and it had experienced few problems during its three decades in the air. The forecast called for clear weather most of the way and a rainy approach to Heathrow. Hollings expected a smooth flight. At 6:55, the first flight attendant informed Captain Hollings that all passengers were on board. At precisely 7:00 he ordered the cabin doors closed, and
TransAtlantic Flight 002 pushed back from the gate.

MARY NORTH TAUGHT ENGLISH at Bay Shore High School on Long Island and
served as faculty adviser to the Drama Club. It had sounded like a good idea at the time--escorting club members to London for five days of theater and sightseeing. It had taken more effort than she could have imagined: endless bake sales, car washes, and raffles. Mary had paid her own way, but it meant leaving her husband and two children behind. John taught chemistry at Bay Shore, and jetting to London for a few days of
theater was beyond their budget. The students were acting like animals. It had started in the van on the way to Kennedy: the shouting, the screaming, the rap music and Nirvana
blasting from headphones. Her own children were four and six, and each night she prayed they would never reach puberty. Now the students were throwing popcorn at each other and making suggestive comments about the flight attendants. Mary North closed her eyes. Maybe they'll get tired soon, she thought. Maybe they'll sleep.
A popcorn kernel bounced off her nose. She thought, Maybe you've truly lost your
mind, Mary.

AS FLIGHT 002 TAXIED toward the end of the runway, Hassan Mahmoud was aboard the Dauntless, racing toward the western tip of Fire Island, the slender barrier island on the southern shore of Long Island. The trip from the motor yacht had been uneventful. The low moon shone in the eastern sky, allowing him to navigate with no running lights. Ahead of him the borough of Queens glowed pale yellow on the horizon. Conditions were perfect: clear skies, calm seas, scarcely a wind. Mahmoud checked the depthometer and shut down the engine. The Dauntless glided to a stop. In the distance he could hear the grumble of a freighter leaving New York Harbor. He switched on the radio and tuned it to the proper frequency. Five minutes later, Mahmoud heard the air traffic controller give TransAtlantic Flight 002 final clearance for takeoff. He picked up the
Stinger and switched on its fire and guidance systems. Then he hoisted it onto his shoulder and peered through the sighting mechanism into the night sky. Mahmoud heard the jetliner before he could actually see it. Ten seconds later, he picked up the 747’s navigation lights and tracked it across the black sky. Then the tone sounded in his ear, alerting him that the Stinger had acquired a target. The Whaler rolled violently as the Stinger's solid rocket fuel ignited and the missile roared from the launch tube. "The Americans like to refer to their precious Stinger as a fire-and-forget weapon," his
trainer had told him during one of their sessions. The trainer was an Afghan who had lost an eye and a hand killing Russians. Fire and forget, Mahmoud thought. Fire and forget. Simple as that. The launch tube, now empty, was considerably lighter than before. He
dropped it onto the deck, as Yassim had instructed him to do. Then he fired the Whaler's engine and raced away from the coast, taking just one glance over his shoulder to watch the Stinger streaking at supersonic speed across the black canvas of the night.

CAPTAIN FRANK HOLLINGS had flown B-52s over North Vietnam, and he had seen surface-to-air missiles before. For a brief instant, he permitted himself to believe it might be something else--a small plane ablaze, a meteor, stray fireworks. Then, as the missile raced relentlessly toward them at lightning speed, he realized it could be nothing else. The nightmare scenario had come true. "Holy Mother of God," he murmured. He turned toward his copilot and opened his mouth to speak. The aircraft shuddered violently. An instant later it was ripped apart by a massive explosion, and fire rained down on the sea.

WHEN HE HEARD THE APPROACH of the Dauntless, the man called Yassim quickly flashed a powerful signal lamp three times. The smaller vessel came into view. Mahmoud reduced power, and the Dauntless glided toward the stern of the yacht. Even in the weak light of the moon he could see it on the boy's face: the crazed excitement, the fear, the rush. He could see it in the shining deep-brown Palestinian eyes, see it in the jittery hands fumbling over the controls of the Dauntless. Left to his own devices,
Mahmoud would be up all night and the next day too, reliving it, recounting every detail, explaining over and over how it felt the moment the plane burst into flames. Yassim detested ideologues, detested the way they all wore their suffering like armor and disguised their fear as valor. He distrusted anyone who would willingly lead a life such as this. He trusted only professionals. The Dauntless nudged against the stern of the yacht. The wind had picked up in the last few minutes. Gentle swells lapped against the sides of
the boats. Yassim climbed down the ladder as Hassan Mahmoud shut down the engine and clambered into the forward seating area. He reached out a hand for Yassim to help him out of the boat, but Yassim simply drew a silenced 9mm Glock pistol from the waistband of his trousers and shot the Palestinian boy rapidly three times in the face.

THAT NIGHT HE SET THE YACHT on an easterly heading and engaged the automatic navigation systems. He lay awake in his stateroom. Even now, even after countless killings, he could not sleep the first night after an assassination. When he was making his escape, or still in public, he always managed to remain focused and operational cool. But at night the demons came. At night he saw the faces, one by one, like photographs in
an album. First alive and vibrant; then contorted with the death mask or blown apart by his favorite method of killing, three bullets to the face. Then the guilt would come, and he would tell himself that he had not chosen this life; it had been chosen for him. At dawn, with the first gray light of morning leaking through his window, he finally slept.

HE ROSE AT MIDDAY and went about the routine of preparing for his departure. He shaved and showered, then dressed and packed the rest of his clothing into a small leather grip. He made coffee and drank it while watching CNN on the yacht's superb satellite television system. Such a pity: the grieving relatives at Kennedy and Heathrow, the vigil at a high school somewhere on Long Island, the reporters wildly speculating about the cause of the crash. He walked through the yacht room by room one last time to make certain he had left no trace of his presence. He checked the explosive charges.
At 6 p.m., the precise time he had been ordered, he retrieved a small black object from a cabinet in the galley. It was no larger than a cigar box and looked vaguely like a radio. He carried it outside onto the aft deck and pressed a single button. There was no sound, but he knew the message had been sent in a coded microburst. Even if the American NSA intercepted it, it would be meaningless gibberish. The yacht motored eastward for two more hours. It was now 8 p.m. He set each of the charges and then slipped on a canvas vest with a heavy metal clamp on the front. There was more wind tonight. It was colder and there were high clouds. The Zodiac, cleated at the stern, rose and fell rhythmically with the three-foot swells. He climbed into the craft, untied it, and pulled the
starter cord. The engine came to life on the third pull. He turned away from the yacht and opened the throttle. He heard the helicopter twenty minutes later. He shut down the Zodiac's engine and shone a signal lamp into the sky. The helicopter hovered
overhead, the night filled with the thump of its rotors. The cable fell from its belly. He attached it to his vest and pulled hard on it twice to signal that he was ready. A moment later he rose gently from the Zodiac.

He heard explosions in the distance. He turned his head in time to see the large motor yacht being lifted out of the water by the force of the blasts. Then it began its slow descent toward the bottom of the Atlantic.

Meet the Author

Daniel Silva is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Unlikely Spy, The Mark of the Assassin, The Marching Season, and the Gabriel Allon series, including The Kill Artist, The English Assassin, The Confessor, A Death in Vienna, Prince of Fire, The Messenger, The Secret Servant, Moscow Rules, The Defector, The Rembrandt Affair, Portrait of a Spy, The Fallen Angel, The English Girl, The Heist, The English Spy, and The Black Widow. His books are published in more than thirty countries and are bestsellers around the world.

From the Paperback edition.

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Mark of the Assassin 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
"The Mark of the Assassin" by Daniel Sivla is fast paced fictional mystery about CIA agent Michael Osbourne. The story takes place mainly in the United States & England and involves several contemporary themes. The story starts with an act of terrorism. A jet liner is shot out of the sky using an land-to-air shoulder missile, the shooter is a terrorist known to the authorities who is found dead next to the empty missile tube shot in the face three times. Three shots to the face are the mark of the assassin and CIA agent Michael Osbourne knows it - he has encountered it before while working in the field. Michael believes that the jet liner was not shot down by Arab terrorists but by someone else and this makes him a target. What Michael doesn't know is that a group of rich and powerful world policy manipulators have targeted him for assassination and sent the world's best assassin to do the job; an assassin who justifies his work and morality by the famous Wild West well reasoned defense of "he needed killin'". "The Mark of the Assassin" was a good, quick read with several references to Silva's first novel "The Unlikely Spy" (book review) which I found entertaining - even though this is a separate story. The book starts out a bit slow (but well paced) and keeps you reading with twists and a surprise I didn't see midway through. To be fair though, the setup alone is half the book. There are many elements in the mix: political intrigue, a wife, medical issues, international locations, twists, turns and a few surprises. Those elements are a winning combination. The book has well developed characters, great plot-line and it kept me interested until the last page, as well as a theory which is thought provoking, if nothing else. For more book reviews please visit ManOfLaBook dot com
Guest More than 1 year ago
it really didn't spoil my enjoyment of this fantastic story. It did, however, tip off the ending. I recommend all of Daniel Silva's work so far. Next, I will read 'Death in Vienna' and anxiously await more books from DS. These newer writers make me wish I had time to reread some of Leon Uris' books.
miss_dobie More than 1 year ago
Anything written by Daniel Silva is exciting and beyond a great value in a reading experience. His characters are human and make you want to be friends with them. His stories are fast-paced and exciting. And even tho Gabriel Allon is a spy, Daniel Silva writes in such a way that anyone can easily follow along and understand what's going on and why. Gabriel is one of the most famous characters ever written about and we never want his story to end. The stories are so well written that you have finished the book before you know it. And to say that Daniel Silva is one of the greatest writers of our time, is probably a very big understatement. His writing is fluid and flawless and easy to read. You never have to read a sentence twice. If you haven't already read a Daniel Silva story, you are truly missing out on a great reading experience.
jrwils56 More than 1 year ago
A good fast paced thriller. I like the previous book by Silva better but this one is good. My pet peeve is when there are misspelled place names but I guess I can blame the publisher for not doing their job.
JCD2 More than 1 year ago
If there was a failing with this book, it was probably mine.  I grabbed the book expecting Gabriel Allon to appear.  What I got was MIchael Osbourne of the CIA who is willing to go to great lengths to avenge his lover's death.  He also has the most understanding wife alive.
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Thoroughly captivating. Edge of your seat. For anyone that enjoys suspense with facts that are, for the most part, familiar, this author's works are a "must read"
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Ronniedean More than 1 year ago
I cannot believe I have never read Daniel Silva until The Fallen Angel...he is great....I am reading his first Gabriel Allon now The Kill Artist and can't put down. Going to read the entire series. LOVE HIM
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