BOOK REVIEW: Assassin by Tara Moss

Posted on October 31, 2012


Former model turned forensic psychologist and PI Mak Vanderwall is missing, presumed dead in Paris. By hiring a hit man to kill her, the powerful and corrupt Cavanagh family aimed to silence her for good. But after narrowly escaping death, Mak has taken over her would-be killer’s world. She is very much alive. And transformed …

Back in Sydney Mak’s former flame, criminal profiler Andy Flynn is on the trail of a vicious rapist and murderer with possible ties to the infamous ‘Stiletto Killer’. He may have struck before and will certainly do so again. And while Andy struggles to cope in a world without Mak, little does he realise she is on her way back. And this time she’s ready to make her own justice.


For me at least, one of the really interesting things about reading an extended series is in getting to see a character grow, develop and change in response to the obstacles placed before them. Tara Moss’s series about Makedde Vanderwall has been a prime example. It opened in Fetish with Vanderwall, a working model, arriving in Australia to meet up with a modelling friend, only to be dragged into a horrific encounter with a serial killer. Over the course of five books (Fetish, Split, Covert, Hit, Siren) we have seen Mak overcome a lot, changed and scarred by the experiences. And in Assassin, we see a more violent ending and a resolution. Looking back, it is hard to really see the original Mak in the character she has become over time but by doing so, Moss has managed to keep the story and the character fresh.

In tracking the course of these novels, it has also reflected the growth of Tara Moss as an author. Earlier in the series, Mak was a working model, reflecting Moss’s own experience and writing what you know. But just as the character developed, so did Moss, the author, extending into new experiences and environments.

Moss is well known for being an experiential author, personally experiencing things and places to aid her writing of her character’s story. Assassin was no different with Moss at one point exploring parts of Spain (it’s a dirty job, but hey – someone’s got to do it!). This came out in the details, helping me to readily visualise somewhere I have never been. And the rest of the novel has that same sense of development in detail.

This is not exactly a happy story. Mak has become a bitter and hard person which is hardly surprising given her experiences (a prime candidate for PTSD) and happiness seems to have become a foreign thing to her. Her on-again off-again lover, Andy, is similarly not a happy chappie. His work in law enforcement and becoming a profiler have made him increasingly disillusioned with everything. It is these similarities that have both drawn Mak and Andy together but then forcing them apart. Being a bit on the broken down side myself, I found myself empathising with Andy (apart from the lack of fashion models – former or otherwise – in my life).

Mak’s treatment of a serial killer who has been trying to emulate Mak’s former nemesis, the Stiletto Killer, is brutal. The Mak we first met back in Fetish would have been incapable of that and demonstrates what a large character arc she has come through.

As for Assassin itself, it is well-paced, full action and introspection. And we get to finish Mak’s individual journey as well as Mak’s and Andy’s journey together. It is a fitting end to the series and an enjoyable read, even though I shall quite probably miss Mak in the future.

Highly recommended.

Ross HamiltonAuthor
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