The Assassin is by my friend and fellow Inkpop Top 5 winner, Laura Teagan. This is her debut and, according to her ending acknowledgment, an eight year project of hers. Knowing these things, and what a gorgeous person Teagan is, I have a heavy heart writing this review. I want nothing more to gush over Teagan's novel and shower it with kisses - and while this novel shows promise, I won't do her the injustice of false praise.
With that kill-joy opening, lets get started.
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The Assassin is the start of a series based on newcomer FBI agent Cassie Morgan, a girl grown in foster care with a love of red wine. She is tasked with hunting down rouge agent Anders before being thrown into the Assassin case - a serial killer recently escaped from a high security prison and already leaving a trail of red heads dead in his wake. So, knowing his type, no prize to what hair colour Cassie has!
I remember this novel being on Inkpop - but more importantly, I remember one of my best friend's loving it when she read it back in high school. So I was very curious to read it and see what it was like. Now, having read it, I sadly feel as if it never moved out of that 'inkpop realm'.
First off: Write what you know. It's an old age saying for writers, and it is something I have a hate-love relationship with. I guess I take it this way - if you are writing something you don't know - research the crap out of it until it is something you do know... to the best of your abilities, because hey it's called fiction for a reason and try as I might, I can't imagine perfectly what it's like getting shot, sent into space, or to be a demon. But to counter this as much as I can, I have tens of thousands of words just on research and worldbuilding aside from my actual story. And actually, it is kind of crazy.
(it's sad how often I get to this state when working on a novel - but this isn't about me)
I wasn't convinced Teagan had done her research. I am no expert on FBI procedure, but I was constantly being pulled from the story wondering how realistic this was. Naturally, fiction calls for a certain suspension of disbelief, but that is within reason and as the author you must do your best to convince your reader you know what you're talking about. I didn't get that confidence from Teagan. And this lapse made Cassie come across as unprofessional.
I was also a little confused to what her portfolio was. Sometimes I thought it was supposed to be quite impressive with her previous infiltration work (and even Anders noted there was a reason she was allowed early acceptance into the FBI) but all this wasn't concreted with the way she acted. I felt it would have been stronger to recognize her youthfulness instead of trying to build her up. Cassie was a nice character, and I liked her - but I didn't believe her to be some great FBI agent. Her work with Anders didn't help improve my opinion in this case.
Anders was made out as a big target - so I wouldn't have a girl on probation going after him with such relaxed restrictions. I felt like the two friends aiding her should have had more senior positions and officially tasked with being her mentors. Cassie shouldn't have been out alone in the field - she should have had her friend's talking in her ear, directing her. And yes, I know apparently she did all that infiltration work previously, but I didn't feel it with the way she acted and used her resources.
On that point, wouldn't they have been using security cameras? What about credit card movements? Tapping his calls? Things like that, options I'm sure the FBI constantly uses, didn't seem realised in this novel.
There was also apparently multiple task forces keeping tabs on Anders (Cassie's team felt a little like a wild card) - but where were they? What were they doing? And surely the groups would be collaborating leads, or was it a competition?
Moving on, secondary characters in general lacked unique voices sadly. Dialogue seemed all very similar - a very easy trap to fall into. Writing dialogue is hard. So very hard. And things like everyone always adding the formality of Special Agent before names, even in casual environments was a little tedious - same with Anders's cupcake thing. That, I have to admit, started to make me wince after a while.
And talking about secondary characters, I have to ask what was with the strange addition of the boy band friend that didn't exactly go anywhere - even if there was just a scene where she went to one of his local gigs, it could have grounded this character a bit more - especially seeming he was supposed to be a potential love interest. Second book maybe? That would be really cool.
But now we have to go to the main issue of this novel, and I can sum it up with one GiF.
(If you don't know the novel, the guy is giving the girl a cupcake because that's his nickname for her)
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich is about former lingerie buyer, Stephanie Plum, as she finds herself out of a job and cash. To get quick money she joins her brother in-laws bounty-hunter service and agrees to bring in her old rival Joe Morelli who recently became a rouge copy, and whom she has a long history with.. Proceeding this, she gets involved with helping Morelli clear his name while trying to bring him back in, all the while finding herself neck deep in his past against against an abusive boxer. It's a lot of fun.
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The beginning of this series is fantastic - just fantastic - though the rest of it is debatable. And Evanovich is an obvious inspiration point for Teagan, something she did confirm. And this is where we have a major problem.
The Assassin hasn't been able to come into it's own, because right now it is too much of a tribute to One of the Money. Therefore I have to compare them, and The Assassin is no where to the same standard. Anders is too much of a stilted Morelli copy, and Cassie doesn't have the same fire as Plum. Teagan also hasn't created the same unique circus of characters supporting the leads, and while I can see her trying to bring in her Texas roots similar Plum does with her own 'the burg', she doesn't quite get it.
And then there's the structure. Teagan follows it quite closely beyond idea inspiration (Cassie being shot at the end, and her decision to 'bring Anders in'), however loses a lot of what makes One of the Money so unique and great. It is very unfortunate, because The Assassin could be something just as fun if given the chance...
(You have know idea, Cheryl - Carol. Whatever.)
I have been harsh with this novel, and I am sorry for that, but I said I was going to be honest (though when am I ever not?). And there is nothing that gets under my skin more than a book (or movie or whatever) with potential that misses the mark - which this story does. The ideas are there. Teagan has them all in the mixing pot just ready to bring them up to that next heat. But she needs to make this story her own.
I liked the The Assassin case. And though obvious, I liked the twist about her family. I liked Cassie despite her unprofessionalism. And I liked her friends. There was so much of this novel to like - so many diamonds just waiting to be cleaned so they can shine. But this is a draft. And sadly, I do need to mention the editing.
It isn't solid. There is quite a few small mistakes littered throughout the novel. At the beginning I was forgiving, but I couldn't be towards the end. They appeared just too often. And sadly this is where the difference between self-published and traditional novels shows. Sigh. There you have it.
Overall: the Assassin isn't bad, and it could be pretty good. Sadly - despite eight years being invested in this project - I feel it needs another revision, and a good edit and I hate myself for saying that to someone I know has worked so hard, but that is how I see it. I am awarding it 3/5.