Chapter 16
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Living In a Gray Area

Mark Greaney’s third novel pushes ex-CIA assassin Court Gentry deeper into the shadows

Court Gentry lives in a morally ambiguous world. The ex-CIA assassin, created by Memphis novelist Mark Greaney, is a hunted man, a man who faithfully followed orders and now must stay one step ahead of his former employers and the growing list of both criminal and law-enforcement organizations that want him dead. So Gentry, a.k.a. the Gray Man, must continually kill to stay alive. Through two previous thrillers—The Gray Man (2009) and On Target (2010)—Greaney’s protagonist has repeatedly demonstrated his expertise in close-range combat, a subject Greaney himself knows first-hand, having been trained in the art by military and police specialists. In his third outing, Ballistic, Greaney brings his protagonist’s unique fighting skills to bear against some of the most violent people on earth—the Mexican drug cartels.

As always in the ex-hit-man genre, Gentry does not seek confrontation. He tries to live a quiet life, albeit one with a gun and a booby-trapped escape route near to hand. In Ballistic, he even makes a sentimental detour while on the run, a small side trip to visit the fresh grave of an old friend, a man who, Gentry soon learns, was one of the few honest cops in Mexico. When the dead friend’s pregnant wife asks Gentry to stay for the memorial, he does so out of a desire to be part of a normal human activity, to be surrounded, however briefly, by a proxy family. This dalliance is, of course, a mistake. Soon he is running again, the terrified family of his friend in tow, as a sadistic drug lord tries to wipe out the bloodline of his former foe.

Ballistic is a full-speed dash through a brutal civil war, an all-too real struggle for the soul of a country in which many thousands have died. As one cop warns Gentry, “There are no rules here, amigo.” But Gentry is okay with that—he’s used to a world in which nothing can be taken for granted, least of all common decency. He tells the cop, “I am different from other good guys, because I am not afraid to go down to the level of my enemies.” In his epic fight against the cartels, el hombre de gris must sink very low indeed, into a place where the shadows are a particularly dark shade of gray.