Checking in
on Eisler's
killer with a heart

''The Last Assassin''
By Barry Eisler
(Putnam, 334 pp., $24.95)
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Reviewed by John Orr
June 2006

''The Last Assassin'' is my introduction to the John Rain series by San Francisco Bay Area author Barry Eisler, and it's made me want to go find the earlier books and read them.

Rain is a Japanese-American assassin who has been thinking he'd like to get out of the business -- especially since he's learned that one of the loves of his life, Midori, is raising their child in New York. A child he hadn't known about. He cries when he takes the baby in his arms. He wants to hook up with Midori and live something like a normal life, but there are complications.

Among them: Some of his enemies are hanging around Midori just so they can kill him if he shows up; and Midori is still real cranky about Rain having killed her father. And, there is that Israeli spy Delilah, who has the hots for Rain (don't all women?), understands his life better than does jazz-pianist Midori, and who has a real nasty streak when it comes to jealousy.

''The Last Assassin'' is a terrific, fun read, full of modern spy craft (Eisler worked for the CIA for a while), exotic locales well described, hot sex well described and plenty of violence. Not to mention a fine, extremely well defined character in John Rain, who really seems like a pretty good guy, given his career.