WET WORK begins with a short, eye-catching disclaimer: “’Wet Work’ is a euphemism for murder or assassination.” The novel begins in Baltimore circa 1938 where the reader is immediately thrust into a pre-Cold War spy world, following a KGB operative arriving at a Soviet safehouse to inform his superiors that he lost contact with an American Communist, an “urbane Alger Hiss,” he was tasked with overseeing. By the end of the chapter, the operative is dispensed with in a nearby river, setting the novel’s deadly tone as the plot then shifts to present day 4th of July.
Author Mark A. Hewitt draws a unique parallel to Democratic National Committee (DNC) staff member Tommy Larrabee as he surprises his mother in Indianola, Iowa. What begins as a happy surprise turns to Larrabee’s strange decision to relinquish damning information to his mother, which she soon discovers is the whole reason for his visit. He intricately details his dubious responsibilities in digging up dirt on political rivals, reporting some deep-seated truths about the corruption that exists in both Republican and Democratic parties, along with their close ties to intelligence agencies. The picture Hewitt paints is not too far removed from America’s political landscape during the 2016 presidential election. There is a deep foreboding between mother and son as she drives him to the airport, but not before he leaves her with ‘information’ should something happen to him.
Hewitt slowly unravels a multidimensional world, encapsulating old KGB intelligence officers, evangelized CIA watchdogs, and a thinly veiled political landscape that only masks reality with a few alterations that are easily traversable. When the reader is eventually introduced to WET WORK’s CIA pilot protagonist, Duncan Hunter, all the dominoes have been set. An unpopular president, cigar-smoking DNC Chairman Zhavrazhinov, whispers of assassination, and a secret experimental weapon are all pieces locking together to create the perfect storm. However, Hunter is an ever-capable pilot who, like most protagonists of his genre, initially bites off more than he can chew only to face his adversaries with might and mind.
Although WET WORK is heavily overwritten in prose and overly contextualizes historical events, some readers may find a silver-lining in learning more about the inner-workings of politics, military operations, and intelligence agencies. Hewitt’s constant digressions into history and explanation slows the plot at crucial moments that may fatigue readers, rather than further developing his fascinating set of characters.
Mark A. Hewitt’s WET WORK is an entertaining and enjoyable read with many references to current events, even though it suffers in places from cliches in characterization and tone.
~Zack Eritz for IndieReader