The Smiling Assassin
by Nathalie Gray, futuristic (2008)
Red Sage Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-160310-230-8

The Smiling Assassin has, as you can probably guess from its title, an assassin for a hero. Set in some distant planet during 2392, we see Ulrich killing his latest mark with a point-blank shot in the head. Cool. There is a witness, however, a woman named Amelia who would have been raped by the now-dead fellow if Ulrich hadn't gotten to that man first. Amelia happens to be a lawyer who ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Uriel lets her live, however, which can be quite dumb considering that she not only has seen his face, she only knows his name thanks to his moo-moo funk when he lays eyes on her.

Cut to a year later. Amelia has since then become obsessed with tracking down Uriel, using all the resources she can get her hands on, and now she is convinced that she has found him. She doesn't know what she will do when she finds him - maybe she'll thank him for saving her life - but she has this need to find him, sort of like wanting to lay the past to rest and tie up loose ends before she can move on with her life, I suppose. So here they are at last, finally face to face. What will happen next? Okay, the hot sex is inevitable, considering the kind of story published by this particular publisher, so let me rephrase that question a little. What else will happen next?

The Smiling Assassin is a short story, with Ms Gray exercising judicious economy so that only the details needed to bring the story to life and nothing more are present in this story. Therefore, the end result is a scene rather than a story, because I have this feeling that those two are going to have more adventures together long after this story has ended. The characters are fine for the limitations imposed on this short story format. Uriel is a little too noble for a supposed anti-hero and I really think it's pretty daft of him to give the heroine his name when they first met. But he's a nice guy for someone with his job. I can understand Amelia's obsession with tracking him down, although I wish the author has provided a little bit more insight into what makes Amelia attracted to Uriel. Is it because she has a thing for knights in shining armor? Maybe she likes bad boys with big guns?

For a story of its length, however, The Smiling Assassin is a fun and fast-paced read. Think of this one as some kind of appetizer before you pick up the author's longer works.

Rating: 80

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