The 'Nick Carter: Killmaster' series was one of the post popular and enduring titles in men’s adventure fiction with 261 installments between 1964 and 1990. Robert Randisi remains one of the most entertaining and highly-regarded authors in the private eye and western genres. The promise of these two successful brands colliding in Killmaster #181: “The Decoy Hit” from 1983 was too intoxicating of a combination to pass up, so here we go.
In 1983, the Defense Intelligence Agency used human couriers to transport sensitive information from Point A to Point B. The paperback’s premise is that a someone is killing these intel deliverymen en route and stealing their top secret paperwork. The U.S. national security community turns to the super-secret government agency called AXE that employs our hero, Nick Carter. The agency chooses Nick to deliver a package to a missing scientist in London for the purpose of locating the man and smoking out the courier assassins.
Along the way Nick encounters Stephanie, the sexy daughter of a murdered DIA courier also seeking to learn the truth about her father’s demise. Of course, this leads to the trope where the professional spy is forced to team up with the erotic, bumbling amateur. Nick and Stephanie’s investigation keep them bouncing from Washington to London to Paris to Switzerland to Rome.
Randisi wrote this installment using the same winning formula he employs in his popular ‘Gunsmith’ series of adult westerns - extremely short chapters, propulsive action, and lots of dialogue. This makes for a speedy and never-boring read, but it felt more like a mystery than a pure spy novel. Randisi was stuck with some of the dumber traditions the Killmaster series forced upon him, including the proper names given to Nick’s knife and gun (Hugo and Wilhelmina), but those elements of the story were largely just background noise. One upside is that Randisi also brings his knack for graphic sex scenes to “The Decoy Hit” - kid’s stuff compared to ‘The Gunsmith’ - but more explicit than Ian Fleming ever dreamed.
Overall, “The Decoy Hit” is not a masterpiece of espionage genre, but it’s a fun action-mystery from a talented author working with an established franchise. Most importantly, it’s a very good installment in the wildly inconsistent ‘Nick Carter: Killmaster’ series, and is certainly worth your time.
The Killmaster series employed a deep bench of authors writing under the Nick Carter house name during the 26-year publication history. This made the continuity, quality, and writing style a bit of an inconsistent mess. The best way to navigate the series is to go straight to authors you know and trust. Robert Randisi is one such writer who can always be counted on to deliver a quality product. His Killmaster titles are as follows:
#152: Pleasure Island (1981)
#155: Chessmaster (1982)
#169: The Mendoza Manuscript (1982)
#173: The Greek Summit (1983)
#181: The Decoy Hit (1983)
#184: Caribbean Coup (1984)
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