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About The Book

From New York Times bestselling author Ted Bell, this “highly imaginative thriller ” (James Patterson) follows intelligence operative Lord Alexander Hawke as he races to avert an American armageddon.

In an elegant palazzo on the Grand Canal, an American ambassador’s tryst turns deadly. In the seedy underbelly of London, a pub-crawling killer is on the loose. And in a storybook chapel nestled in the Cotswolds, a marriage made in heaven turns to hell on earth. Isolated incidents? Or links in a chain of events hurtling towards catastrophe?

A shadowy figure known as the Dog is believed to be the ruthless terrorist who is systematically and savagely assassinating American diplomats around the globe. As the deadly number increases, Alexander Hawke and Navy SEAL Stokely Jones are asked by the United States government to track him down. From London to the Florida Keys to a remote Indonesian island, Hawke and Jones are on a breakneck race to stop a bloodthirsty psychopath with plans to throw the United States into cataclysmic ruin.

With white-knuckled action and a resourceful hero you can’t help but root for, Assassin is “a commercial blockbuster packed with pleasure” (Library Journal).



Chapter One The Cotswolds

THE GODS WOULD NEVER HAVE THE NERVE TO RAIN ON HIS wedding. Or, so Commander Alexander Hawke told himself. The BBC weather forecast for the Cotswolds region of England had called for light rain Saturday evening through Sunday. But Hawke, standing on the church steps of St. John’s, basking in the May sunshine, had known better.

Hawke’s best man, Ambrose Congreve, had also decided today, Sunday, would be a perfect day. Simple deduction, really, the detective had concluded. Half the people would say that it was too hot, while the other half would say that it was too cold. Ergo, perfect. Still, he had brought along a large umbrella.

“Not a cloud in the sky, Constable,” Hawke pointed out, his cool, penetrating blue eyes fixed on Congreve. “I told you we wouldn’t need that bloody umbrella.”

Hawke was standing stiffly in his Royal Navy ceremonial uniform, tall and slender as a lance. Marshal Ney’s ornamental sword, a gift from his late grandfather, now polished to gleaming perfection, hung from his hip. His unruly hair, pitch-black and curly, was slicked back from his high forehead, every strand in place.

If the groom looked too good to be true, Ambrose Congreve would assure you that this, indeed, was the case.

Hawke’s mood had been uncharacteristically prickly all morning long. There was a definite tightness in his voice and, were Ambrose to be perfectly honest, he’d been rather snappish. Curt. Impatient.

Where, Congreve wondered, was the easygoing, carefree bachelor, the blasé youth of yore? All morning long the best man had been giving this storybook groom a decidedly wide berth.

Heaving one of his more ill-disguised sighs, Ambrose peered hopefully up into the now cloudless sky. It wasn’t as though Ambrose actually wished for rain on this radiant wedding day. It was just that he so despised, detested really, being wrong. “Ah. You never do know, do you?” he said to his young friend.

“Yes, you do,” Hawke said, “Sometimes you actually do know, Constable. You’ve got the ring, I daresay?”

“Unless it has mysteriously teleported itself from my waistcoat pocket to a parallel universe in the five minutes since your last enquiry, yes, I imagine it’s still there.”

“Very funny. You must amuse yourself no end. And, why are we so bloody early? All this lollygagging about. Even the vicar isn’t here yet.”

The Scotland Yard man gave his friend a narrow look and, after a moment’s hesitation, pulled a small silver shooter’s flask from inside his morning coat. He unscrewed the cap and offered the flagon to the groom, who clearly was in need of fortification.

Rising early that morning, a cheery Congreve had breakfasted alone in the butler’s pantry and then hurried out into the Hawkesmoor gardens to paint. It was delightful sitting there beside the limpid stream. Lilacs were in bud and an unseasonably late snowfall had all but melted away. The light haze of spring green in the treetops had recently solidified. Beside the old dry-stone wall meandering through the orchard, a profusion of daffodils thick as weeds.

He’d been sitting at his easel, slaving over what he judged to be one of his better watercolour efforts to date, when the memory of Hawke’s earlier remark stung him like a bee. Hawke had made the comment to the aged retainer, Pelham, but Ambrose, lingering at the half-opened Dutch door leading to the garden, had overheard.

I think Ambrose’s paintings are not nearly as bad as they look, don’t you agree, Pelham?

Of course, Hawke, his oldest and dearest friend, had meant the jibe to be witty and amusing, but, still—that’s when a solitary raindrop spattered his picture and interrupted his revery.

He looked up. A substantial pile of gravid purple clouds was building in the west. More rain today, of all days? Ah, well, he sighed. The fat raindrop’s effect on his picture was not altogether unpleasant. Gave it a bit of cheek, he thought, and decided the painting was at last finished. This lily study was to be his gift for the bride. The title, whilst obvious to some, had for the artist a certain poetic ring. He called it The Wedding Lilies.

Packing up his folding stool, his papers, paints, pots and brushes, he looked again at the purple clouds. The best man had decided on the spot that, while an umbrella may or may not come in handy on Alexander Hawke’s wedding day, the brandy flask was a must. Grooms, in his experience, traditionally needed a bracer when the hour was at hand.

Hawke tilted back a quick swig.

When Ambrose recapped the flask and slipped it back inside his black cutaway without taking a bracer for himself, Hawke shot him a surprised look.

“Not even joining the groom in a prenuptial?” Hawke demanded of his companion. “What on earth is the world coming to?”

“I can’t drink, I’m on duty,” Congreve said, suddenly busy with his calabash pipe, tamping some of Peterson’s Irish Blend into the bowl. “Sorry, but there it is.”

“Duty? Not in any official sense.”

“No, just common sense. I’m responsible for delivering you to the altar, dear boy, and I fully intend to discharge my duties properly.”

Ambrose Congreve tried to appear stern. To his lifelong chagrin, achieving that cast of expression had never been easy. He had the bright blue eyes of a healthy baby, set in a keen but, some might say, sensitive face. His complexion, even at fifty, had the permanent pinkish pigmentation of a man who’d once had freckles lightly sprinkled across his nose.

For all that, he was a lifelong copper who took his duties extremely seriously.

Having gained an upper rung at the Metropolitan Police, he had had a distinguished career at New Scotland Yard, retiring four years earlier as Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department. But the Yard’s current Commissioner, Sir John Stevens, unable to fill Congreve’s shoes at CID, still retained his services from time to time. Sir John was even kind enough to let him keep the use of a small office in the old Special Branch building in Whitehall Street. In the event, however, Congreve spent precious little time in that cold, damp chamber.

Numerous globe-trotting escapades with the fidgety groom now standing beside him on the church steps had mercifully kept the famous criminalist away from his humble office and hot on the trail of various villains and scoundrels these last five years or so. Their last adventure had been a somewhat heated affair involving some rather unsavory Cuban military chaps down in the Caribbean.

Now, on this bright morning in May, on the steps of this small “chapel of ease” in the picturesque if unfortunately named village of Upper Slaughter, the groom was giving a first-rate impression of a lamb on his way to the slaughter. Hawke’s glacial blue eyes, normally indomitable, finally wandered from the study of a lark singing in a nearby laurel to rest uneasily upon Congreve’s bemused face. Hawke’s gaze, Congreve often noted, had weight.

“Interesting. Since I was a child, I’ve always wondered why they call this place a ‘chapel of ease,’ ” Hawke remarked.

“Any sense of ‘ease’ being notable by its current absence?”


“These small chapels were originally built to ease the overflowing congregations at the main churches.”

“Ah. That explains it. Well. My own personal demon of deduction strikes again. I’ll have another nip of that brandy if you don’t mind. Cough it up.”

Congreve, a shortish, round figure of a man, removed his black silk top hat and ran his fingers through his disorderly thatch of chestnut brown hair. Alex had nowhere near the tolerance for alcohol he himself possessed, even at his somewhat advanced age; and so he hesitated, stalling, pinching the upturned points of his waxed moustache.

“And, of course,” Congreve said, with a sweeping gesture that included a good deal of Gloucestershire, “Every one of those yew trees you see growing in this and every other churchyard were ordered planted there by King Edward I in the fourteenth century.”

“Really? Why on earth should young Eddie have gone to all that bother in the first place?”

“Provide his troops with a plentiful supply of proper wood for longbows.” Congreve had removed the flask but hesitated in the uncorking of it. “You know, dear boy, it was King Edward who—”

“Good lord,” Hawke said, exasperated.


“I want brandy, not arboreal folklore for God’s sake, Ambrose. Fork it over.”

“Ah. Smell that air.”

“What about it?”

“Sweet. Mulchy.”


“Alex, it’s only natural for the groom to experience certain feelings of—anxiety—at a time like this, but I really think…ah, well, here comes the wedding party.” Ambrose quickly slipped the flask back into his inside pocket.

A procession of automobiles was winding its way up the twisting lane, bounded on either side by the hawthorn hedges, leading to the little church of St. John’s. It was a beautiful chapel really, nestled in a small valley of yews, pear trees, laurel, and rhododendron, many just now coming into full pink and white bloom, the trees filtering light onto dappled grass. The surrounding hillsides were green with leafy old forests, towering oaks, elms, and gnarled Spanish chestnuts many hundreds of years old.

The little Norman church was built of the mellow golden limestone so familiar here in Gloucestershire. St. John’s had been the scene of countless Hawke family weddings, christenings, and funerals. Alexander Hawke himself, red-faced with rage, age two, had been christened in the baptismal font just inside the entrance. Only a mile or so from this wooded glen, stood Hawke’s ancestral country home.

Hawkesmoor still held a prominent place in Alex’s heart and he visited his country house as frequently as possible. The foundation of the centuries old house, which overlooked a vast parkland, was built in 1150, with additions dating from the fourteenth century to the end of the reign of Elizabeth I. The roofline was a fine mix of distinctive gables and elaborate chimneys. Alex had long found great peace there, wandering about a rolling landscape laid out centuries earlier by Capability Brown.

At the head of the parade of automobiles was Alex’s gunmetal grey 1939 Bentley Saloon. Behind the wheel, Alex could see the massive figure and smiling face of Stokely Jones, former U.S. Navy SEAL and NYPD copper and a founding member of Alexander Hawke’s merry band of warriors. Sitting up front with Stokely was Pelham Grenville, the stalwart octogenarian and family retainer who had helped to raise young Alex following the tragic murder of the boy’s parents. After the subsequent death of Alex’s grandfather, Pelham and a number of uniformly disappointed headmasters had assumed sole responsibility for the boy’s upbringing.

“Let’s duck inside, Ambrose,” Alex said, with the first hint of a smile. “Vicky and her father are in one of those cars. Apparently, it’s unlucky for the groom to see the bride prior to the ceremony.”

Congreve’s eyebrows shot straight up.

“Yes, I believe I mentioned that custom to you any number of times at the reception last evening. At any rate, we’re supposed to have a final rendezvous with the vicar in his offices prior to the ceremony. He is here, actually, I saw his bicycle propped by the vicarage doorway as we drove up.”

“Quickly, Constable, I think I see their car.”

Congreve breathed a brief sigh of relief that Hawke had not bolted on him, and then followed his friend through the graceful Norman arch into the cool darkness of the little church. Now the event itself was inescapably set in motion, Alex seemed to be shaking off his case of the heebie-jeebies. Here was a man who wouldn’t blink in the face of a cocked gun. Amazing what a wedding could do to a chap, Ambrose thought, glad he’d so far managed to avoid the experience.

The church could not have looked lovelier, Ambrose observed as they approached the rear door leading to the vicar’s office. Because of the narrow leaded glass windows, candles were needed even at this time of day and the churchwarden had lit them all. Their waxy scent mixed with the lily of the valley on the altar caused a rising tide of emotions within Ambrose’s heart. Not mixed emotions exactly, but something akin.

He adored Vicky, everyone did. She was not only a great beauty, but also a dedicated child neurologist who had recently won acclaim for her series of children’s books. Alex had met Dr. Victoria Sweet at a dinner party thrown in her honor at the American ambassador’s residence in Regent’s Park, Winfield House. Her father, the retired United States senator from Louisiana, was an old family friend of the current ambassador to the Court of St. James, Patrick Brickhouse Kelly.

Kelly, a former U.S. Army tank commander, had come across Hawke during the first Gulf War. Hawke and “Brick,” as he called the tall, redheaded man, had remained close friends since the war. The soft-spoken American ambassador, whom Congreve now glimpsed sprinting up a side pathway to the chapel, had saved Hawke’s life in the closing days of the conflict. Now, Hawke’s chief usher was late.

Congreve had goaded Alex into asking the beautiful American author to dance at Brick Kelly’s home in Regent’s Park that night. The two of them had been inseparable ever since that fateful first waltz. Vicky had, that very evening, effectively put an end to Alex’s legendary status as one of Britain’s most eligible bachelors. No, it was not Victoria’s future Congreve was so much concerned about, but rather the long-term prognosis of his dearest friend Alex.

Alexander Hawke led, to put it mildly, an adventurous life.

Having been thrice decorated for bravery flying Royal Navy Harriers over Iraq in the Gulf War, Hawke had subsequently joined the most elite of the British fighting forces, the Special Boat Squadron. There they’d taught him how to kill with his bare hands, jump out of airplanes, swim unseen for miles underwater, and blow all manner of things to kingdom come.

Having acquired these basic skills, he’d then gone into finance in the City. His first order of business was to resurrect the somnolent giant known around the world as Hawke Industries. After his grandfather retreated from the boardroom, he reluctantly relinquished command to young Alex. Hawke had no great love of business; still, he never dared disappoint his grandfather and so, a decade later, the already substantial family interests flourished once more.

Some called his series of brilliant but hostile takeovers around the world piratical and there was some truth to that. Alex was a direct descendant of the infamous eighteenth-century pirate, Blackhawke, and he was fond of warning friend and foe alike there was indeed a bloodthirsty hawk perched atop his family tree. With his black hair, his prominent, determined features, and his piercing blue eyes, a black eyepatch and solitary gold earring would not have looked even remotely ridiculous on him.

As Alex had told Congreve after one particularly fierce takeover battle, pools of blood still much in evidence on the boardroom floors, “I can’t help myself, Constable, I’ve got the pirate blood in me.”

As the man who presided over the sprawling Hawke Industries, Hawke had friends at the highest levels of the world’s major corporations and governments. Because of those contacts he was frequently asked to engage in discreet missions for both the British and American intelligence communities.

Highly dangerous missions, and that’s what concerned Congreve. Alex Hawke put his life on the line constantly. If he and Vicky were fortunate enough to have children, well, Ambrose hated to think what would happen to the brood if—

Congreve realized he’d been daydreaming as the plump little vicar droned on and Alex, who had his own private views on religion, did his best to appear both compliant and reverential. By the rising hum of conversation now emanating from the direction of the chapel, Congreve could tell the pews were filling with ladies in shades of lilac and rose and big brimmed hats and men all in morning clothes. He could hear the level of keen anticipation growing for what was, after all, the biggest small wedding of the year in England.

Or, the smallest big wedding, depending on your tabloid of choice. Although Alex had tried desperately to keep the wedding secret, weeks ago someone had leaked the details to The Sun, sending the rest of the tabloid press into a feeding frenzy.

Security in the Cotswolds had never been tighter. In addition to members of H.M. Government, the British prime minister, and the American secretary of state and ambassador, all close friends of the groom’s, there were a number of foreign dignitaries and heads of state seated amongst a select group of Alex and Vicky’s friends and family. Alex, dogged in his determination to keep the affair small, had deliberately chosen his family’s rustic chapel. The press was barred entirely, although they were certainly manning the police barricades at every obscure little lane leading to the tiny village.

A suspicious helicopter circling above the church at dawn had been quickly escorted out of the area by two RAF fighters and—

“Well, your Lordship, I think it’s high time we got you married,” the vicar said to Hawke with a smile. “The good Lord knows you’ve broken quite enough hearts for one lifetime.”

Alex’s eyes narrowed, wondering if the vicar was having him on.

“Indeed,” Alex finally replied, stifling whatever riposte was surely forming in his mind, and he and Ambrose followed the old fellow into the chapel itself and took their assigned places before the altar. The church was full, a sea of familiar faces, some bathed in shafts of soft sunlight streaming through the tall eastern windows.

Hawke couldn’t wait to get the whole bloody thing over with. It had nothing to do with misgivings or second thoughts. He had felt nothing but spontaneous and unstinting love for Vicky since the first second he’d seen her. It was just that he hated ceremony of any kind, had no patience with it at all. If not for Vicky and her father, this wedding would have been taking place in some ratty little civil service office in Paris or even—

The organ boomed its triumphal first notes. Victoria appeared in the sun-filled chapel doorway on the arm of her beaming father. All eyes were on the bride as she made her way slowly up the aisle. Standing before the altar with a trembling heart, Alex Hawke had but one thought: By God I am a lucky man.

She had never looked more beautiful. Her lustrous auburn hair was swept back into a chignon held by ivory combs that also held the veils that fell to the floor behind her. Her white satin dress had been her mother’s; the bodice was festooned with swirling patterns of pearls which, as she moved through gold bars of sunlight, cast a soft glow upwards, lighting her face and her smiling eyes.

The groom would remember little of the ceremony.

His heart was now pounding so rapidly there was an overpowering roar of blood in his ears. He knew the vicar was speaking, having begun his intonations in a slow, deep register, and he was aware he himself was saying things in rote reply. The vicar kept upping the oratorical ante and, at some point, near the end of the thing, Vicky had squeezed his hand, hard. She looked up into his eyes and, somehow, he actually heard her speaking to him.

“I, Victoria, take thee Alexander to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I give thee my troth.”

There was the exchange of rings and suddenly the organ pipes filled the church with what could only be called the sounds of heaven and he was somehow aware that he was lifting Vicky’s veil to kiss her; that Congreve having delivered the ring, stood now with eyes full of tears, and then he heard the vicar’s final volley of oratory thunder.

“Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder!”

He embraced his bride, actually lifting her off her feet, to the delight of all assembled, and then he was hurrying her down the aisle festooned with white satin and lilies, through all the applause and smiling faces of their friends and towards the sunshine which filled the doorway and the future. Outside the entrance, his uniformed comrades formed two opposing lines. On the command, “Draw swords!” steel was raised, forming an arch, cutting edge facing up.

He’d meant for the two of them to quickly duck through the gleaming silver arch created by his Royal Navy Guard of Honor and race for the Bentley, but the overflow of well-wishers had spilled out onto the steps and he and Vicky were forced to stop to receive the hugs and kisses everyone seemed determined to bestow upon them amidst the clouds of white blossoms filling the air.

Out of the corner of his eye, Alex saw Vicky bend to kiss the cheek of the pretty little flower girl and he turned away from her for a moment to embrace her beaming father. Vicky was rising from the kiss, smiling up at him, extending her arms towards him, clearly wanting as much as he did to escape to the back seat of the waiting Bentley.

It was just then, when he was bending to embrace his bride, that the unthinkable happened.

Suddenly Vicky was not leaning into him, she was falling away with a breathless sigh, white petals whirling from the folds of her veil. There was a bright flower of red blooming amongst the snow-white pearls of her satin bodice. Shocked, staggered by what he saw, Alex grabbed her shoulders and pulled her towards him. He was screaming now, as he saw her gaze go distant and glaze over, feeling the gush of warm blood flowing straight from her heart. Victoria’s blood soaked through his shirtfront, and it broke his own heart into infinitely small pieces as he stared into her lifeless eyes.

About The Author

Photo Credit: Hugo Tillman

Ted Bell was the former vice-chairman of the board and creative director of Young & Rubicam, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies. He was the New York Times bestselling author of the Alex Hawke series. Ted Bell passed away in 2023.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pocket Books (April 9, 2024)
  • Length: 608 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668034750

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Raves and Reviews

"Assassin is the most highly imaginative thriller to come along in a long while. Ted Bell can really, really write."

– James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Cross Down

"An international political thriller of the highest order. Intrigue you can sink your teeth into and a secret agent who takes you into the danger zone with a ballsy wit that had me hooked."

– Vince Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Code Red

"Fascinating characters, a hairpin plot, and wonderfully talented writing. Assassin is what you get when you pair a great story with a great writer."

– Brian Haig, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Crew

"Whether the novel is taken as a grown-up boy's book or a modern thriller, readers will be caught in the whirlwind of action and find themselves having a grand old time....This second entry in the series will help readers better understand the stylistic underpinnings and originality of Bell's larger-than-life hero. Expect numbers to grow with each new addition to the series."

Publishers Weekly 

"Hawke is the kind of character somebody really should put in a movie: he is smart, resourceful, attractive - everything we want in an action hero. Bell is a nimble writer, and fans of the first Hawke adventure won't want to miss this sequel. New readers will be enthralled and will immediately track down the first novel in the series."


"I love to read books from authors like Clancy, Ludlum, and Flynn. Ted Bell, the author of Assassin, is in that league. His research is so amazing you'd swear the events in the book actually took place. And here's the scary part--they could....If you're going to read just one suspensefull-thrilling-emotional roller coaster-spy novel this summer, you've got to read Assassin by Ted Bell....Make sure you clear some reading time on your will not be able to put Assassin down."

– Glenn Beck, New York Times bestselling author

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