In the words of Evan Smoak: “Do you need my help?” The chances are likely if you want to know how to read Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X books in order, then this will be your ultimate guide.
Evan, or Orphan X, is a government-trained assassin that has broken away from his program, determined to help those in need with the deadly skills he has acquired. The result is a bestselling series among the likes of Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher, or Jack Ryan that has hooked fans around the world. Keep reading to find out how to read the Orphan X books in order.
Who is Gregg Hurwitz?
Gregg Hurwitz is the bestselling author of 23 crime thriller novels, including the Orphan X series, and two award-winning young adult thrillers. His works have been published in 33 languages, and his writing credits are quite expansive in addition to his international bestsellers.
Hurwitz has written screenplays and television scripts for major studios and networks, contributed to daily news publications, and also written numerous comics. He has written Knighted volumes for AWA; numerous Batman and The Penguin comics for DC; and Moon Knight, Punisher, Wolverine, and FoolKiller volumes for Marvel.
He has said in interviews that is has always been his dream to write, and it’s safe to say he has well and truly accomplished that since his debut novel in 1999. Hurwitz also takes great delight in researching his thrillers, going so far as to sneak onto demolition ranges with Navy SEALs, swim with sharks in the Galápagos, and go undercover in mind-control cults.
Currently, Hurwitz is co-president of the International Thriller Writers organization and lives in Los Angeles.
About the Orphan X Series
As already mentioned, the main character of the Orphan X books is Evan Smoak and he is akin to the likes of Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher, or Jack Ryan. He’s a lone wolf that has endured many hardships throughout his life, yet nevertheless — or perhaps, because of — he has an intense passion to help those who are vulnerable with nowhere else to turn.
At the age of twelve Evan was taken from his children’s home and became Orphan X within the U.S. government’s Orphan Program. This secretive program trains orphans to be ruthless assassins, giving the government the ultimate deniability and also, with no family to ask questions, a way to silence and execute assassins with no repercussions if need be. Outside of this program, the children-turned-assassins do not exist.
However, unlike his peers, Evan had a different relationship with his handler. This special treatment from Jack Jones allowed Evan to maintain a hold on his humanity throughout the program. So one day, Evan decides that he has had enough.
Using everything he’s learned from the program, Evan disappears without a trace. But with an infinite supply of money, thanks to numerous bank accounts linked to the U.S. Treasury before his departure, Evan needs something to occupy his time. So he becomes The Nowhere Man.
He sets out to help the most vulnerable and desperate people, who have nowhere else to turn. He takes nothing from them in return for his aid, except the promise that they’ll pass on his phone number to someone else who needs help.
But nothing can remain perfect for long, and the series begins with the Orphan Program tracking Evan down. He must evade capture and his past as Orphan X while he continues his work as The Nowhere Man.
Orphan X Books in Order of Publication
There are currently seven full-length Orphan X books, three short stories, and an eighth book expected in 2023. While each book will have its own crime thriller narrative that concludes with each book, the series greatly builds upon itself. Therefore, reading the Orphan X books in order of publication is the recommended reading order.
While the first book contains many flashbacks to detail Evan Smoak’s life before he became The Nowhere Man, the publication order is largely the same as the chronological order. The exception to this is the first short story, Buy a Bullet. This short story takes place chronologically before Orphan X.
However, if you are reading this series for the first time, you should absolutely begin the series with Orphan X. This will properly introduce you to Evan Smoak and how his time as Orphan X built him into the man he is today.
- Orphan X (2016)
- Buy a Bullet (2016) (Short Story)
- The Nowhere Man (2017)
- Hellbent (2017)
- The Intern (2018) (Short Story)
- Out of the Dark (2019)
- Into the Fire (2020)
- The List (2020) (Short Story)
- Prodigal Son (2021)
- Dark Horse (2022)
- The Last Orphan (2023)
- Lone Wolf (Expected: February 13, 2024)
Is there an Orphan X adaptation?
Not much information is available, but is is likely there will be a TV series adaptation of Orphan X from Makeready and Perfect Storm Entertainment.
This comes after the Warner Bros. rights to the franchise expired. Warner Bros. acquired the rights in 2015 with Bradley Cooper as a producer, and rumoured to potentially star as Evan Smoak, but the film project adaptation never came to fruition.
After the rights expired Brad Weston’s Makeready acquired the rights and there are plans to adapt the book series into a TV series with Justin Lin’s Perfect Storm Entertainment. While there has been no script or cast announcement, Gregg Hurwitz will co-adapt the books and be an executive producer on the project.
A Summary of Orphan X Books in Order
Now let’s take a closer look at the Orphan X books in order. Only the full-length books have been included in this list of summaries. As well, if you have not read this series before, proceed with caution as some of the summaries will contain spoilers for previous books.
1. Orphan X
The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure that invokes whispers. It’s said that if you’re truly desperate and deserving, The Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save you.
But he’s no legend.
Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past.
Chosen as a child, he grew up as part of the off-the-books black box Orphan program. The objective of the program was to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets — i.e. assassins. He was Orphan X. But then Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.
Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. And someone who is getting closer and closer. They will exploit Evan’s weakness — his work as The Nowhere Man — to find him and eliminate him.
2. The Nowhere Man
As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children’s home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no one knows it exists. But then he broke with the program. He chose instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves.
But then one day, Evan’s luck runs out. Ambushed, drugged, and spirited away, Evan wakes up in a locked room with no idea where he is or who has captured him. He tries to test his gilded prison and its highly-trained guards. But as he tries to piece together what took place, he receives a desperate call for help.
Now time is running out. To have any chance of escape he must out-think, out-manoeuvre, and out-fight an opponent the likes of whom he’s never come across. He’s got to save himself to protect those whose lives depend on him. Or die trying…
To some he was Orphan X. Others knew him as The Nowhere Man. But to Jack Johns he was just the boy Evan Smoak.
Taken from an orphanage, Evan grew up inside a top-secret government program and became a lethal weapon. By Jack. And yet for all the dangerous skill he instilled in his young charge, Jack Jones cared for Evan like a son.
But Jack knew too much about a program that had gone rotten. He was a loose end that needed to be dealt with. But if you go after the only person who ever treated him like a human being, you can guarantee that The Nowhere Man will be coming for you. Hellbent on making things right…
4. Out of the Dark
Taken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was raised and trained as part of the Orphan Program. It’s an off-the-books operation to create deniable intelligence assets ― i.e. assassins. Evan was Orphan X.
But then he broke with the Program. He used everything he learned to disappear and reinvent himself as The Nowhere Man, a man who helps the truly desperate when no one else can. But now Evan’s past in the Orphan Program is reaching out to him.
Someone at the very highest level of government has been trying to eliminate every trace of the Orphan Program by killing all the remaining Orphans and their trainers. After the death of Evan’s mentor and the only father he ever knew, he decided to strike back. His target is the man behind the program and who is now the most heavily-guarded person in the world: The President of the United States.
But President Bennett knows that Orphan X is after him and, using weapons of his own, he decides to counter-attack. Bennett activates the one man who has the skills and experience to track down and take out Orphan X ― the first recruit of the program, Orphan A.
Evan devotes all his skills, resources, and intelligence to find a way through the layers of security that surround the President. But suddenly he also has to protect himself against the deadliest of opponents. It’s Orphan vs. Orphan with the future of the country ― even the world ― on the line.
5. Into the Fire
Taken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was trained as an off-the-books government assassin: Orphan X. After breaking with the Program, he reinvented himself as The Nowhere Man. A figure shrouded in shadows who helps the truly desperate.
But the government didn’t let go of him easily, sending their best to hunt him down and eliminate him. All of them failed. With his deadliest enemies behind him, Evan is facing a new challenge. What is he going to do now that no one is after him?
Meanwhile, Max Merriweather is at the end of his rope. Separated from the woman he loves and barely scraping by, Max is a disappointment to everyone in his life. Then his very successful cousin Grant is brutally murdered.
Two months before, Grant left Max an envelope with instructions to take it to a reporter if anything happened to him. Now the reporter is missing and Max’s apartment is ransacked. A man at the end of his rope, he calls The Nowhere Man.
With mixed feelings, Evan takes on this mission. It’s easy to find the men who are after Max and execute a plan to keep him safe. But it isn’t as obvious as it seems. Then Evan finds himself enmeshed in one of the most challenging missions of his life, one that he can’t survive on his own.
Joey Morales is a genius-level hacker and the last Orphan recruited into the program. Tommy Stojack is a brilliant, off-the-books gunsmith. With their help Orphan X once more heads…Into the Fire.
6. Prodigal Son
As a boy, Evan Smoak was pulled out of a foster home and trained in an off-the-books operation known as the Orphan Program. He was a government assassin, perhaps the best, known to a few insiders as Orphan X. He eventually broke with the Program and adopted a new name — The Nowhere Man. As well as a new mission, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble.
But the highest power in the country has made him a tempting offer. In exchange for an unofficial pardon, he must stop his clandestine activities as The Nowhere Man. Now Evan has to do the one thing he’s least equipped to do — live a normal life.
But then he gets a call for help from the one person he never expected. A woman claiming to have given him up for adoption, a woman he never knew — his mother. Her unlikely request: Help Andrew Duran. He is a man whose life has gone off the rails, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, bringing him to the deadly attention of very powerful figures.
Now a brutal brother and sister assassination team are after him and with no one to turn to, and no safe place to hide, Evan is Duran’s only option. But when the hidden cabal catches on to what Evan is doing, everything is on the line — including his own life.
7. Dark Horse
Evan Smoak is a man with many identities and a challenging past. As Orphan X, he was a government assassin for the off-the-books Orphan Program. After he broke with the Program, he adopted a new name and a new mission. He became The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble.
After managing to survive an attack on his life and the complete devastation of his base of operations, Evan doesn’t want to take on a new mission. His deepening relationship with his neighbor Mia Hall is only complicating matters. But a new mission finds him anyway.
Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He’s also the patron of the local area — supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He’s complicated — a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons.
However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen-year-old daughter. She’s now in the heavily-armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.
Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily-armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader. But he must decide if he should help a very bad man — no matter how just the cause.
8. The Last Orphan
This title’s expected publication is February 14, 2023.
As a child, Evan Smoak was plucked out of a group home, raised and trained as an off-the-books assassin for the government as part of the Orphan program. When he broke with the program and went deep underground, he left with a lot of secrets in his head that the government would do anything to make sure never got out.
When he remade himself as The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble, Evan found himself slowly back on the government’s radar. Having eliminated most of the Orphans in the program, the government will stop at nothing to eliminate the threat they see in Evan. But Orphan X has always been several steps ahead of his pursuers.
Until he makes one little mistake…
Now the President has him in her control and offers Evan a deal. Eliminate a rich, powerful man she says is too dangerous to live and, in turn, she’ll let Evan survive. But when Evan left the Program he swore to only use his skills against those who really deserve it. Now he has to decide what’s more important — his principles or his life.
Final thoughts on Orphan X books in order
So, there you have everything you need to know about how to read the Orphan X books in order. These books are action-packed crime thrillers that you will be sure to enjoy if you love a good underdog story.
Looking for more books in order?
If you enjoy reading about Evan Smoak, you might also enjoy reading about Mitch Rapp in the Vince Flynn books in order.