A Book Spy Review: ‘Clear by Fire’ by Joshua Hood

Clear by FireMason Kane is an elite soldier that is part of the secretive Anvil Program, a dedicated unit of operatives that specializes in black ops, or missions done in the shadows. Kane is a loyal patriot with a conscience, which ends up costing him.

The Anvil program was created with one objective: train a team to fight like the enemy does, tossing out the rules of engagement and anything that might get in the way of completing the objective – which is to kill bad guys.

When given an order to kill innocent people as part of a corrupt agenda, Kane refuses. By doing so, he draws attention from all the wrong people. Ultimately, he’s labeled a terrorist, and worse – a traitor to the county that he loves and has served so faithfully.

Up to his neck in a tangled web of lies and corruption, Kane is forced to go on the run. The very men that he bravely served with are now after him. Armed with his training and experience, Kane must stay one step ahead of those hunting him, while also working to clear his name. That’s considerably harder than it already sounds when you throw in that he’s also the first American to earn a “kill on sight” order.

The people after him want him dead, immediately.

What I Love About the Book

First and foremost, the book is very authentic. Author Joshua Hood is a decorated soldier who served as squad leader in the 1-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and was deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.

Hood is the real deal, living a life that resembles one of the heroes that thriller fans love to read about in fictional novels. In a lot of ways, as great as Mason Kane is, he’s still not on equal footing with the man who created him.

One of the things that really surprised me is Hood’s ability to paint vivid locations so masterfully on the page. As a combat veteran that now serves on a SWAT team in Memphis, Tennessee, I expected him to nail the action scenes. Which he does, by the way!

A lot of new authors that have served in the military or on a police force can naturally write action scenes because they’ve lived it.

My favorite authors, Vince Flynn and Brad Thor, weren’t in the military – yet both are known for their ability to write what they haven’t lived first hand: top notch action and espionage thrillers. Hood, in many ways, is the reversal of those iconic authors, but with similar results.

What makes Hood’s writing so unique for a guy with his resume is his ability to equally describe tactical situations and overseas locations, such as Morocco and Afghanistan. His concise, vibrant descriptions make you feel like you’re actually there – which can be a little unnerving when the bullets start flying. I felt my pulse quicken several times while reading this book!

In many ways the plot reminds me of a famous roller coaster here in my home state of Michigan called Shivering Timbers, which is the sixth largest wooden roller coaster in the world.

While other rides captivate thrill-seekers by spinning and flipping you around, Timbers takes you slowly up 100 feet above the ground before dropping nearly straight down. Traveling 65 miles per hour, riders are rocketed up and down a series of hills, dropping at a rate that causes each person to experience what’s known as “ejector air-time” – which is a fancy way of saying you experience weightlessness.

That’s the best way to describe Clear by Fire, a roller coaster of events moving at blazing speeds. The pacing is brilliant, which makes the book nearly impossible to put down. All of that leads up to an ending that is both satisfying and leaves you wanting more – in a good way.

The only drawback is that fans, myself included, will have to wait until next year to read Hood’s follow-up novel. It can’t come fast enough!

Why You Should Read It

Hood’s debut novel, Clear by Fire, offers what I truly believe is the unique opportunity to see a legend in the making burst onto the scene.

Mason Kane is a new type of hero. Compared to other known protagonists, Kane is darker and edgier, and perhaps a bit more caustic at times. He’s also the perfect blend of someone that is outgoing and confident, but also stoic, which is fun to read.

Having grown up as one of the only non-Latino children in East Los Angeles, Kane learned to blend in at a young age. His childhood wasn’t easy. His mom is a drunk and his father, well, let’s just say he’s not around.

Mason had every reason to become hardened and do nothing with his life. Instead, he chose better for himself.

Kane’s past helped to mold him into an Apex predator, where he sits at the top of the food chain in the world of black operations and dangerous missions. He’s not someone you want to cross, but he’s definitely the guy I would want on my side if any type of trouble were to go down.

As much as I love Mitch Rapp and Scot Harvath, I can’t say that I read their books when Vince Flynn and Brad Thor first introduced their characters in 1999 and 2002, respectfully. However, Mason Kane boasts many of the same qualities that have made those characters household names.

I’m honored to have been given an advance copy of Clear by Fire, and feel privileged to be a fan from the very beginning.

I’m confident that everyone else who reads this book will feel the same way!

Final Thoughts

While Kane is the star, there are a plethora of other well developed characters around him. Fans will also really like Renee Hart, a female Special Operations operative who helps Mason out while he’s on the run.

Some people are comparing Hood to fellow author Brad Taylor, who writes the New York Times Bestselling Pike Logan series. I understand where the comparisons come from, since both men served decorated careers in the military before writing their first novel. However, their writing styles are slightly different.

For starters, Taylor has adopted a first-person narrative for his thrillers. Hood, meanwhile, writes in third-person. Both are terrific authors, with compelling main characters, and I highly recommend their work.

Because he’s new, I’ve been asked several times which famous protagonist Mason Kane most resembles . It’s a question I’ve thought long and hard about, so here’s my answer…

Rather than choose an established character to compare Mason Kane to, I’d be willing to wager that by this time next year, people will be comparing other new characters to Mason!

After The Survivor by Kyle Mills, and Code of Conduct by Brad Thor, Clear by Fire is the next must-read book of the year!

Book Details:

Clear by Fire is published by Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It will be  available on 8/18/2015. Visit the official website here.

For more information on Joshua Hood, check out his author’s page on Simon & Schuster’s website.

Pre-order Clear by Fire on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or on your e-reader.

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