Vince Flynn, Brad Thor… Matthew Betley?
That’s the question fans are asking ever since Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Atria Books at publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster, announced the release of Overwatch, the debut novel from former Marine Matthew Betley.
While Flynn and Thor – both of whom have spent their careers with Atria/Emily Bestler Books – are household names, Betley is the new kid on the block with seemingly unlimited potential.
In Overwatch, Betley introduces readers to his new series protagonist, Logan West. West is a former marine, relapsing alcoholic, and damaged man who’s struggling with the reality that his marriage is likely over after a prolonged rough patch – which had much to do with an addiction problem.
The book kicks off with Logan waking up after blacking out for nearly a day, the product of another drunken night spent alone. As he struggles to regain his bearings, already feeling the effects of a giant hangover, he quickly learns that he’s not alone.
The intruder welcomes him back to consciousnesses, but makes a critical mistake when he assumes Logan is too hung over to be a viable threat to his safety. West springs from the couch, attacking the man in quick and devastating fashion.
Staring at the body of the dead intruder that’s now laying on his floor, Logan calls his buddy, FBI Special Agent Mike Benson, for help. Mike agrees to come right over but after their brief phone conversation ends, the dead man’s phone starts to ring. Logan knows he shouldn’t answer it, but can’t help himself. He soon finds out that the intruder was working for a man that’s seeking information from Logan about a special artifact he’s trying to track down
The artifact in question is a flag that once belonged to Saddam Hussein, which Logan’s team of Marines had found in Fallujah years ago. While Logan has no idea why anyone would want the flag, or what it’s importance might be, he does know who currently has it – information he’s not willing to share with the man on the phone.
That’s when things take a turn for the worse, as the man on the phone threatens Sarah, Logan’s wife, whom he’s currently separated from but still loves, unless he can deliver the flag.
Logan, now furious, disconnects the call and dials back Mike, notifying him that there’s been a change in plans – Sarah is in danger.
What starts as a story about a former Marine Force Recon Commander trying to get his life back together and save his wife, soon turns into a globe trotting thriller about an unknown organization that’s planning a major attack in the Middle East. An attack that, should it go unstopped, will cause major implications for the United States.
To stop the unknown organization, the FBI puts together a task force of former Special Ops soldiers and mercenaries, which Logan is hired to join. Together, they’re given the green light to do whatever is necessary to stop any attacks before it’s too late.
Complicating matters, beyond just Logan’s alcoholism, is that he’s also suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from a incident during his time with the Marines.
By creating a character with so many imperfections, Betley has made Logan someone readers can relate to and feel for. He’s human, like the rest of us. In a genre where most protagonists are a pair of tights and a cape away from being Superman, this is a welcomed and refreshing change of pace.
The other thing that stands out is Betley’s pacing, which is exceptional for any first time author. He’s nailed the art of chapter-ending cliff hangers, without going overboard, which makes it nearly impossible to set Overwatch down.
You’ll find yourself up late reading this one, promising you’ll get to bed after one more chapter – only to flip the page and realize you can’t stop yet. After repeating this process a few times you’ll likely end up doing what I did and just throw on a pot of coffee, giving in and opting to pull an all-nighter with Logan West. You won’t regret it!
Of course Overwatch comes out March 1st, 2016 so maybe it’d be wise to just save one of your sick days in preparation for this explosive new thriller. All I’m saying is, if you’re the type to plan ahead, pencil in a cold or flu-like symptoms accordingly (wink, wink).
In the end, I found this to be an incredibly strong first novel in what I’m confident will be a very successful franchise for many years to come. Logan West is a flawed character that you’ll find yourself rooting for in more ways than one, and Overwatch is my early pick for the best debut novel of 2016!
So, is Betley the next Vince Flynn or Brad Thor? It’s too early to say, but two things are for certain: Overwatch is one of 2016’s first must-read novels, and Matthew Betley is someone to watch very closely!
Pre-order Overwatch today here.
Author: Matthew Betley
Pages: 400 (hardcover)
Publisher: Atria/ Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: March 1, 2016