The Real Book Spy Reading Guide: Why June Is The Best Month Of The Year For Thriller Fans!

It’s June, and that means all the stars are coming out, combining to make this the best month of the year for thriller fans. Whether you’re into military or political thrillers, or on the hunt for a good mystery, we’ve got you covered! 

Rather than list the upcoming new releases according to our ranking scale, we’re breaking it down weekly–detailing ten must-read novels about to hit bookstores. 

Tuesday, June 7th


Brad Meltzer The House of SecretsThe House of Secrets – Brad Meltzer and Tod Goldberg 

Brad Meltzer’s latest novel takes a break from the author’s bestselling Beecher White series (though Beecher does make a pretty awesome cameo) and introduces readers to a new character named Hazel Nash.

Hazel is a brilliant young woman who chose to become a professor rather than following her father and brother’s footsteps by joining the family business. At least, until the family business chose her…

While speeding through Utah, Jack Nash, Hazel’s father, suffers a heart attack. Falling unconscious, he loses control and the car crashes. Hazel, who was riding shotgun next to her dad, was seriously injured. Her brother, Skip, was in the backseat and walked away mostly okay.

Eight days later, Hazel woke up in the hospital after being in a coma. Confused and groggy, she found her brother at her side. Their father was dead, and Hazel, who can’t remember certain details or feel much emotion, is told that she suffered a serious head injury. 

Though her memory is spotty, Hazel answers questions from an FBI agent as best as she can. Skip is there too, and together they listen as they’re told about a body that was recently found. The dead man was cold like he’d been in a freezer, but that wasn’t even the strangest thing about it. Upon further inspection, medical examiners found a copy of Benedict Arnold’s bible in his chest cavity.

Then came another bombshell…

The last known person the dead man had been in contact with was Jack Nash. The two had met in person just a few days prior. Now both men are dead. Is the mystery man’s death a coincidence, or is it somehow linked to Jack? Something stinks, and it ain’t just the nasty hospital gowns.

Hazel goes looking for answers, but the more she learns about herself, the less she likes who she used to be. Plus, there’s another blistering conspiracy lurking behind the scenes, and it’s up to Hazel Nash to expose the truth. To do that, she has to find out who she is and who her father really was.

The House of Secrets packs a brilliant mystery into a hair-raising conspiracy that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. Fast pacing, nonstop suspense, and a climactic final act make this one of the summer’s best novels.

Who Might Enjoy It: Anyone looking for a can’t-put-it-down thriller laced with a sizzling conspiracy that will have you questioning everything you thought you knew about past historical events. 

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing 

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Monday, June 13th


Libery's Last Stand.pngLiberty’s Last Stand – Stephen Coonts 

If you were to take all of the hot-button issues facing the country since 2008 and throw them in a blender, mixing in some of the best conspiracy theories from the Jade Helm military exercise, you’d pretty much end up with the plot for Liberty’s Last Stand

When the American President, Barry Soetoro, doesn’t want to leave office even though his term is up, he capitalizes on the timing of several terrorist attacks by invoking martial law, immediately suspending the upcoming election. But that, believe it or not, is only the beginning…

Soon anyone who opposes the president and his political agenda, which consists mostly of conservatives, are rounded up and thrown into concentration camps. Soetoro then dismisses Congress and shuts down the courts, leaving the nation stunned and citizens helpless. 

Texas soon rises up as the one state that is prepared to fight back as a new Civil War breaks out. 

Jake Grafton and Tommy Carmellini, two of Coont’s best-known series protagonists, are the lead characters. Coonts holds nothing back here, delivering one of the most politically incorrect books ever written, and this summer’s most provocative political thriller! 

Who Might Enjoy It: This book is definitely better suited for conservatives and those leaning towards the right on most political issues. Beyond that, I’d recommend this to anyone in search of an action-packed political thriller that is heavy on government conspiracy and overreach. 

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Tuesday, June 14th


Foreign AgentForeign Agent, Brad Thor 

With Foreign Agent, Brad Thor proves once again to be the master of one-night reads and the undisputed King of faction–-a mesmerizing blend of fact and fiction.

When a CIA safe house in Iraq is raided and the entire team is killed by ISIS forces, people in Washington want answers. Harvath carries a sense of guilt because it was his informant that led the SAD team to Iraq in the first place in pursuit of a high-ranking member of the Islamic State. Now they’re all dead, and Scot Harvath is pissed off.

Harvath goes to find his informant, only to learn that the man is missing. While investigating his disappearance, Harvath connects the man to some serious players inside Russia. Later, while following up on a lead, he bumps into a blast from the past, and even teams up with someone readers will immediately recognize from Thor’s third novel, State of the Union

Harvath continues to climb the ladder of people as he pursues a Russian operative named Sacha Baseyev. Baseyev carries an unhealthy amount of hate stemming from a traumatic event that took place during his childhood, and will stop at nothing to complete his mission. 

The problem is that Harvath doesn’t know what Baseyev’s end game is. The longer it takes Scot to find out and stop him, the more innocent people die. ISIS even manages to assassinate a high-profile American, which is a big score for the terror group. 

With Russia and ISIS involved in the killing of Americans and a planned attack still in the works, Scot Harvath finds himself in an impossible situation. What the bad guys never seem to learn, though, is that the last thing you should ever do to an apex predator like Harvath is back him into a corner.

There’s still a lot of blood to be spilled, but now it’s Harvath’s turn to wield the blade of justice–-and he’ll stop at nothing to make things right. Fueled by revenge and guilt, Harvath sets out to avenge the fallen Americans and stop an attack against the United States at all costs.

Foreign Agent is a relentless, action-packed political thriller complete with everything readers have come to expect from one of the best authors in the game today. Brad Thor puts the “thrill” in the thriller genre. 

If you buy only one book this summer, make sure it’s Thor’s Foreign Agent.

Note: For those wondering whether or not the events from Code of Conduct will impact the world that Harvath lives in moving forward, it absolutely does. Without spoiling last year’s book, its ending is addressed early and often, and there’s serious fallout from what happened. In fact, it impacts Harvath directly.

Who Might Enjoy It: Anyone and everyone. If you can read, you should buy this book and dive in immediately. There’s a reason why Brad Thor is one of the most famous thriller authors alive today, and he reminds us exactly why that is once again with this fantastic novel. 

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

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Into the lions mouthInto The Lion’s Mouth – Larry Loftis 

Many don’t know this (I certainly didn’t before reading Larry Loftis’ new book), but James Bond–-the character created and made famous by Ian Fleming–-is based on a real-life spy named Dusko Popov.

“He (Popov) had steel within, the ruthlessness and the cold-blooded courage that enabled him to go back to the German Secret Service Headquarters in Lisbon and Madrid time and time again, when it was likely that he was blown; it was like putting his head into the lion’s mouth.”

Larry Loftis opens his book with this chilling quote from Lieutenant-Commander Ewen Montagu, who served on the British Double-Cross Committee. It perfectly sums up the kind of nerves Dusko Popov had, allowing him to live a life of double-crossing without so much as batting an eye–-and to kill without a conscience.

Within a few sentences of the preface, Loftis makes it clear that his book is different than any biography you’ve ever read. His writing style, pacing, and structure make Into The Lion’s Mouth feel like a Vince Flynn or Daniel Silva novel. That is, until you realize the story unfolding is actually true, which takes this incredible tale to the next level for readers. It’s unreal how thrilling this real story is!

Early on, we learn that Dusan “Dusko” Miladoroff Popov, born in 1912, was the second of three sons and grandson to a wealthy banker and industrialist. Without question, it’s easy to see where Fleming took inspiration from Dusko, who was handsome, a fast talker, charismatic, charming, a womanizer, and well-educated with expensive taste. Those are the Bond-like qualities that made him successful in fooling and deceiving everyone around him, and why he’s such an interesting man to study and read about.

Dusko was a natural when it came to embodying the traits that make a spy successful. That’s another area that Loftis talks about, the difference between a soldier–-who serves with patriotism and courage–-versus a spy, who operates in the shadows and thrives on spewing deceit and lies.

Soldiers serve with bravery, often channeling their love for country in regard to their service. Spies, on the other hand (at least back then), operated much like criminals, but with a cause and a purpose.

The problem is that sometimes a spy’s cause and purpose had nothing to do with his country, but with other motives–-which can be bought or manipulated. Such was the case for Popov, who pretended to give German officials sensitive British military information, while in reality he was working as a double agent for Britain’s MI6 during World War II.

Who Might Enjoy It: Anyone looking for a great nonfiction story that is too crazy to be real, even though it is. During his career, Popov was vital to the success of D-Day and was nearly successful in tipping off the FBI about the impending attack on Pearl Harbor. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and Loftis covers all of it in gripping fashion.

Publisher: Berkley

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Tom Clancy Duty and HonorTom Clancy Duty And Honor – Grant Blackwood

Jack Ryan Jr. is no longer just the “other” series that Tom Clancy wrote. Under the care of Grant Blackwood, Jack Junior has really flourished and grown into his own. While the last book in this series fell short of expectations, Duty and Honor is a fun, fast read that is rich in Jack Ryan universe history. 

When an attack on Jack’s life fails, mostly due to good luck on Ryan’s part, the First Son recognizes he’s a target of someone…but who?

His suspicions about someone coming after him are confirmed when a police officer, who intuitively knows there’s more to Jack’s story than meets the eye, warns him that someone fitting his description, driving a car similar to him, who lived in his building, was murdered. Jack knows an innocent man died, but still can’t figure out why someone would want him dead. 

There’s a chance someone may be hunting him down as political revenge. Jack’s father, John Patrick Ryan Sr. is, after all, the President of the United States of America. But there’s also the possibility that this is fallout from his ties to The Campus–a secret, off-the-books clandestine service–where, until recently, Jack was a field operative. 

On leave from The Campus, which essentially means he was sent home and told to think about his future, Jack has no resources to aid his investigation. He’s also bitter about the circumstances–the events of which took place in previous books, including 2015’s Tom Clancy Commander in Chief–leading to his time off. 

Eventually, Jack comes to the conclusion that everything must be related to a job he did while with The Campus that involved an Iranian national. What he uncovers, though, is a much bigger, sinister plot by a shadowy, evil man looking to leave his mark on the world. Can Jack stop him in time, or is it already too late? 

Who Might Enjoy It: Anyone who is a fan of Tom Clancy’s novels, movies, or video games–though anyone could pick it up and jump in. Grant Blackwood delivered a much-needed, high-octane thriller to a series that seriously needed a jolt. If you’re into political thrillers, look no further!

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

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Tuesday, June 21st


The Bourne InigmaThe Bourne Enigma – Eric Van Lustbader

With a brand-new, lights-out novel, plus another blockbuster film starring Matt Damon right around the corner, there’s never been a better time to be a fan of Jason Bourne.

When Bourne receives a coded message from an old friend, he initially thinks nothing of it. That changes when his friend, a Russian general named Boris Karpov, is brutally murdered the night before his wedding. 

After cracking the message, Bourne finds that Karpov had actually risked his safety to warn him about disaster just on the horizon. Bourne has just four days to investigate and stop things before a war breaks out. The twist, though, is that to stop things in time, Bourne must locate a man from his past named Ivan Borz.

Borz is an arms dealer who Jason has been trying to track down ever since he killed Soraya Moore’s husband before abducting her and her daughter. Moore is the ex-Director of Treadstone, the black-ops organization that turned Bourne into the apex predator that he is today. 

With an international war seemingly inevitable, Jason Bourne must find a way to conquer old demons and new enemies if he hopes to once again save the day.

Packed with action and enough twists to keep readers off-balance, The Bourne Enigma is the perfect book to accompany you to the beach this summer. 

Who Might Enjoy It: Obviously, fans of the book series and film franchise will want to check this out. But anyone who loves a good spy novel will appreciate Van Lustbader’s skill and lightning-quick plot, which, while not quite up to par with some of the original Bourne stories, is a fun and compelling read. 

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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Tuesday, June 28th 


Ben Coes First StrikeFirst Strike – Ben Coes

What if America accidentally created her biggest enemy? That question is the basis for Ben Coes’ latest Dewey Andreas novel, titled First Strike

When ISIS starts to run low on guns and ammo, their leader, Tristin Nazir, blackmails a government official (who secretly helped create them) into sending them one last very large weapons shipment. That’s where Dewey Andreas enters the picture, after the United States government catches wind of the shady deal.

Dewey heads to the Middle East, a part of the world he’s not all that fond of, to assist in an operation that at first glance seems simple enough. However, as often is the case with Coes’ novels, things quickly take an unforeseen turn as the plot unfolds.

What appears to be a victory for the United States and the rest of the world soon proves to be just the beginning of an even bigger crisis. ISIS isn’t going to just lay down and accept that their weapons shipment isn’t coming. Instead, they launch an operation designed to twist America’s arm into giving them exactly what they want.

An ISIS terrorist cell takes control of a Columbia University dormitory, holding hundreds of students hostage. They issue a demand and vow to execute one student for each hour they are made to wait for their weapons shipment. To make matters worse, it’s revealed that the daughter of a high-ranking government official is currently among the students being held at gunpoint. 

And just like that, a bad situation went to worse, then morphed into impossible

Whenever someone pushes the panic button, Dewey Andreas is the man who comes running to save the day. This time, though, the odds are stacked against Dewey more than ever before. The entire ordeal is a game of impossible decisions. Do you give ISIS the weapons they’ll need to conquer the rest of Syria and other parts of the Middle East to save the lives of a few hundred college students-–or do you refuse to hand over the weapons no matter what, even if it means letting ISIS behead the innocent students one by one?

Like I said, it’s an impossible situation. It’s also terrifying, considering that none of what Coes wrote seems to be outside the realm of possibility in today’s world. Anyone paying attention to the current headlines around the world knows just how capable ISIS is of these types of inhumane, vile, and barbaric actions.

First Strike, which is without a doubt Coes’ best book yet, is a heart-pounding thriller that is impossible to put down! 

Who Might Enjoy It: Any and all fans of political thrillers. Coes writes with the same precision and expertise that fans of Vince Flynn and Brad Thor have come to expect. Of all the books I’ve read this year, nothing has come close to the nonstop action that Coes has crammed into First Strike.  This book has it all, and then some. Buy it and read it–you’ll thank me later! 

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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Ghosts of War Brad Taylor.jpgGhosts of War – Brad Taylor

Brad Taylor’s latest Pike Logan thriller picks up just four months from where his last novel (The Forgotten Soldier) left off. Pike, Jennifer, and the rest of their team members are still in limbo as they await word about the Taskforce’s future.

Sanctioned by the president, the Taskforce, a group of highly trained super-soldiers, operates outside of the federal government’s authority. Technically speaking, their existence is illegal, and they answer only to the president and a small panel of individuals.

Colonel Kurt Hale’s official title is CEO of Blaisdell Consulting. Unofficially, he’s in charge of assigning the Taskforce operators their missions. It was one of his guys who went rogue just a few months prior, seeking revenge for the death of his brother by killing several members of the Qatar government.

That incident and all that followed put the president in a tough spot, which put the Taskforce in a tough spot. Until the smoke clears, they’re all laying low after a stand-down order from the commander-in-chief himself. They simply cannot risk being exposed, as that would lead to everyone, including the thirteen-person oversight committee, being prosecuted. 

Without any Taskforce-assigned work, Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill agree to a meeting with Israeli operatives–-Aaron and Shoshana-–who have a job proposal for them. The job in question would require the use of Pike and Jennifer’s company, Grolier Recovery Services. 

A deal is made, and Pike and Jennifer head to Poland with Aaron and Shoshana for what is supposed to be a simple, boring mission. Their objective is to confirm that a Torah rumored to have belonged to David Ben-Gurion, which was found in a fabled Nazi gold train in Poland, is, in fact, genuine. And that’s exactly what the trip is–-boring, at least initially…

When the stakes are raised and the objective of the mission changes, Pike and Jennifer are suddenly needed in a big way. Soon the bullets are flyin’ in typical Brad Taylor fashion as he continues to churn out some of the most realistic and adrenaline-pumping action sequences in print today. 

Who Might Enjoy It: Fans of military thrillers, especially those who already follow Brad Taylor’s work. Ghosts of War takes Pike and Jennifer away from their regular work in the Middle East and pits them against a Russian antagonist. That was a brilliant move and a refreshing change of pace for a series that has quickly grown to ten books in just five years. In my opinion, this is Taylor’s best book yet! 

Publisher: Dutton

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John Gilstrap Friendly FireFriendly Fire – John Gilstrap 

Ethan, a twenty-something barista at a coffee house, is at work one day when a “monster” from his past walks in. The monster is a child molester who kidnapped and held Ethan captive when he was just a young kid. Ethan, upon seeing him, snapped. Following the man outside, he stabbed him with a sharp knife he swiped from inside the coffee house.

Minutes later, the police showed up. Ethan had been in a violent haze and was shocked to realize what he’d done–-though he wasn’t sorry. The monster had to go. He couldn’t be allowed to hurt any more children, Ethan thought.

When questioned by the police, Ethan explains that the man had kidnapped and sexually assaulted him years ago. They promised to check out his story, but there’s one problem. Ethan was held captive, and he was assaulted-–but there is no official record of the events or his rescue. Why? Because he was rescued by a man known only as Scorpion.

Scorpion, of course, is the callsign of Jonathan Grave. Grave, the former Delta Force operator turned freelance hostage rescue specialist, works outside of the law. He operates in the shadows, helping those in need who have nowhere else to turn. After returning home from another mission, Grave’s team tells him about Ethan, whose story is all over the news. 

As the team discusses Ethan’s situation, it’s revealed that there were many suspicious circumstances surrounding his case more than a decade ago. Things never quite added up, and worst of all, the bad guy had gotten away. The mission itself was still a success, though, as the “precious cargo”–-Ethan–-was rescued.

With the nature of his business being so secretive, Grave knew that Ethan was likely sitting in jail trying to explain why he killed the man, without any way to prove his story. Once again, Ethan needs to be rescued. And once again, there’s much more than originally meets the eye. 

As Grave and his team start to learn the truth about the man who kidnapped Ethan years ago, they uncover a much larger and dangerous plot hidden beneath the surface. It turns out that the dead man had ties to a terrorist group, and a devastating plan had recently been put into place. With an attack on the United States looming, it’s once again up to Jonathan Grave to save the day. 

A blistering thriller that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go for a second, Friendly Fire is four-hundred-plus pages of pure awesomeness! 

Who Might Enjoy It: John Gilstrap is a wildly underrated author. His Jonathan Grave series is every bit as good as the other heavyweights of the genre and is comparable to Ben Coes’ Dewey Andreas and Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller. If you’re a fan of those guys and haven’t already checked out Gilstrap’s work, you really need to!

Publisher: Pinnacle

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Warning Order Joshua HoodWarning Order – Joshua Hood

Hood opens with Mason and Zeus, both returning from Clear by Fire, running an operation near the Turkish-Syrian border. Mason, who is once again trying to clear his name, has agreed to a deal with the CIA that is supposed to be a simple smash-and-grab job. And then things go wrong. 

It takes just two pages for Hood to turn up the heat, after the team’s sniper announces that he has no shot at a roving enemy threat. Mason, the ex-Special Forces soldier who was originally part of the Anvil Program–-a blacker-than-black-ops squad of elite operatives–-neutralizes the threat himself. The bodies keep falling from there as the action kicks into high gear and never lets off the pedal.

Also back is fan-favorite Renee Hart, the DOD operative who is by all accounts the strongest female character in the genre today. Renee is smart, good-looking, and absolutely lethal. Essentially, she’s a knockout who can actually knock you out, in the same vein as UFC star Ronda Rousey.

Renee is rushing to connect with Mason, believing he and Zeus are about to walk into a trap. It turns out that an old Army buddy of Mason’s, a man named Boland, might be a traitor who is secretly working with the enemy. Worse, Boland is the one currently leading Mason and his team on the ground.

Renee hops on a chopper with her own team, hoping to make it to Mason in time to warn him. As she nears his location, she loses all communication with the soldiers on the ground. Suddenly, a series of gunshots rings out, and Renee realizes she is too late. Boland had led them right into an ambush.

Hood, a decorated combat veteran and former member of the 82nd Airborne, who is currently a full-time SWAT team member in Memphis, has already made a name for himself by writing some of the most realistic and authentic action scenes in print today. His books are gritty, often providing insight into the mind of a soldier and the transformation they go through as they evolve from civilians to trained operatives. By doing so, Hood provides a glimpse behind the curtain that most people never get an in-person look at themselves–-and it’s riveting. 

As the plot charges forward, Mason ends up taking on the most savage, barbaric group of terrorists currently walking on the face of the earth: the Islamic State. Warning Order is a bloody, heart-pounding thriller that stings with authenticity from top to bottom. Joshua Hood continues to make a name for himself, taking one more step towards joining the likes of Brad Taylor, Ben Coes, and Mark Greaney as the best military thriller authors alive today. 

Who Might Enjoy It: Last year, Joshua Hood kicked the doors to the military thriller genre off the hinges with his explosive debut novel Clear by Fire. This year, Hood has topped himself with Warning Order, the second book in his gritty, action-packed series following elite super-soldier Mason Kane. If you like nonstop action and gritty military thrillers, add this to your must-read list. 

Publisher: Touchstone 

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