Without question, October is one of the best months for thriller fans in 2016. Not only are there ten action-packed new thrillers out, plus a YA novel from Gregg Hurwitz (author of the political thriller Orphan X), but one of this month’s books also happens to be our second highest rated thriller of the year.
As always, we’ve highlighted two books as our ‘Featured Selections’ and recommend that if you can’t afford or don’t have time to read all the books from this month’s reading guide, you at least head out and pick those ones up as soon as possible.
Tuesday, October 4th
Strong Cold Dead, a Caitlin Strong novel by Jon Land
Set in the heart of the Lone Star State, Caitlin Strong is a lone-wolf Texas Ranger who fears nothing and trusts her gut above everything else. Unfortunately for Caitlin, though, her way of doing business has worn thin on her superior officer, Captain Tepper, and others.
More than ever before, Caitlin is receiving pushback for actions and tactics. At one point she’s even assigned to a desk in an effort to keep her out of trouble until things cool down. To say that doesn’t go over well would be a massive understatement, as Caitlin essentially disobeys the order with little regard and no regrets.
Caitlin comes from a long family line of Texas Rangers, and she’s great at her job. Her instincts are her strong suit, as they rarely ever steer her wrong. That proves true once again when she notices that something seems off at a local Native American reservation.
Further digging uncovers a sinister plot that goes all the way back to the days when one of Caitlin’s great-great-grandpas was a Ranger, bringing a new dynamic to the overall mystique of the story.
Jon Land shines the brightest when the story switches back and forth between 1874 and the present day. By really setting the scene and altering his writing style to reflect a time period more than a hundred years in the past, Land transports the readers back and forth as he masterfully reveals more of the plot, pulling the curtain back a little further each time.
Caitlin Strong is a fantastic character. Instantly one of the most attractive women in any room that she walks into, she’s comfortable letting her hair down and glamming it up whenever necessary. She’s also just as comfortable pulling her hair back and getting down into the mud with the men where she’s more than capable of handling herself, even against much bigger opponents.
As it turns out, something powerful lies buried beneath the surface of the reservation. Something that, if used by the right people with good intentions, could be a game-changer in the medical world. However, should people with less-than-good intentions get their hands on the material, it could be weaponized to do incomprehensible damage on the grandest of scales.
With the clock ticking down, Caitlin finds herself in the middle of two sides racing to secure the material. But when she finds out that the Islamic State is involved, things get taken to another level. They must be stopped at all costs, obviously, but doing so is no easy task.
While the terror group, known for their brutality, has a plan, they never accounted for a down-home country girl standing in their way, guns-a-blazing.
Caitlin Strong is at her very best here, as is Jon Land. Strong Cold Dead is a gripping thriller with a unique, original plot that sizzles from beginning to end.
Broken Trust by W.E.B. Griffin
From the publisher:
The dramatic New York Times-bestselling adventure in W.E.B. Griffin’s Badge of Honor series about the Philadelphia police force.
Having investigated his share of gruesome murders, Philadelphia Homicide Sergeant Matt Payne is beginning to think nothing can shock him – until the case of a young socialite’s death lands on his desk. The Camilla Rose Morgan he’d known as a teenager was beautiful and brilliant – how was it possible she’d jumped to her death from her own balcony? Her brother tells Payne she’d tragically been battling a lifetime of mental demons, and there is plenty of evidence of it, but still…something just doesn’t sit right. The more Payne digs, the more complications he discovers. Reputations are on the line here, and lives – and if Payne doesn’t tread carefully, one of them may be his own
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Tuesday, October 11
Order to Kill, a Mitch Rapp novel by Kyle Mills (Featured Selection)
Set just a few weeks after the events of The Survivor (2015), the Central Intelligence Agency is still dealing with some fallout from what went down in Pakistan. With the Rickman files a thing of the past, a new problem revolves around President Chutani’s struggle to thwart an impending coup as one of his top generals continues to threaten his position of power.
With the situation already dicey and growing worse by the day, Chutani has taken extreme measures to protect his nation’s nuclear arsenal, ensuring that they don’t fall into enemy hands. To do that, though, the nuclear warheads are constantly being transported to and from various bunkers and bases around the country, leaving them vulnerable to an attack.
CIA Director Dr. Irene Kennedy, fully aware of the situation in Pakistan and the possible dangers that could unfold should one of those nukes go missing, has dispatched various teams to help run surveillance and babysit the warheads. But when solid intel suggests that one warhead, in particular, will be targeted by an unknown terrorist group, there’s only one man who can be trusted to oversee an operation to keep that from happening.
Legendary American assassin Mitch Rapp lands in Pakistan with just enough time to rendezvous with his team and gear up for the planned assault. Their goal is to neutralize anyone who makes a play for the nuke and secure the warhead themselves. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan.
Unbeknownst to Rapp and his team, one of the world’s elite assassins is working with the Islamic terrorists to set a trap for the famed CIA operative.
Grisha Azarov has spent his entire career hiding deep in Russia’s shadows for one reason, to stay off of Rapp’s radar until the time was right. Younger, faster, stronger, and better-looking than Mitch, Grisha has literally been molded into a lethal killer with unmatched ability. Seriously, this dude is like the Ivan Drago of contract killers, and he’s eager to finally test himself against Mitch.
Their showdown, however, is delayed when one of Rapp’s teammates, a face that longtime fans of the series will immediately recognize, accidentally finds himself where Mitch was supposed to be standing and promptly takes a lightning-fast beating at the hands of Grisha Azarov.
Apart from the fact that Rapp and Kennedy are stunned to learn that Grisha has never previously popped up on their radar, the second takeaway from the entire debacle is that his presence suggests that the Russians are involved. But why?
As Rapp and Kennedy use different means to find answers, they both confirm that the terror group in question is none other than ISIS. When a twist in the story causes further problems and little time to deal with them, Rapp does the most unthinkable and dangerous thing he’s ever attempted.
He goes undercover to infiltrate the Islamic State.
When Mitch Rapp enters the picture, bad guys stop breathing in bunches. And in Order To Kill, the body count has never been higher as Rapp leaves behind a bloody trail on his way to trying to stop a nuclear catastrophe–and his inevitable showdown with Grisha Azarov, which is now personal.
Unlike in the past, though, Rapp is shown to be human. He bleeds a lot, and for the first time ever, he may truly be in over his head. With the clock running and an attack that would undoubtedly have global implications looming, Mitch Rapp might have finally found himself in a fight he cannot win.
Written with the same nonstop action and nail-biting suspense that readers of Vince Flynn have come to expect, Kyle Mills proves once again that there’s no better writer on the planet to steer this franchise moving forward.
Longtime fans of the series can rest assured that Order To Kill doesn’t just meet the high standards set by Vince Flynn, it’s the best book in the series since Consent To Kill (2005).
Mitch Rapp is back, and he’s on his most dangerous mission yet.
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Why you should buy it: Mitch Rapp might be the baddest dude ever created. Vince Flynn (who passed away in 2013) is no longer at the helm of the franchise, but fans are lucky to have an author of Mills’ caliber. Under his direction, Mitch Rapp has grown as a character as Mills continues to take this franchise to new heights. In my opinion, Order To Kill is one of the best books in this mega-popular series, and just maybe the best political thriller written since Consent To Kill. No matter what, make sure to buy this book as soon as it comes out!
A Soldier’s Revenge, a Will Cochrane novel by Matthew Dunn
Will Cochrane, one of MI6’s most notorious agents, is ready for the next phase of his life. He’s trading in being a spy so that he can adopt the twin sons of Roger Koening, a former Navy SEAL, friend, and sometimes colleague, who was recently killed in action.
In the States and ready to settle down for good, Will is one day away from picking up the boys and beginning their new life together–or so he thought. Instead, Will wakes up in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City with blood on his hands and no recollection of how it got there or who it belongs to. A quick trip to the tiny bathroom in his room confirms that the blood is not his own, but rather it came from the dead woman in his bathtub who was double-tapped in the head and left to rot.
Even after shaking away the cobwebs, Will feels confident he never met the woman. He is compelled to run, realizing that the only way to figure out what’s going on is to evade the police officers who are likely in transit to his location.
Eventually, Will finds instructions to look for clues about what’s happening in the Washington Post. The following day, a coded article is waiting for him, explaining that Will is now the target of revenge, caught up in a game aimed to cause him pain and suffering. For what he has no idea. And from who, well, there’s so many bad guys who would love to kill him that he doesn’t even know where to begin.
With Philadelphia’s two finest detectives on the case, and the CIA–who Will has worked with numerous times during his career–also wanting to bring him in, Cochrane must rely on his training and experience as a deep-cover agent to evade the authorities, find out who’s setting him up, and take them out before his life is ruined beyond repair.
Dunn, a former MI6 field agent who spent time undercover and running special operations in real life, almost assuredly understands just how these larger-than-life characters operate off the grid better than anyone else currently writing in the genre, and it shows.
While the super-spy, black ops elements are tantalizing, anyone with children will notice that the twins’ behavior in this book is far from believable (ten-year-olds don’t play with teddy bears, ya know what I mean?). While those parts of the book are distracting and disappointing, if for no other reason than they feel sloppy and unrealistic, the strengths outway the negatives in this otherwise fast-paced novel.
On the run in America with no help or assistance from anyone, Will Cochrane seems right at home with his back up against the wall and the odds stacked against him. This time, though, the stakes are even higher because he has more to lose. That realization fuels him to attempt the impossible, leading to an ending that will leave fans counting down the days until the next book in the series hits bookstores.
Cochrane might be with the MI6, but he’s no James Bond. Matthew Dunn’s hero is closer to Jason Bourne, a lone-wolf who was bred to kill and keep moving. While a little raw, Dunn’s series is actually very underrated. If you enjoy Mark Greaney’s Gray Man novels or Tom Wood’s Victor the Assassin series, you’ll likely appreciate Dunn’s work too. If you love spy novels, this is as real as it gets!
Publisher: William Morrow
Drone Threat by Mike Maden
Wars used to be fought on the ground.
Troy Pearce left the CIA years ago to start his own company. Since then, Pearce Systems has become the world leader in drone security and unmanned aircraft technology. But when the American president, David Lane, offers Pearce the opportunity to run a new department being created under his administration called Drone Command, Pearce considers it his patriotic duty to take the offer.
Drone Command runs on black-ops funding, offering Pearce protection from congressional oversight and media scrutiny. That’s a big difference from his first go-around in a government position working with the Central Intelligence Agency, and an important component to him ultimately taking the job.
When it comes to politicians, Pearce doesn’t trust them as far as he can throw them. Too many of his friends and brothers-in-arms died fighting the war on terrorism, and some of their deaths were directly related to the involvement of Washington bureaucrats.
The one politician Pearce does trust, though, is Margaret Myers, the former president. While still in the early stages, he and Myers have a budding intimate relationship. She played an active role in his decision to run Drone Command, but the dynamics of their relationship are complicated. The two are cut from different cloth and, at times, struggle to see each other’s point of view.
After being approved by Congress, a tedious task that involved Pearce having to work closely with the vice president, a man he has a history of confrontations with, Drone Command goes live. And their timing couldn’t have been any better.
As the president shifts all his focus and attention to his upcoming Asia Security Summit, an event that’s being billed as “the biggest shift in American security policy in Asia since the Vietnam War,” a series of attacks are carried out on American soil.
It all started with a drone attack in Washington D.C. when a train was hit with tear gas, but things quickly escalated from there. On the night before the Asian Security Summit, a drone carrying a message and a package landed on the White House lawn. Inside the box was an ISIS flag. The message instructed President Lane to hang the black flag over the White House or suffer the coming consequences.
Lane refuses the outlandish demand, and the terrorist group makes good on their threat. Several more attacks are carried out, each new one bigger than the last. As a state of panic washes over America, Pearce and Drone Command are called upon to save the day. Yet to the president’s horror, even Pearce, who is supposed to know more about drone technology and their capabilities than anyone, has never encountered anything quite like the untraceable hardware used by the mastermind behind the attacks.
With American lives at stake and an economy in a downward spiral, Pearce and his team must find a way to expose the terrorists and take them out before it’s too late.
With all the current media coverage and debating about the future and ethics of drone usage, both in the military and civilian life, Mike Maden’s timely thriller reads like it’s ripped from next week’s headlines.
Someone tell Jack Reacher, Pike Logan, and John Wells to move over. Troy Pearce is a fantastic character, and Drone Threat soars high above the competition!
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Hillary by D.W. Buffa
From the publisher:
“A President is murdered. A First Lady demands answers. And a young Senator will uncover a conspiracy that threatens to upend the global balance of power.
When Robert Constable, President of the United States, dies in bed with a woman in a New York hotel room, the public is told that he died suddenly and peacefully of natural causes—and alone. The truth, however, is anything but that. The President’s wife, Hillary Constable asks young senator Bobby Hart, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, to find out who had her husband murdered and why.
As Hart begins to learn more about the President’s shady dealings, he uncovers a massive global criminal and financial conspiracy, headed by a secret underground organization nicknamed The Four Sisters. Yet the closer Hart gets to the truth, the more shocking secrets are revealed that could threaten his life, American Democracy, and the future of the nation.”
Publisher: Polis Books
Tuesday, October 18
The Obsidian Chamber, an Agent Pendergast novel by Preston & Child
Following last year’s Crimson Shore, the whereabouts of FBI special agent Aloysius Pendergast are unknown. For now, he’s presumed dead, having gone missing after a violent confrontation in Massachusetts.
The thought of Pendergast being dead is nearly too much for the wealthy FBI investigator’s ward, Constance Green, to bear, especially after he’d recently rebuffed her affection. Saddened and lost, she opts to stay in her quarters underneath the family mansion. Eventually, though, she’s forced to leave against her will when she’s kidnapped by a mysterious figure who has a history with Pendergast.
Upon realizing that Constance has been taken, Proctor, Pendergast’s trusty bodyguard, goes in pursuit of her captor. Always ready for whatever situation might arise, Proctor is able to hit the road in a hurry, following small clues he stumbled upon at the crime scene.
Shortly after his search for Constance leads him to Namibia, where the bad guys elude him after they use sophisticated technology to trick him into going to the wrong place, a clue to Pendergast’s situation and whereabouts surfaces.
But instead of Pendergast stepping into the light, alive and well, it’s another character once thought to have been dead who reveals themselves. Without giving any of the many surprises away, this person has a special interest in Constance and takes her to a remote location near Halcyon Key off the coast of Florida.
With Constance’s captor, someone longtime fans of the series will recognize and remember well, keeping her against her will in a secret location, she has little hope for a rescue. Especially when, unbeknownst to her, Proctor has been lured into an equally damning situation. With both characters unwilling to accept their grim fate, each clings to the same improbable hope that Pendergast it out there, somewhere, alive and looking for them.
Mystery, suspense, and relentless pacing make The Obsidian Chamber one of Preston and Child’s best thrillers in years, as readers will unable to set the book down for even the briefest of moments. However, newcomers to the series, or fans who aren’t completely caught up on the backlist, will likely miss a lot of references to characters, events, locations, and missions from past books. Even so, the authors do a pretty good job filling in the gaps. If you feel lost at some point, don’t worry. Just power on, and it’ll all make sense later.
With Pendergast taking a backseat in this one, the secondary characters really shine. But, as much as readers will want to find out who the bad guy is and what their motives are, nothing can replace the constant speculation as to what’s really happened to Pendergast and when our hero might return…if ever.
The Obsidian Chamber starts with a bang before leveling off for a straightforward middle of the book. However, the real fireworks go off towards the end, where Preston and Child give fans a truly satisfying conclusion, unlike the cliffhanger ending in last year’s novel, Crimson Shore.
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Escape Clause, A Virgil Flowers novel by John Sandford
The action starts when a pair of rare Amur tigers are stolen from a zoo just outside of St. Paul, Minnesota. Winston Peck VI used to be a doctor, but he lost his license to practice medicine after displaying inappropriate tendencies, something he demonstrated to his patients on a regular basis. Now he’s mixed up in the world of Chinese medicine, a practice that, since it requires killing and harvesting the organs of endangered animals, is illegal in multiple countries.
Hired by a California-based criminal named Zhang Min, Peck’s job was to steal the tigers and harvest their organs as quickly as possible. He was successful getting in and out of the zoo using a couple of dumb, expendable accomplices. But after catching some serious public backlash for stealing the tigers, especially from animal rights activists around the country, Peck realizes this story isn’t about to just go away.
Peck’s instincts eventually prove right, because things are far from over. In fact, the state’s best investigator, Virgil Flowers, has been assigned to the case. And like the perverted doctor will soon learn the hard way, you do not want a man like Virgil Flowers breathing down your neck if you’ve got something to hide.
Virgil Flowers is happy with life, at least for the most part. Even with this case at stake, he’s enjoying a new romantic relationship with a woman named Frankie Nobles. But that, like most other things around him, is about to change for the worst. Sparkle, Frankie’s younger sister, comes to town for a visit and takes an immediate liking to Virgil. Her interest in her sister’s boyfriend leads to some awkward tension, but Sparkle causes far bigger problems than just that.
Personal relationships aside, Virgil’s main objective is to find whoever stole the tigers before they can be killed and harvested. The problem is, Peck starts tying up loose ends in a hurry. Each time Virgil locates someone who might have info on the animal thief, the person is dead. As the body count continues to rise, Virgil realizes his only chance to bring down the bad guy is to get a step ahead of him before everyone helpful to his case stops breathing.
Some of the explicit descriptions of how exactly the animals’ organs are harvested will leave some readers feeling squeamish. Especially if you have a pet that you love or don’t do well with blood. The public backlash Peck deals with is very reminiscent of the real-life opinions and media stories surrounding the dentist from Minnesota who made headlines after killing Cecil the Lion in 2015. The activists do play a key role in a side story, one that personally affects Virgil, but they aren’t the main focus.
As far as bad guys go, Peck is about as unlikeable as someone can get. A pervert and an animal killer? Readers will cheer relentlessly for Virgil to catch up to this guy and deliver the justice he deserves.
John Sandford is one of today’s most consistent thriller authors for a reason–you always know what you’re going to get with him. Like his other books, Escape Clause is pretty straightforward and, instead of twists and turns, relies more on the action, humor, and fan-favorite characters to drive the story along. It all works really well here, and fans even get a brief cameo from Lucas Davenport, who will star in his twenty-seventh novel, Golden Prey, next year.
Pharaoh, and Ancient Egypt novel by Wilbur Smith
Lies, deceit, betrayal, and a sinister plot to rule the throne fuels the plot for Wilbur Smith’s latest thriller set in Ancient Egypt.
Taita, a former slave turned advisor to Pharaoh Tamose (and general over his army), bravely serves and protects Egypt. After grueling battles and bloodshed, Taita manages to drive backward the attacking Hyksos, who were advancing from their position south of the Nile. Sadly, there’s little time to celebrate the achievement.
Pharoah Tamose, who had long been ill, has finally died. Apart from Taita’s emotional duress, as he both admired and respected Tamose, his loss is especially burdensome because of who is in line to become pharaoh after him.
Tamose’s oldest son is a man of poor character. Guilty of some truly awful acts and even worse desires, Utteric deserves no respect, yet he demands it with vigor. Calling himself Utteric Turo the Great, Tamose’s offspring targets Taita, who he sees as a threat, and makes plans to have him dealt with. Likewise, Utteric also fears his brother, the stronger and more natural leader, Rameses.
As Utteric’s plan takes hold, both Taita and Rameses are imprisoned, where they hatch their own plan for revenge. After a daring escape, Taita and Rameses find refuge in Greece, where they unite with an unexpected ally. King Hurotas, once a high-ranking Egyptian officer under Tamose, now rules over Githion. Hurotas’ falling out with Tamose was the result of his running off with the Pharaoh’s sister, Tehuti, and wedding her in secret.
Taita, whose battle strategies and fearless leading have kept Egypt safe from outside enemies for many years, realizes that the biggest threat to taking down Egypt comes from within. Utteric Turo the Great must be dealt with, and Taita, keeping his vow to protect the land he loves, partners with Princess Serrena of Sparta (King Hurotas’ daughter) to build an army of allies that will invade Egypt.
Princess Serrena is a fascinating character and brings added excitement to the story, which is told through Taita’s point of view. Like Taita, Serrena is loyal to her land and is both incredibly smart and incredibly proficient in war. Together, they make a formidable duo, though, sadly, she serves as more of a love interest for another character. With very few relatable elements, Taita does seem very one-dimensional at times. However, he’s so driven by his cause that it’s easy to root for him.
While the political drama and characters make Pharaoh a page-turning adventure, it’s the action that makes this a must-read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Wilbur Smith continues to deliver some of the bloodiest, limb-slicing battle sequences in print today. Imagine the battle scenes featured in the movie Gladiator (starring Russel Crowe) but in written form, and you’re not far off. That said, the story is short on character development and substance. While that won’t bother some, others may struggle to relate to the secondary characters and understand what drives Taita to do what he does.
Then again, Utteric Turo the Great is a truly hateable antagonist. Readers will both loathe him and long for Taita to return to Egypt so he can deliver a swift, righteous blow to the arrogant new leader.
With a plot faster than the swiftest chariot in Egypt and pacing as relentless as the mightiest warrior, Pharaoh is an adrenaline-pumping addition to Wilbur Smith’s epic Ancient Egypt series.
Publisher: William Morrow
Why you should buy it: There’s nothing quite like Wilbur Smith’s Ancient Egypt series. If you like historical fiction, chances are you’ll love this book.
Tuesday, October 25th
The Whistler by John Grisham (Featured Selection)
From the publisher:
“We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.
But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.
Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.
But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.
What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.
But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous.
Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.”
Why you should buy it: Nobody does legal thrillers like John Grisham. He’s the undisputed king, and everything he writes is must-read material.