Welcome to November, thriller fans! As always, we’ve listed out our picks for the best, must-read novels hitting bookstores this month–while highlighting our top two titles as ‘Featured Selections.’
Tuesday, November 1st
The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Michael Connelly (Featured Selection)
Michael Connelly’s latest Harry Bosch novel, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, spins multiple mysteries into one nail-biting adventure.
After being forced to retire from the LAPD where he spent more than three decades as one of the department’s most accomplished detectives, Harry Bosch has found a way to hold onto his badge and gun a little while longer.
The city of San Fernando has a small police force with no budget to expand, so Bosch struck a deal to come on board as a reserve detective working part-time. While he enjoys working with the SFPD, it’s not a paid position. It allows him to keep his foot in the door, solving crimes and using his expertise to put bad guys away, but it doesn’t pay the bills.
To earn a paycheck, Bosch hires out his detective skills as a private investigator. He doesn’t advertise or have an office, and he relies solely on word of mouth from past clients to find new ones. But when a detective with Bosch’s pedigree makes his skill set available, word travels fast. Including to the rich and famous.
Whitney Vance, a reclusive, old billionaire who values discretion, offers Bosch ten thousand dollars to meet with him in secret. It’s immediately apparent to Bosch that Mr. Vance’s living conditions, while extravagant, allow him very little privacy. The billionaire reveals that he has no known next of kin and that he wants to hire Bosch to find out if a past lover might have borne him a child. With his health failing, Vance decides he would much prefer to leave everything he has to his child, even if he’s never met them, rather than to the board of his company.
Apparently, a woman Vance had a relationship with more than sixty years ago had become pregnant. Last he knew, the woman, who might have been an illegal immigrant, was headed to Mexico to have an abortion. The billionaire never saw her again and wants Bosch to track her down and find out if she did, indeed, have an abortion, or if the child was actually born.
While searching for an heir to the billionaire’s estate, Bosch is also working on a case for the SFPD. A serial rapist, who was nicknamed “Screen Cutter” for his habit of gaining entry into the victims’ homes by slitting a hole in their window screen, is terrorizing the women of San Fernando. After months of investigating, Bosch finally has a lead on Screen Cutter for the first time. But it’s only a small step in the right direction.
As he tries to break the Screen Cutter case wide open, Bosch also realizes that his work with Vance has landed him and, more importantly, any potential heir of Mr. Vance’s fortune, in danger. The board members of his company stand to make huge money when the billionaire dies, and Bosch finds out that he’s not the only one looking for any offspring of Whitney Vance.
Connelly brilliantly weaves both investigations together with breakneck pacing and more surprises along the way than in previous novels. Longtime fans will be pleased to see several characters from earlier books in the series making cameos, including Bosch’s half-brother, defense attorney Mickey Haller, whose role in this book is small but important.
With heart-pounding suspense written into every page and several never-saw-it-coming twists along the way, Bosch races to uncover the identities of two very different people, for two totally different reasons.
Harry Bosch is a great character, and nobody does this stuff better than Michael Connelly. The Wrong Side of Goodbye is easily one of the year’s best mystery novels and a must-read for thriller fans everywhere.
Publisher: Little Brown and Compay
Why You Should Read It: Simply put, nobody does this stuff better than Michael Connelly. This year, Bosch is no longer working for the NYPD, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing down. Apart from working part-time with The San Fernando PD, Bosch is also hiring out his services as a PI. Connelly wrote two mysteries into The Wrong Side of Goodbye, and both of them will keep you glued to your reading chair!
The Hanging Club, Tony Parsons
When justice fails, bad guys still fall.
A group of vigilantes roams the streets of London looking for criminals who all but appear to be getting away with their crimes. Like a serial rapist, for example, who has never been caught and continues living a normal life. During the day he’s a father and a husband, but at night, well, he preys on the weak. He’s managed to stay out of the legal system, but that doesn’t mean he’ll avoid punishment–or the death penalty.
They call themselves the Hanging Club, and they do the dirty work necessary to keep the streets clean and criminals at bay. So when they hear about a serial rapist or a drunk driver who killed a child after climbing behind the wheel when he shouldn’t have, they take justice into their own hands. There’s only one sentence for the guilty, a rope around their neck while gravity does the rest.
The Hanging Club…literally.
While some might argue the world is a safer place with this group running around cleansing the earth of scumbags, others might point out that these vigilantes have no legal authority to kill. That isn’t necessarily justice. It’s more like street retribution, with no judge or jury.
At first, the gang performed their hangings in secret. Then they started recording them and putting them on the internet. Eventually, it progressed to live streaming, so people could get online and watch from all over the world. Some find the group’s actions gruesome and despicable, while others commend them for doing what they think the legal system should.
Max Wolfe, an investigator with the London Metro police, is tasked with working the crime scenes mentioned above. Deep down, he struggles with which side of society he agrees with in regards to the Hanging Club gang and their actions. As a cop, he’s certainly tired of seeing criminals go free while victims suffer forever. When it comes to dealing with bad guys as an officer, his hands are tied. But these guys operate outside of the law, and it seems to be working.
That’s the real magic of Tony Parsons’ latest novel–it will leave readers split and make them question their own stance on such matters. But this ain’t some Marvel or DC comic book story, it’s real. Brutal. Even disturbing at times.
And then, just when you think you know how you feel about what’s happening, more details about the vigilantes emerge. Suddenly, Wolfe has to wonder if their motives are as simple and easy as they first made it out to be. Are they really just offing bad guys, or is there more to the story?
Some of the dialogue is below average, and the pacing is a tad choppy at times, but overall, this is a solid novel. The plot sizzles and the characters are well developed. Wolfe might be the protagonist, but the vigilantes steal the show with their morally questionable tactics. Once you start this book, you won’t want to stop.
Tony Parsons has delivered a thought-provoking thriller that demands your attention and holds it until the very end. The Hanging Club is an adrenaline-pumping ride!
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Terminal Impact, Charles Henderson
Years ago, the Ghost of Anbar missed a critical shot, and it’s haunted him ever since…
Marine Scout-Sniper Jack Valentine is one of the best snipers in the United States military. On the hunt since the ripe age of twenty, Valentine has had an illustrious career. His repeated jaw-dropping shots have not only impressed his fellow brothers-in-arms, but his reputation alone strikes fear into the hearts of the enemy.
Nicknamed the Ghost of Anbar, Valentine is as lethal as they come, with one exception. Years back, he was instructed to take out a terrorist named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In a rare moment of inaccuracy, Valentine missed his target, and it’s gnawed at him ever since.
Now, set in 2006, Valentine is back in Baghdad where he’s leading a highly-trained unit, and he vows to right his wrong. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is said to be in the region, and Valentine promises to take out the al-Qaeda operative once and for all.
Again, though, things don’t quite go according to plan. Unbeknownst to Valentine and his men, a group of mercenaries has been providing enemy combatants with privileged information. This act of betrayal allows the terrorists to stay a step ahead of the American forces, putting their lives in extreme danger.
To finally kill the terrorist who slipped through his fingers before, Jack Valentine will have to risk his life and beat the odds once and for all.
Henderson’s story is fast-paced and features plenty of action, but the secondary characters are a little weak. Setting the story back in 2006 is actually a nice change of pace from similar thrillers coming out right now. While everyone else is focused on ISIS and Russia, Henderson went back to another familiar group of terrorists, al-Qaeda, to serve as the bad guys here.
This is also a very personal mission for Valentine, which raises the stakes for the entire feel of the book. For a man as good as Jack is at his job, he doesn’t dwell on his success. It’s his one glaring failure that stabs at him, and his quest to fix that is powerful and compelling. That said, the book feels a tad too long. There’s another side plot involving the love interest of Valentine, but it’s nothing veteran readers of this genre haven’t already seen many times over.
In the end, if you’re a fan of military thrillers, Terminal Impact delivers the goods you’re looking for.
Monday, November 7th
Night School, Lee Child (Featured Selection)
Set in 1996, Lee Child’s latest novel (following last year’s Make Me) is an action-packed prequel story set in a pre-9/11 world that introduces readers to a new side of Jack Reacher.
Fresh off a successful mission in the Balkans, Reacher is given a medal and hearty pat on the back. Then, immediately following the small ceremony, he’s given a new assignment with orders to go back to school.
The “back to school” setting is all a cover, though, and Reacher soon finds himself part of a three-man team put together for a special, top-secret assignment. With him are accomplished, like-minded men from the CIA and FBI. Each brings a slightly different background and way of seeing things, and each was handpicked by National Security Advisor Alfred Ratcliffe to find an American traitor.
The traitor’s identity is a mystery. He was first discovered when the United States was tipped off that a terrorist sleeper cell stationed in Hamburg, Germany, had met with an American who is selling something to the Islamic extremists for a whopping $100 million. The United States’ own deeply embedded source is not to be compromised in the investigation, making the job of tracking the American even harder. Hence the need for assembling only the best, brightest, most accomplished men for the task.
Each man goes about investigating things their own way. Reacher, though, teams up with the lovely Frances Neagley, a fan-favorite character who really shines in Night School, and heads to the streets of Germany to deal with things in typical head-on Reacher fashion. There, the duo discovers that the mystery item for sale might have something to do with Y2K. Failure to stop the sinister plan would result in a worst-case-scenario catastrophic event. And it’s up to Reacher to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Those who remember the computer and software scares leading up to the start of the new millennium will chuckle at just how far our technology has come since then. For Reacher, though, who has (at least for this book) transformed from full-time nomad to terrorist-hunter, it’s no laughing matter.
Night School is a giant leap forward from last year’s Make Me, and readers will cheer on the 6’5″ Reacher as he imposes his will against any and all enemy threats. Not only is it fun seeing Reacher back in his Army days, but it’s a real treat to see him running around like a covert operative, slightly out of his element, as he races against the clock and tries to save the day.
Lee Child dials up the heat for his latest novel, delivering another must-read thriller that fans of the genre are sure to enjoy.
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Why You Should Read It: Child’s Jack Reacher series is one of the strongest long-running thriller franchises in print today, and for good reason. Filled with action and suspense, Child’s protagonist is always entertaining to follow around no matter what he’s doing. Reacher, the wandering nomad, had a penchant for being in the right place at the wrong time. That’s true once again in this year’s novel, and, more so than ever before, we get to see another side to Reacher that’s rarely shown.
Tuesday, November 8th
This Was A Man, Jeffrey Archer
Following the sixth installment of his bestselling series, Cometh The Hour, Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles continues, and ends, with This Was A Man. After six novels, countless cliffhangers, and hours and hours of keeping readers on the edges of their seats, it all comes down to this.
Jumping right in without missing a beat, Archer opens his latest novel with Giles Barrington finally learning the truth about his wife, Karin.
That plotline played a big role in last year’s novel and is something readers have been discussing and debating ever since Giles Barrington first questioned whether he should leave politics aside and rescue the woman he loves, without knowing for sure whether she’s truly in love with him…or just a spy who’s using him.
Tired of being dishonest with Giles, Karin prepares to tell him the truth. However, just as she makes that decision, someone else finds out the truth about her past dealings, creating a worst-case scenario for her that must be addressed immediately.
It takes exactly five pages for Archer to create his first jaw-dropping moment.
Hakim Bishara suddenly resigns as chairman of Farthings Kaufman Bank, paving the way for Sebastian Clifton to fill the vacated position. But things don’t come up all roses for Sebastian, because Jessica, his daughter, who may or may not be dating a young man in secret, is kicked out of the Slade School of Fine Art.
Lady Virginia once again steals the pages she appears on, this time as she makes arrangements to leave the country. With her creditors closing in and her financial life still in ruin following Cometh The Hour, she prepares to run from her problems. But an unexpected death gives her pause and time to formulate a new plan that might just satisfy her debt and stick it to the Cliftons, all in one fell swoop.
And then there’s Harry and Emma Clifton, who are still going strong after more than fifty years when Emma receives a surprise job offer from Margaret Thatcher. Does she leave her long-time job at the Bristol Royal Infirmary for this new opportunity? And what effect, if any, will all this have on Harry–who is still keeping a secret from his brother– and his writing?
Writing, by the way, remains Harry’s top priority, as he has just one book left to fulfill his contract before he’s scheduled to set off on an eleven-city book tour in America. And, after all this time, readers will finally learn the truth about Harry and Emma’s parents. A revealing truth that was long overdue is finally out in the open.
As readers make their way through the multiple weaving plots, things come to an abrupt halt when one of the series’ beloved characters receives the grimmest of health news. It won’t be long now, as their death is imminent. As other characters grieve, so will readers.
Among the shocking discoveries, of which there are plenty, is the emergence of a secret will that’ll change one character’s life forever. Beyond that, Archer dials up the family drama with betrayal, secrets, and several delicious twists.
Jeffrey Archer’s epic conclusion to his bestselling series is an absolute masterpiece. There isn’t a better storyteller alive than Mr. Archer, and This Was A Man is his finest work to date.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
A Red Dotted Line, Simon Gervais
A different type of secret agency is taking on a dangerous new threat, and there’s no room for error.
Mike and Lisa Walton work for a private security organization called the International Market Stabilization Institute. Operating outside of the official channels, IMSI’s chief concern is to protect North America’s financial interests, and the Waltons are two of their best operatives.
Following an assassination attempt on the life of IMSI’s director, Mike and Lisa are given orders to head to Russia, where they will follow up on an important lead. However, the mission goes south in a hurry when their cover is blown and their true identities and intentions are exposed.
On the run from multiple threats, including Sheik, a terrorist whom Mike and Lisa have some personal history with, the Waltons use their training and mission savvy to stay alive and keep after their objective.
Where Gervais excels is making his characters and series different from others. Mike Walton, for example, is not your typical leading action hero. Instead, he’s much more human, often relying on his smarts over physical force. He also suffers from some anxiety, which, as you might imagine, makes his job as a field operative much harder.
After being separated, Mike and Lisa start chasing different leads, which eventually add up to the same terrifying conclusion. An old Soviet Union biological warfare agency, previously thought to have been disbanded, is actually still active. In fact, they’ve developed a new biological agent that, once weaponized, will be unlike anything else unleashed on humanity.
With a plan to unleash the weapon on America, Mike and Lisa Walton’s new mission is to stop that from happening at all costs. Period.
In a genre where pretend government black-ops agencies and off-the-books programs are overplayed and cliché, the International Market Stabilization Institute is unique and intriguing. They’re a Manhattan-based firm founded by billionaires, doing government work but from a distance that gives the government complete deniability. Plus, they utilize next-gen tech that is lightyears ahead of what anyone else is using.
Having worked as a federal agent for the Canadian government, Gervais writes with gripping authenticity, and his been-there-done-that experience lends itself nicely to the pages. His series falls somewhere between Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan series and James Rollins’ Sigma Force franchise. And the next-gen technology mixes well with the flying bullets and many action sequences.
There are a few twists and turns along the way, but for the most part, Gervais’ story, like his simple writing style, is straightforward with even pacing throughout. Because an intelligent plot requires explanation, expect a few down moments. The author does a nice job getting back to the action, but if there’s a weakness, it would be that new readers might find themselves a little lost, especially early on.
While the characters, particularly Mike, are developed from the first book, his backstory is a little short here and will likely leave new readers scrambling to understand exactly who he is and what makes him tick. That can easily be avoided, though, simply by reading The Thin Black Line before diving into this book.
With plenty of intrigue and suspense, mixed with a well-planned story that features Mike and Lisa Walton chasing down multiple leads to thwart an attack on the United States, Simon Gervais’ sophomore novel is a big leap up from his 2015 debut and a fun adventure that reads fast and will keep your heart racing.
Publisher: Story Plant
Tuesday, November 15th
No Man’s Land, David Baldacci
Mega-famous author David Baldacci’s No Man’s Land is the latest novel in his John Puller series and a prime example of why he’s one of today’s most beloved writers.
At the heart of this novel is a tragedy that has clawed at John Puller, Baldacci’s Jack Reacher-like character, for more than three decades.
As a boy, Puller’s mother went missing. The ensuing investigations and searches into her disappearance went nowhere, and she was never heard from again. Now, for the first time in thirty years, new evidence has surfaced.
Puller’s father, John Sr., who is now fighting dementia in a VA hospital, had always told his son the same story regarding his mother’s vanishing. But when John goes to see his dad one day, he unexpectedly finds Ted Hull, an investigator with the CID, and Colonel David Shorr waiting for him.
As it turns out, a woman who was friends with Puller’s mother, who is now dying from pancreatic cancer, had something she wanted to get off her chest. The woman’s husband had served with Puller’s father in Vietnam, so the family connections are deep, making her somewhat credible. Sending a letter to the CID, she claims that it was John Puller Sr. who murdered his wife.
Before having brought the information to Puller, the two investigators had done some digging. Puller’s dad was never a suspect thirty years ago because his military records stated that he was out of the country at the time his wife went missing. But now, the validity of that statement is being called into question due to newly found civilian travel documents.
Puller, though, knows that for the Army to open a formal investigation against a legendary three-star general like his father, they had to have something else they weren’t sharing with him. After they refused to let him in on any other evidence, Puller, a warrant officer in the Criminal Investigation Command of the United States Army, vowed to get to the bottom of things himself. But after showing interest, Puller was told to stay out of his father’s case at all costs. Failure to comply could jeopardize his career.
In the end, the chance to find out the truth about his mother and his father’s past was something John just couldn’t pass up.
Unfortunately, while cleaning out the skeletons from his parents’ closet, a blast from his own past comes knocking, and he’s not playing nice. With problems being thrown at him from every direction, all of which are very personal to Puller, Baldacci’s hero must find a way to juggle everything at once or risk having it all crash down around him.
Told in compelling fashion with relentless pacing and plenty of action, David Baldacci delivers another winner that readers will devour.
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Chaos, Patricia Cornwell
Returning to star in her twenty-fourth novel, bestselling author Patricia Cornwell’s beloved medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta encounters one of her most bizarre cases yet.
When a beautiful young woman is killed after being struck by lightning while riding her bike next to the Kennedy School of Government, things seem pretty straightforward. Except that, you know, there was no lightning at the time of her death.
In fact, there were no storms at all. The weather was perfect on that beautiful autumn day, begging the question of how such an incident was possible.
While at the scene of the woman’s death, Scarpetta, director of the Cambridge Forensic Center, quickly surmises that a random lightning strike was not the cause of death (obviously!).
For a few weeks, Scarpetta had been receiving a string of harassing poems from someone who goes by the pseudonym of Tail End Charlie. But after the volume of poems increases in the twenty-four hours since Elisa Vandersteel was found dead next to her bicycle, Scarpetta begins to suspect that Charlie may be involved in the girl’s death.
Coming to help out with the investigation are Kay’s husband, Benton Wesley, an FBI analyst; her partner, Pete Marino; and Kay’s niece, Lucy. Together, but through different avenues, they all begin investigating what happened to Elisa Vandersteel, and what–if any–involvement Tail End Charlie might have had.
Things take a devious turn, though, when someone from Scarpetta’s past returns to cause nothing but chaos for the beloved medical examiner.
Lots of authors struggle with how much backstory to write about their series character in each new book. This was the first time, however, that Cornwell seems to have missed the mark in quickly getting readers up to speed on past events before moving on to the present story.
Instead, Chaos begins with a rather choppy first few chapters. The focal point of the story, Vandersteel’s biking accident, doesn’t even occur until around the seventy-page mark. That’s not to suggest everything prior to that is useless. On the contrary, much of the stage is set during those chapters, but that is when the plot and pacing really take off.
Once Scarpetta is on the job, Chaos is vintage Cornwell. The plot and characters come to life and the story takes flight in a big way.
Like always, Cornwell, a former computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia, delivers some of the most informative, realistic medical examinations in print today. Her autopsy scenes continue to be unmatched in their authenticity and stomach-churning realism.
Readers will be intrigued enough with the investigation to breeze through the final two-thirds, and, with a few tricks up her sleeve, Patricia Cornwell still knows how to keep even her longtime fans off-balance. One of her better twists will be more impactful for those who have read other Scarpetta novels prior to this one, but it’s a solid reveal even for newcomers. Best of all, most will never see it coming.
Outside of the investigation, a lot of the story is dedicated to Scarpetta’s personal life and character relationships. There’s also a plotline that involves a hostile media, who question whether Scarpetta knows what the heck she’s doing anymore. Like always, she’ll silence the doubters. Eventually.
Uncharacteristically, it takes Patricia Cornwell a little while to get going on this one. But once she does hit her stride, Cornwell reminds readers why she’s one of the most notable mystery writers of the past three decades.
Even with a slow start, Chaos finishes strong and will leave readers excited for more Kay Scarpetta in the future.
Publisher: William Morrow
Tuesday, November 22nd
Conclave, Robert Harris
When the pope’s trending on Twitter, that’s not always a good thing.
Set in the near future, Robert Harris’ latest novel follows the process of selecting a new pope. As the cardinals come together to choose the next head of their church, drama, games, and sinister workings come into play.
These might be holy men, but they have ambition and personal goals, too. Some just hide that beneath the surface.
Cardinal Lomeli, currently the head of the College of Cardinals, serves as the main protagonist. Essentially, he’s in charge of the conclave. And with the pope’s death already trending on social media, he desires a quick, scandal-free selection process, and is eager to address the many rumors surrounding the Vatican.
In the running for being selected as the next pope are several prominent, well-known, and respected cardinals. One leans conservatively. Another wishes to continue on a more secular path that the previous pope had begun leading the church down before his sudden passing. There’s also an African cardinal who, like many want to see, would be the first black pope.
And then there’s Vincent Benítez, who was named a cardinal by the pope, but in secret. Not much is immediately known about him, but he’s an intriguing character and emerges as a real darkhorse candidate.
Anytime one hundred and eighteen powerful men come together to make a decision, things will become complicated and heated, especially when they’re all locked in a room until that decision is made.
For the most part, being present for those conversations is riveting. With a multitude of security measures in place to ensure nobody can listen to what’s being said, Harris creates a scenario that allows readers to feel like they have a VIP seat to one of the most fascinating, private, and important gatherings on earth.
Each leading candidate has flaws, some greater than others, and each one has their own reasons for wanting to be the next pope. The scandalous parts come when certain skeletons begin walking out of people’s closets, revealing things about their pasts that they wish to keep hidden. Benítez, especially, is an enigma. Little is known about him, making him a wild card.
As Lomeli does his best to keep the meeting running smoothly, he can’t help but wonder about the pope’s death. Between ballots, he attempts to investigate what, if anything, might have actually happened. As the electors continue a series of votes, each round getting them closer to ultimately making their final decision, Harris locks the reader right in the Sistine Chapel with the College of Cardinals, revealing the high-tension, drama-filled moments.
Harris, obviously, has done his homework. He masterfully explains the entire process to the readers, while at the same time making it fun. That’s no easy feat, and I was impressed with his ability to make the characters come to life. Surprisingly, I even found myself leaning towards one of the potential frontrunners, and would imagine other readers will have their own favorite to become the next apostolic successor of Saint Peter.
The pacing is steady, but not blazing fast. With so much explaining to do, both about the selection process and then the fictional cardinals, that’s to be expected. Instead, Harris relies on drama and suspense to fuel the reader’s interest. However, the plot’s biggest twist seemed unnecessary and more about adding shock value than anything else. Sadly, it nearly took me out of the story, and the reveal itself is both silly and unlikely.
I wish Harris would have stayed the course he was on during the first three-quarters of the story because I was hooked during those pages. Instead, he tried a Dan Brown-like twist that didn’t work, didn’t make sense, and didn’t seem at all possible.
Storm Cell, Brendan Dubois
In the tenth novel in Brendan DuBois’ Lewis Cole series, friendships are tested, and the outcome just might be life or death.
Lewis Cole, a former intelligence analyst for the Department of Defense, has partnered up with Felix Tinios many times in the past. The two even formed a friendship while seeking justice for those in need. But now everything is called into question when Felix lands himself in some seriously hot water.
Anyone who knows him understands that Felix is far more than just the ordinary security consultant he claims to be. Much more. But is he a cold-blooded murderer? That’s the real question.
Prosecutors claim that Felix shot and killed Tyler Beach, a New Hampshire-based business man. Witnesses place Felix in the area at the time of the shooting, and forensic analysis puts him at the crime scene. Police even recovered Felix’s gun, which was then confirmed to be the murder weapon, with his fingerprints on it.
With a rock-solid case that is heavy on physical evidence and light on circumstantial, the DA goes for the death penalty.
For a man who claims to be innocent, Felix sure does make some puzzling decisions. For starters, he kicked his longtime attorney to the curb, deciding instead to go with a newer, lesser-known lawyer who underwhelms and seems in over his head with a case of this magnitude. But the most puzzling thing of all is Felix’s decision to not seek Lewis Cole’s help. In fact, he won’t even speak to him.
Cole doesn’t believe his old friend flat-out murdered anyone for no reason and decides that Felix either had probable cause for the shooting or is innocent altogether. As he sets out to find the truth, though, he’s stopped by two FBI agents who present disturbing news. If Lewis can’t get Felix out of jail within the next three days, it won’t matter if he’s sentenced to death or not, because they believe someone else will take him out long before the state can carry out the lethal injection.
With his back against the wall and the clock ticking down, Lewis Cole races to save his friend before it’s too late.
Intertwined with Cole’s mission to save Felix are several other minor plotlines that include a former lover (who is now a taken woman) and a couple of bad guys who do everything they can to stand in Lewis’ way.
While there are some minor flaws, mostly in the story’s structure, Storm Cell is still a wildly entertaining read. While newcomers might struggle just a bit to understand the nuances of the characters and their relationships initially, things should fall into place after a few chapters.
Written as a hybrid story that falls somewhere between a legal thriller and an action adventure novel, Brendan DuBois’ latest offering will keep long-time fans of his series glued to their reading chairs.
Publisher: Pegasus Books
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Orphan X, Gregg Hurwitz (November 1st)
Evan Smoak was born to kill and bred to hunt. But now, after refusing to kill one of his own, they’re hunting him.
Evan is an efficient, highly-trained assassin. Growing up in a boy’s group home, he was chosen as a child to be part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books government program designed to raise skilled assassins who can carry out the most dangerous missions imaginable.
Designated as Orphan X, Evan learned all the skills necessary to perform his duties. His handler, Jack, was a mentor and father figure, but also a friend. Unbeknownst to Evan, Jack was raising him slightly different from how the other Orphans were being trained.
While Evan is just as skilled–in fact, Orphan X was rumored to be the best asset in the program–Jack had taken steps to make sure that Evan also kept his humanity.
“The hard part isn’t turning you into a killer. The hard part is keeping you human,” Jack was fond of saying. And thus, Evan reached a point in his career where he could no longer pretend to be a mindless killer. When he was asked to take out another Orphan, that was the last straw.
Knowing that if he leaves the program they’ll find him and terminate him, Evan still quits. Then, using all the training he’d received, he got off the grid and assumed a new identity.
Armed with the skills of a killer and a nearly unlimited amount of money (which had come straight from the Treasury’s printing press while he was still an Orphan) hidden in various bank accounts, Evan had very little reason to worry. He also had nothing to do. So rather than focus on himself, he focused on those who had very little hope, remembering what that felt like when he was a child.
Those in need, with nowhere else to turn, can call a phone number. A simple, “Do you need my help?” greets them. The man behind the voice is known only as the Nowhere Man, a legend among those who have fallen on hard and dangerous times. A hero to the less fortunate. His only requirement is that his clients pass his number on to someone else in need.
That’s their form of payment. To pay-it-forward, and to help others.
But things suddenly change when a woman who calls on the Nowhere Man mistakenly finds herself mixed up in a life or death situation. Evan is determined to help her, but, through a series of unfortunate events, he finds out that those now in charge of running the Orphan Program have a vested interest in the situation he just jumped into.
After all this time hiding and covering his tracks to stay off their radar, he just landed himself back in their crosshairs, literally.
While Orphan X might sound similar to the popular video game (later adapted into a feature film), Hitman, it’s not. In fact, it has very little in common with the gaming franchise and, frankly, is a much better story overall. Gregg Hurwitz has managed to create one of the strongest, most compelling new characters in the genre since Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath.
Evan Smoak is the real deal.
For a story so action-packed, Hurwitz has done an incredible job developing his new hero. His journey from Orphan X, to taking on the identity of Evan Smoak, to ultimately becoming the Nowhere Man is fascinating. Emotional challenges from having lived such a secluded, unique childhood provide several funny moments (like Evan giving a child horrible, if not deadly, advice for how to handle a bully).
Likewise, the author packs a lot of heart into the story by recounting a painful memory from Evan’s past that sheds light onto why he’s willing to repeatedly risk his life to help strangers in need. Though an elite-level assassin, Hurwitz has masterfully found a balance that really works for Evan, making him easy to care about and impossible not to root for.
Gregg Hurwitz’s latest novel is a phenomenal start to a promising new franchise and his best book to date. If you’re a fan of spy thrillers and like nonstop action and cool gadgets, this should be one of the first books on your to-read list.
Orphan X isn’t just one of the best thrillers of the year, it’s the hottest new franchise in the genre right now.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperback