The Real Book Spy’s February Reading Guide: 2017

January was a strong start to the year for thriller fans, providing a handful of awesome new books. This month, though, is a thriller buffet that features a little something for everyone! 

You want a good mystery? Check! Craving a new Westen novel to dive into? Check! Looking for heart-pounding suspense? Check! Want a political thriller that will keep you up all night reading? Check! How about a top-notch military thriller, and one of the year’s best spy thrillers? Check and check! 

As always, we’ve chosen to highlight two new releases as our Featured Selections, and this month those books are K.J. Howe’s The Freedom Broker and Mark Greaney’s Gunmetal Gray.

If you haven’t heard of Howe yet, that’s okay. The Freedom Broker is her debut novel, and she proves right away that she’s the real deal. Howe’s also breaking ground on a new type of thriller that lands somewhere between a political thriller and spy novel. There’s really nothing quite like it in print today, which is another reason you should check it out. 

As for Mark Greaney, well, he’s been on an absolute tear lately. Between his work in the Tom Clancy universe and his own spy series, Greaney is money in the bank when it comes to picking up a new book. He’s dialed in, and his latest Gray Man thriller proves it! 

Lastly, don’t forget about The Real Book Spy Reading Challenge, which will take place all year long. For full details, go here. Essentially, to participate, all you have to do is pick one of the books from this list (or last month’s reading guide) and comment either on the bottom of his page, or on social media using the hashtag #RealBookSpyReadingChallenge, and tell us which one you’re going to dive into.

In another week or two we’ll start announcing some of the prizes readers can win for participating. Trust us, you don’t want to miss that–we’ve already collected some really awesome stuff to give away.

Happy reading! 


Tuesday, February 7 

kj-howe-the-feedom-brokerThe Freedom Broker by K.J. Howe (*Featured Selection)

At eight years old, Thea Paris watched helplessly as her older brother was kidnapped. Now, many years later, she’s dedicated her life to helping those in similar situations.   

Already living with survivor’s guilt, even though her brother was returned several months later, Thea felt even worse after it was discovered that she was the original target that tragic day. However, rather than separate and shield herself from similar situations, Thea went on to make kidnapping her business–literally. 

There are very few elite, full-time hostage negotiators who work in the most dangerous parts of the world. Thea is one of them. Using the pain from her past as fuel, Thea’s mission is to protect innocent people from undergoing the heartache her family endured all those years ago when her brother was taken.

From the thundering opening sequence where Howe makes it immediately obvious that she knows her way around an action scene, Thea is portrayed as one of the best in the world at what she does.

However, unbeknownst to Thea, her job, which she already does with intimate first-hand knowledge of the pain families go through when a loved one is abducted, is about to become even more personal. 

While spending time aboard his yacht, The Aphrodite, for his sixtieth birthday, Christos Paris, Thea’s oil tycoon father, is taken. 

Thea, who specializes not only in negotiations but in high-powered retrieval (when the circumstances call for it), springs into action. With help from her team at Quantum Security International (QSI), a London-based hostage rescue organization, Thea begins pouring over her father’s current business dealings and personal life looking for clues.

It turns out that Christos was about to sign the biggest business deal of his career, which could have given someone motive to make him disappear. However, he also had enemies outside of his working life, making for no shortage of suspects. 

In the days after his abduction, Christos’ captors fail to make demands of any kind for his safe return–which she and her QSI team had anxiously been waiting for. It doesn’t take long for Thea to realize the bad guys aren’t playing by the rule book on this one, rendering the bulk of her experience in the field useless for the time being.

A compelling new heroine, Thea is also a diabetic. Howe incorporates her disease into the plot, and not only when it’s convenient to the story. At times, it becomes another obstacle for Thea to deal with both in her private and professional life. Therein lies the driving force that makes this plot work so well–the odds are completely stacked against Thea in every way imaginable, yet she never crumbles. 

Between action scenes, readers get to see a glimpse of the Paris family and their day-to-day lives. It turns out that Thea’s father, now on his fifth wife, isn’t exactly missed by everyone. That list includes Thea’s brother, who turns out to have a wild second life that few people know about. 

The story itself is original and fresh, but the real fun is following Thea as she–even defiantly at times–ducks under, leaps over, and runs through every obstacle in her way. So without any promising leads, she refuses to give up and turns her attention to the one clue she has to work with: a set of weird, cryptic messages written in Latin that were sent to her father’s phone. 

It’s not much, but Thea eventually starts connecting dots and finds herself racing against the clock while trying to dodge one dangerous situation after another in an attempt to bring her dad home alive. 

K.J. Howe, who writes with the finesse of a seasoned veteran, stuns with her unrelenting debut novel. The Freedom Broker features a realistic, hard-hitting plot, stunning action sequences, nail-biting suspense, and a brilliant new cast of characters. Howe is the real deal–thriller fans will devour this one in a hurry and leave satisfied! 

Book Details

Author: K.J. Howe
Series: Thea Paris #1
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1681443104
Publisher: Quercus
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JD Robb Echoes in death.jpgEchos In Death by J.D. Robb

In J.D. Robb’s latest novel, a serial rapist terrorizing New York couples graduates to committing murder, and it’s up to Lieutenant Eve Dallas to stop them.

Returning home from a charity event with her billionaire husband, Roarke, Eve Dallas is eager to relax and settle in for the night. Plans change, though, when a naked woman darts out in front of their car. Roarke narrowly avoids running the woman over, and Eve instinctively leaps to her aid.

Upon transporting the woman to the hospital, Eve learns that her name is Daphne Strazza. Daphne is the wife of a prominent orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Anthony Strazza, who is later found dead in their townhouse. While Daphne is a witness to whatever horror took place, the traumatic experience has left her unable to speak. Instead, all she can muster up when questioned about who did this to them is two words: “the Devil.”

At first glance, Daphne would make for a prime suspect. Eve finds out that Anthony Strazza was a controlling and cruel man. In fact, he was disliked by many, including colleagues. But as Eve gathers evidence, all of it points away from Daphne and towards another monster– one who has struck before.

Eve finds at least two other cases she believes are related. Each one involves a masked intruder forcing husbands to watch their wife be raped. However, both prior cases lacked any fatalities, leaving Eve to question why the rapist killed Dr. Anthony Strazza.

While investigating, Eve also battles her own demons as she sees parallels between the case and her own painful past. Growing up, Eve’s father had repeatedly raped her and planned to sell her to pedophiles. Instead, she killed him in self-defense. So while Eve is known for taking cases personally, often opting to skip meals and sleep until she believes justice is found for the victim, none have ever consumed her quite like this before.

Eventually, the ‘Devil’ strikes again. This time, though, both the husband and wife are killed. With the crimes escalating, Eve Dallas races to unmask the perpetrator and stop him once and for all.

J.D. Robb (the pseudonym for bestselling author Nora Roberts, who has more than 500 million copies of her books in print around the world) has done a great job developing Eve throughout her series. While readers have long grown accustomed to seeing her tougher-than-nails side, an exterior undoubtedly caused from her painful upbringing, Eve’s softer side has also been on display lately. It’s a welcome change, especially after forty-four books.

Set in a futuristic New York City, Robb’s blend of sci-fi mysteries are unique and different from anything else in widespread circulation, making her novels a must-read experience. Written to stand alone, readers can pick up Echoes In Death and dive in whether they’ve read the series from the beginning or are just now giving it a try.

You don’t end up with sixty-one #1 bestselling novels without a firm grasp and understanding of what readers are looking for. Robb (Roberts) knows what her fans want, and she delivers the goods over and over again.

Book Details

Author: J.D. Robb
Series: Death Series #44 
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250123119
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
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Robert B Parker's Revelation.jpgRobert B. Parker’s Revelation by Robert Knott

When a group of killers escapes from Cibola prison in Arizona, U.S. Territorial Marshal Virgil Cole and Deputy Marshal Everett Hitch head out into the Wild West to find and capture them.

Things had just cooled down for Virgil Cole when Donnie “Driggs” Lonnigan, who was being held in a Mexican prison, was transferred to the United States. Driggs’ presence shakes up things inside the prison walls. Due to his gargantuan size and dark, cold eyes, Driggs is an intimidating man who makes everyone around him, including the guards and warden, nervous.

Spending most of his time in the Tomb, an isolated sweat box set apart from the rest of the penitentiary, with nothing but a bible to keep him company, Driggs’ legend took on a savior-like figure to the overcrowded inmates.

Well-educated, smart, and a natural killer, Driggs wasn’t cut out for prison. It might be where he belongs, but he has bigger and better plans. Prison, it seems, is just a bump in the road.

At the time during which Driggs and other inmates manage to escape the prison’s confines, Virgil Cole is just going about living his quiet life in Appaloosa. His longtime lover, Allie French, has taken advantage of the recent increase in population by opening her own dress shop. While sitting across from her shop with Everett Hitch, Cole is summoned by Sheriff Chastain, who needs his help.

Just after receiving word of the prison escape, Sheriff Chastain received a note about a shooting at a mill in another nearby town called Yaqui. Two men were killed, but the note said at least four prisoners escaped.

Later, Hitch identifies Driggs, who, unbeknownst to him or Cole, was part of the escape from Cibola. At first, Hitch isn’t sure Driggs is the man he thought he knew. In fact, he’s convinced it can’t be because the man he knew wasn’t supposed to be alive.

As the plot unravels, Knott reveals more about Driggs’ and Hitch’s backstory. Before long, a standoff turns into an all-out chase across the desert as Virgil Cole vows to find the escapees and bring them to justice.

Robert Knott does a terrific job of catering to fans of Westerns, while at the same time avoiding some of the stereotypes and pitfalls that cause casual readers to skip similar types of stories. The dialogue, which is spot-on, adds an authentic feel to the setting and is one of the book’s strengths. But by modernizing the plot ever so slightly, Revelation will appeal to a wider range of readers. Fans of Craig Johnson’s Longmire series will connect well with Cole, who shares many personality traits with the fictional sheriff from Absaroka county.

Less about investigating and more about the pursuit of bad guys, with plenty of shootouts along the way, the latest entry in Robert B. Parker’s Virgil Cole series is a fun, entertaining adventure that will leave readers counting down the days until the next book comes out. A must-read for anyone craving a juicy Western novel to sink their teeth into!

Book Details

Author: Robert Knott
Series: Cole and Hitch #5 
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399575340
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
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reed-farrel-coleman-what-you-breakWhat You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman

After the death of his twenty-year-old son, ex-cop Gus Murphy is searching for a purpose as he struggles to live his life. Eventually, his searching leads to him investigating a pair of dangerous cases.

John Augustus “Gus” Murphy misses his son, John Jr., every day. His world has changed considerably in the past few years. Along with the loss of his son, Gus has also lost his identity as a Suffolk County police officer. Instead, he’s turned in his badge and gun for an ugly uniform and spends his time working as a security guard driving customers from the airport to the New York hotel he works for. Under the tough-looking exterior is a man who’s been kicked hard by life.

An otherwise normal night suddenly takes a terrifying turn when Gus witnesses an interaction between one of the hotel’s customers and a bellman. Shortly after that, he witnesses a murder, inadvertently becoming another loose end for the hitman to clean up.

In addition to the murder he’s now personally involved in, Gus is approached by Micah Spears, whose granddaughter (who went by TL) was killed by a gangbanger named Rondo Salazar. Police have Salazar in custody awaiting sentencing, but that isn’t good enough for Spears, who wants to know why, specifically, his granddaughter was killed.

After showing initial reluctance–which is smoothed over when Father Bill, one of Gus’ longtime friends, vouches for Spears–Gus eventually agrees to play private detective and poke around for answers about Salazar’s motive for killing TL. Due to the events from the last books, nobody on the police force is happy to see Gus swimming in their pool. They don’t want him investigating anything related to their case, which makes Gus’ job even harder. He presses on, in part due to the empathy he feels for Spears. After all, Gus is intimately aware of the pain one feels from losing a loved one and the desire for any answers that might provide a smidgen of closure.

In an odd turn of events, the more Gus uncovers about TL and her relationship with Salazar, the more he realizes things don’t quite add up. Suspecting a larger conspiracy lurking behind the scenes, Gus continues investigating TL’s death and the murder he witnessed. Eventually, the two cases start to overlap, and Gus realizes he was right about a larger conspiracy at work–but he never dreamed it would take such a dangerous and disturbing turn.

Set in the darker side of Long Island than most people are used to reading about and seeing in movies, Coleman’s latest mystery is noir to its core. The only negative is that it takes an unusually long time for the two cases Gus is working to take form, revealing the full picture. Before that, things can get a little confusing, especially for readers who are trying to solve the case before Gus Murphy does.

What You Break is vintage Reed Farrel Coleman, who continues to put out compelling crime novels year after year. While the ending might leave a little more to be desired, the overall plot and character study of a broken man navigating his way through one challenge after another brings an emotional element that readers can relate to.

Book Details

Author: Reed Farrel Coleman
Series: Gus Murphy #2
Pages: 366 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399173048
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
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Tuesday, February 14

charles-cumming-a-divided-spyA Divided Spy by Charles Cumming

Thomas Kell, a former MI6 officer who left the world of spying behind, gets pulled back into the shadows when he’s offered a shot at revenge.

A year ago, MI6 Agent Rachel Wallinger, Kell’s girlfriend, was killed when a mission went terribly wrong. Kell, now retired, has carried a deep hatred for Alexander Minasian, the man he blames for Wallinger’s death, ever since. 

Minasian, a high-ranking Russian SVR officer, has been off the MI6’s radar since the botched mission took place. That changed when Harold Mowbray–who has worked with British Intelligence agencies throughout his career as a private contractor–spotted him at a luxury resort in Egypt. While not much was known about Minasian prior to Mowbray’s running into him, Harold’s surveillance of him turned up a surprising chink in the Russian’s armor. 

As fate would have it, the Russian was not alone during his stay at the fine Red Sea resort. Accompanying him was his secret lover, a German man named Bernhard Riedle. And the two were observed arguing and fighting throughout their time together before Minasian left alone. 

As Harold Mowbray relays this information to Kell over dinner, the retired spy begins formulating a plan to get close to Minasian by using Bernhard Riedle, which is easier said than done. With the blessing of his MI6 handler, Kell sets his plan into motion. 

Using a veteran spy trick, Kell finds a way to introduce himself to Bernhard, under false pretenses of course, and befriends the man while keeping his true identity and motives a secret. One thing leads to another, and eventually he gains enough trust for Riedle to begin spilling details about his affair with a Russian spy. 

Cumming lays out his story with authority and confidence, pulling readers along at a fast clip. The real fun, though, comes when an unexpected plot shift takes hold, revealing a well-referenced character to be a major player. Suddenly, Kell finds himself at a crossroads between satisfying his thirst for revenge and pursuing a new lead suggesting there is a large-scale attack in the works. 

What was once a low-key personal mission for Thomas Kell quickly grows into something much larger, with much more at stake. 

A choice must be made, and either way, it’s bound to have serious ramifications for Kell. Without giving anything away, the daring, complex conclusion to Cumming’s latest novel is a satisfying ending to a cunning tale of espionage. 

Written in the same vein as legendary spy writers John le Carré and Daniel Silva, A Divided Spy proves that Charles Cumming’s is among the genre’s most talented authors working today. 

Book Details

Author: Charles Cumming
Series: Thomas Kell #3
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250021049
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
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61wiZvGIpEL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgGarden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie 

Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James return for their seventeenth adventure to investigate separate murders in Deborah Crombie’s latest mystery novel, The Garden of Lamentations

Through a friend, Detective Gemma James learns about the mysterious death of a nanny whose body was found inside a private garden. Upon working the case, Gemma struggles to find any reason someone would want the attractive young woman dead. 

As Gemma continues hunting for leads, Kincaid’s world is rocked after he meets with Chief Denis Childs, his former boss who had gone missing. Before Kincaid is able to get the answers he wanted, Childs is murdered. With so many questions left hanging in the air, Kincaid vows to find out why Childs went dark in the first place, who killed him, and why.  

Kincaid’s early findings lead to him believing that Scotland Yard has a traitor among them. To keep his wife safe, in case the killer is murdering to buy silence, he keeps this from her and continues looking into things by himself. Gemma misreads her husband’s attempt to protect her, believing instead that there’s a divide deepening between them which was originally caused when they started to each put their career and children before one other. 

Eventually, though, Kincaid is forced to involve other officers that he trusts, including his wife, as they try to smoke out the mole. At the same time, Gemma makes a startling discovery in regards to the dead nanny case when she finds out that this isn’t the first time a body was recovered in the exclusive, hard-t0-access garden. 

Newcomers to the series should strongly consider at least reading To Dwell In Darkness, the sixteenth novel in the franchise, because much of this plot follows unanswered questions from Crombie’s last novel. Without any knowledge of past events, readers may struggle to connect all the dots. At the very least, read the flashback scenes (which are brief) very carefully.

Crombie’s latest novel shows that she’s still able to inject plenty of new surprises into her long-running series. Kincaid’s investigation into police corruption at the highest levels is the focal point, but the all-new conflict between her lead characters proves that there’s still plenty of material left to work with as Kincaid and James have never been tested quite like this before. 

The Garden of Lamentations is everything fans have to come to expect from Deborah Crombie–a complex, multi-layered plot that will keep you on your toes while you try to solve the case before her heroes do. 

Book Details

Author: Deborah Crombie
Series: Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James #17
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062271636
Publisher: William Morrow
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mark-greaney-gunmetal-grayGunmetal Gray by Mark Greaney (*Featured Selection)

After spending years on the run from the Central Intelligence Agency, Courtland ‘The Gray Man’ Gentry has finally come back inside to resume his career as one of America’s premier intelligence operators. 

It’s been a long time since Court Gentry has worked for the CIA, and much has changed since then. What hasn’t changed, though, is his lethal skill set that makes him both a force to be reckoned with and an elite super soldier capable of operating behind enemy lines with no backup or help.

This time around, Court is tasked with locating a high-ranking Chinese hacker named Fan Jiang who defected from his team of bodyguards and vanished. Fan possesses intimate details of the Chinese’s digital security structure and its weaknesses, making him a prime target for enemy foreign intelligence services. 

Court’s arrival in China doesn’t go unnoticed, though, and his mission becomes infinitely more difficult when it’s made known that the Chinese are holding Donald Fitzroy, a former colleague and friend of Gentry’s (who was also contracted to find Fan), captive. 

Using Fitzroy, whom they promise to hurt if Court snatches Fan on his own, as leverage to force his cooperation, Gentry teams up with the Chinese to find their missing computer genius. But as Court tries to buy time to figure out how to grab Fan and save Donald Fitzroy simultaneously, the Russians enter the picture, once again complicating matters even further.

The Russian team of operators in search of Fan is led by Zoya Zakharova, who heads up a team of elite and ruthless soldiers. Zoya ends up being a complex and fascinating character who adds a new layer to the story, providing a subtle change of pace from the nonstop action–though she can (and does) throw down too. 

From the moment Court touches down in Hong Kong, it’s full steam ahead. Greaney turns up the heat as the bullets start flying immediately, pausing only when Gentry uses his bare hands to take care of business. 

Readers will find themselves glued to their reading chairs as Court tracks Fan Jiang all over Asia while taking on a couple of Chinese hitmen, a team of Russian operatives, and a Vietnamese gang–all of which are after the same thing and willing to kill anyone who gets in their way. 

Famous also for penning a handful of the Jack Ryan novels under the Tom Clancy brand, Greaney’s fan-favorite spy franchise has earned him a loyal following, and for good reason. Gentry is one of the genre’s most compelling (and violent) action heroes, comparable to a younger version of Mitch Rapp (Vince Flynn’s fictional super-spy), but slightly edgier.   

From start to finish, Gunmetal Gray impresses with a well-laid-out plot and enough action to satisfy even the pickiest thriller fans. Between the Clancy books and the Gray Man series, nobody is on a hotter streak right now than Mark Greaney.

Book Details

Author: Mark Greaney
Series: The Gray Man #6
Pages: 512 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0425282856
Publisher: Berkley
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Johnathan Kellerman Heartbreak Hotel.jpgHeartbreak Hotel by Johnathan Kellerman 

“At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.”

Book Details

Authors: Johnathan Kellerman 
Series: Alex Delaware #32
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 034554143
Publisher: Ballantine Books
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Charles Todd Racing the devil.jpgRacing The Devil by Charles Todd

Heading into the Battle of Somme, where death is waiting, a group of English officers make a promise to each other over drinks. The deal is that anyone who survives the war will meet in Paris a year after it ends to race each other via motorcars to Nice.

Few make it through the brutal war alive, but each honors their pact and–through various forms–obtain access to motorcars for the race. What starts out as fun takes a tragic turn and only gets worse from there.

As the five racers near Nice, one of the drivers is badly hurt after someone attempts to run two cars off the twisting, darkened mountain trail.

The following year, Rector Wright, the rector of the local church in East Sussex, dies in a car accident on a rainy night. Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge is called to investigate, and he quickly uncovers that the motorcar actually belonged to a World War I veteran who never gave Wright his consent to borrow the vehicle.

It doesn’t take long for readers or Rutledge to see the similarities of the two accidents. While it’s possible Wright may have lost control and crashed, careful examination of the situation offers another possibility: Someone deliberately caused the crash that killed Rector Wright, except he wasn’t their target. Instead, the murderer may have been targeting the vehicle’s owner, General Standish, believing he was the one behind the wheel at the time of the crash.

As Rutledge continues his investigation, he comes across several interesting characters who help drive the story forward. What originally seems like a straightforward mystery soon becomes as twisty as the mountainous roads where Wright was killed.

While well-written, the story does veer too far off course at times, causing the pacing to stall here and there before eventually recovering. Todd’s (who is actually the mother and son writing duo of Charles and Caroline Todd) best work by far is his ability to place readers in France 1919, where the story is set.

Ian Rutledge remains an interesting character. The renowned Scotland Yard inspector possesses the ability to communicate with a dead friend who offers insight from time to time on the investigation itself, as well as other things. The book is well-written but lacks the pacing and suspense to keep readers engaged and flipping pages as fast as previous entries in Todd’s long-running series.

Racing The Devil is a solid mystery and a nice addition to Charles Todd’s Inspector Rutledge franchise. Long-time fans will enjoy seeing their hero back in action, while newcomers will appreciate the author’s attention to detail.

Book Details

Authors: Charles Todd
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge #12
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062386212
Publisher: William Morrow
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Tuesday, February 21

Most Dangerous Place by James Grippando

51af7eklosl-_sx332_bo1204203200_War Shadows by Jefferey Wilson & Brian Andrews

For their latest Tier One thriller, the co-writing team of Brian Andrews and Jeff Wilson pull readers inside the world of black ops for their most explosive story yet.

John Dempsey is a former Navy SEAL who traded in his old life and identity to become part of Ember, an elite counterterrorism unit funded through the Department of Defense. His family and friends all believe he was killed during a mission years ago, freeing him up to operate in the shadows–where the bad guys live. 

While giving up his old life was a costly personal decision for Dempsey, who left behind a loving family, it’s a sacrifice he was willing to make to keep America safe.

A decade ago, when he was still known as Jack Kemper (and a Navy SEAL), Dempsey led a team of commandos into a remote Iraqi compound. Their target was a mid-level Al-Qaeda member named Mahmood Bin Jabbar, and they nearly nabbed him. But things took a wrong turn and went south in a hurry. One of Dempsey’s men got killed, and Bin Jabbar slipped away into the darkness. 

Now, ten years later, Mahmood Bin Jabbar just stepped back into the light–and Dempsey is chomping at the bit to take another run at him. However, like last time, getting close to the terrorist mastermind will be easier said than done.

Ember intelligence reports indicate Mahmood Bin Jabbar is surfacing long enough to meet with another terrorist organization near Al-Qa’im. While not much is known about his whereabouts from the last ten years, Bin Jabbar now holds a leadership position in ISIS, and it’s believed the meeting is to coordinate on an attack plan already in the works. 

While Dempsey is out for blood, hellbent on settling the score from the last time he went after Bin Jabbar, his number-one objective is to learn more about what the terrorists are planning so they can be stopped. But like last time, Mahmood Bin Jabbar isn’t about to go quietly or without a fight. 

After things once again take a shocking turn, Dempsey finds himself on a new globetrotting mission, racing against the clock to stop a series of carefully plotted attacks before it’s too late. 

Partners and teams are the new ‘it thing’ right now. Lots of thriller authors are pairing up characters, and even longtime series protagonists who are known for working alone are getting sidekicks. While Dempsey is the star here, all the individual operators shine as a unit. The banter and side joking during missions will make readers feel like they’re shadowing the unit on a ride-along, 

The banter and side joking during missions will make readers feel like they’re shadowing the special ops units on a ride-along. Not only does this style work well, it’s a real strength of the authors’ storytelling ability and will help readers get lost in the adventure.

What Andrews and Wilson are doing with this series is unlike anything else currently in print right now. While each book stands on its own, as far as having an authentic plot that readers can jump into, their series is built around one central story arc. Not everything is neatly tidied up in four hundred pages, and the good guys don’t always pitch a perfect game. Instead, each novel shows a different battle within the overall war–a concept that has so far been brilliantly choreographed.

Andrews and Wilson continue to fire on all cylinders, impressing once again with War Shadows, the latest high-voltage entry in their gritty military thriller franchise. 

Book Details

Authors: Brian Andrews & Jeffrey Wilson 
Series: Tier One #2
Pages: 398 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1503942031
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
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James Grippando Most Dangerous place.jpgMost Dangerous Place by James Grippando 

“Defending a woman accused of murdering the man who sexually assaulted her, Miami lawyer Jack Swyteck must uncover where the truth lies between innocence, vengeance, and justice in this spellbinding tale of suspense—based on shocking true-life events—from the New York Times bestselling author of Gone Again.

According to the FBI, the most dangerous place for a woman between the ages of twenty and thirty is in a relationship with a man. Those statistics become all too personal when Jack Swyteck takes on a new client tied to his past.

It begins at the airport, where Jack is waiting to meet his old high school buddy, Keith Ingraham, a high-powered banker based in Hong Kong, coming to Miami for his young daughter’s surgery. But their long-awaited reunion is abruptly derailed when the police arrest Keith’s wife, Isabelle, in the terminal, accusing her of conspiring to kill the man who raped her in college. Jack quickly agrees to represent Isa, but soon discovers that to see justice done, he must separate truth from lies—an undertaking that proves more complicated than the seasoned attorney expects.

Inspired by an actual case involving a victim of sexual assault sent to prison for the death of her attacker, James Grippando’s twisty thriller brilliantly explores the fine line between victim and perpetrator, innocence and guilt, and cold-blooded revenge and rightful retribution.”

Book Details

Author: James Grippando
Series: Jack Swyteck #13
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062440551
Publisher: Harper
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Tuesday, February 28

a-j-tata-besiegedBesieged by A.J. Tata

Bestselling author A.J. Tata pulls out all the stops for his latest supercharged thriller, Besieged.  

When a gunman planned to shoot up an elementary school, there was one thing he didn’t count on–resistance. Picked in part because schools are a known soft target, the shooter entered the school’s campus with the intent to commit murder. Instead, he ran into ex-Delta operator Jake Mahegan.

Jake happened to be on the campus to visit an old friend who teaches at the school, and immediately sprung into action to thwart the shooter’s sinister plan.

Things take another turn, though, when Jake realizes the shooter is wearing a suicide vest. Unable to prevent its detonation, Jake is rocked by the explosion. By the time he resurfaces to consciousness and gets his bearings, a gifted autistic girl named Misha is gone.

Someone abducted Misha for a reason, and Jake wants to know why. He vows to find her and bring her home safely, and nothing will keep him from keeping his promise.

As he starts turning over rocks looking for answers, Jake realizes that there is a much larger plot playing out behind the scenes. Suddenly, finding Misha isn’t his only mission, as Jake races to uncover details about homegrown threats who have pledged to strike a blow to the United States from within.

Jake’s fight against domestic terrorism takes him across the country, where he investigates a plan hatched by some rogue Iranians to bring America to her knees. On his own and with his back against the wall, Jake Mahegan will be tested like never before as he tries once again to save the day.

Part of the story takes place in North Carolina, where Tata previously served as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation from 2013-2015. Along with knowing the area and doing a first-rate job transporting readers with vivid location descriptions, he also knows how to lay out an action scene.

A former brigadier general in the United States Army, Tata writes from a been-there-done-that point of view. Along with Brad Taylor (a former Delta Force commander turned bestselling author), Tata crafts some of the most explosive action sequences in print today.

In a genre where many of the heroes are cut from the same cloth, Jake Mahegan stands out. In addition to being the only Native American protagonist in a successful series, Mahegan’s thought process and problem-solving methods can be a tad out of the box. Last year’s Three Minutes To Midnight was good, but this year’s book reaches a new level.

With a plot that is all too plausible in today’s world, Besieged reads more like a headline taken from tomorrow’s news cycle than a work of fiction. Tata, who is unafraid to incorporate bold themes and circumstances that nobody else even touches on, holds nothing back with his latest out-of-the-box, terrifying plot. 

Book Details

Author: A.J. Tata
Series: Jake Mahegan #3
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1496706633
Publisher: Kensington
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Faye Kellerman Bone Box.jpgBone Box by Faye Kellerman

“In this thrilling chapter in Faye Kellerman’s bestselling series, Rina Lazarus makes a shocking discovery in the woods of her upstate New York community that leads her husband, police detective Peter Decker, through a series of gruesome, decades-old, unsolved murders, pointing to a diabolical, serial killer who’s been hiding in plain sight.

On a bright and crisp September morning, while walking a bucolic woodland trail, Rina Decker stumbles upon human remains once buried deep beneath the forest grounds. Immediately, she calls her husband, Peter, a former detective lieutenant with LAPD, now working for the local Greenbury Police. Within hours, a vista of beauty and tranquility is transformed into a frenetic crime scene. The body has been interred for years and there is scant physical evidence at the gravesite: a youthful skeleton, a skull wound and long dark strands of hair surrounding the bony frame. As Decker and his partner, Tyler McAdams, further investigate, they realize that they’re most likely dealing with a missing student from the nearby Five Colleges of Upstate—a well-known and well-respected consortium of higher learning where Rina works.

And when more human remains are found in the same area, Decker and McAdams know this isn’t just a one-off murder case. Short-staffed and with no convenient entry into the colleges, Decker enlists Rina’s help to act as the eyes and ears of campus gossip. Winding their way through a dangerous labyrinth of steely suspects and untouchable academics, Decker, McAdams, and Rina race to protect their community from a psychopathic killer still in the area—and on the hunt for a fresh victim.”

Book Details

Author: Faye Kellerman
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062424963
Publisher: William Morrow
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  • Diana Tsingopoulos

    Ryan, thanks for compiling the Feb list. I have already pre-ordered Mark Greaney’s “Gunmetal Gray”,
    but I will also read several of the other books on the list.
    PS Thanks for the info that Dalton Fury completed his last Kolt Raynor book before he passed away last
    October. He is one of my favorite thriller authors and I really miss him.

    • You bet, Diana. Dalton (real name Tom) is missed beyond belief. So sad he’s gone. Enjoy the many February books!

  • Brandon

    I’m looking forward to The Prisoner, Gunmetal Grey, & War Shadows. I hoping to pick up The Freedom Broker as well.

    • I like your style, Brandon! Happy reading, man. Enjoy!

  • Kosmo

    Mark me down for The Freedom Broker and Gunmetal Grey. Should be another good month.

  • I’m trying to finish The Prisoner. Slow down there, Ryan! 😉

  • Andrew

    Hi Ryan – Looks like another good month. Wrapping-up The Nowhere Man from January and really enjoying it! Looking forward to The Freedom Broker for February.

  • George

    After reading Ring of Fire from the January list, I’ll be reading The Freedom Broker as my second novel in The Real Book Spy Reading Challenge. Thanks for introducing me to a load of new authors! I was running out of books from the ones I’ve been reading.
    One note – this list only has 1 book that isn’t part of a series. Consider future lists having at least one for those of us that aren’t caught up on, what are sometimes, lengthy story lines.
    This is fun. Thanx.

    • I sure try to include standalones, but only if they’re truly good enough for me to stand behind. Here’s the books news: Most authors writing series make it so readers can jump in anywhere and get up to speed pretty quick. Some will always prefer going back to the beginning, but for the most part you could pick up any of the books on this list and dive in without being too lost.

    • Oh, and THANK YOU for taking our Reading Challenge!

  • Jason Poppe

    Going to start with Freedom Broker

  • J. D. Robb Echoes in Death:
    As someone that owns all full length “In Death” books and most of the shorts take it from me you will not be disappointed in this one!

    Another great in death story just when you think you know who the killer is Robb slips in a twist that you don’t see coming!

  • Diana Tsingopoulos

    Just finished “Gunmetal Gray” . One of the most gifted thriller writers around,Mark Greaney hits the ground
    running with the first page of this book and never lets up. The plot is the most intricate I have ever encountered
    but Greaney weaves all the threads into a magnificent tapestry. No spoilers here – just a recommendation
    to read this awesome book. Now waiting for “War Shadows” and “Besieged”. Thanks, Ryan for compiling
    these reading lists.

  • I read A Divided Spy for February. Charles Cumming’s latest is a strong conclusion for his Thomas Kell trilogy. The book’s climax puts Kell in the middle of a potential terror attack while offering a fitting end to his character’s story. I’m a bit biased due a certain character cameo, but definitely pick it up.

  • Diana Tsingopoulos

    I read War Shadows and was very impressed by the originality of the plot and the fast paced action.
    The portrayal of John Dempsey, the man whose death was faked so that he could assume a new identity
    is very touching. This is a truly great read.

    I also just finished Besieged and I think it will take me a week to get my heart rate back down to normal!
    The pace is fast and furious, but always engages the reader.
    Jake Mahegan rises to the ranks of Pike Logan and Dewey Andreas, showing intelligence, intuition, bravery,
    originality, and stamina.

    It’s a good thing that Oath of Honor doesn’t come out for a few days. I need some
    R and R!!
    Thank you, Ryan, for compiling these reading guides.

  • kevin

    New to this site. It’s awesome! Finished Gunmetal Gray and Heartbreak Hotel this weekend. Excellent reads!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Kevin! Glad you enjoyed Mark Greaney’s book – I loved it too!

  • Really enjoyed Gunmetal Gray. I had previously read the Gray Man and thoroughly enjoyed it. Can’t wait to read the rest of the Gray MAn series.

  • Vivian McAdams

    Gunmetal Gray! But, think I will add Charles Todd’s Racing the Devil. Thanks for the list

  • Gunmetal Grey was GREAT!!!!!

  • Pingback: Love Reading? Take The Real Book Spy Reading Challenge For Your Chance To Win Some Awesome Book Swag! – The REAL Book Spy()

  • RO

    I just want to hang out with the Gray Man! (lol) – Loved Gunmetal Gray

  • Ed

    I really enjoyed Gunmetal Gray, but I was hoping for a bit more of a conflict with his new handler. Hopefully that will happen in the next issue of the series!

  • Having read Heartbreak hotel in the latest J. Kellerman series I feel that it is nearly time to put them down. Period. He started off brilliantly but again like Patterson it seems that there is an algorithmic program that multiple authors are using to churn out brain dead novels. Patterson, Lee Child etc.. Avoid and use your money to get some water. It will be better for you…..

  • Colonel (ret.) Steve Thomas

    Of course I read Mark Greaney’s Gun Metal Grey … and then bought it on ITunes so I could listen to it when I was driving from Orlando to Atlanta. The Grey Man is one of my favorites as well. Will miss Greaney on the Jack Ryan books but I hope that means we will see the Grey Man more often!! 🙂

    Steve

  • Dean

    Gunmetal Gray (Read)

  • Melissa Bein LeClair

    I just finished The Freedom Broker. What an awesome book! One of my favs of 2017! Thanks for booking us up with new thriller authors. Looking forward to the next one.

    • Ryan@TheRealBookSpy.com

      Thank you, Melissa. Get ready for more Thea in 2018 – SKYJACK comes out on April 3! For more info, or to pre-order, go here: http://amzn.to/2zn3Yss