The Real Book Spy’s May 2017 Reading Guide

As a new month rolls in, so do a bunch of new thrillers.  It also puts us closer to June, which is absolutely stacked with high-octane, action-packed novels from a number of the genre’s top authors.

In fact, now would be a good time to start saving up for all the books you’ll want to get your hands on next month when Brad Thor, Ben Coes, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, Joseph Finder, Mike Maden, Don Winslow, John Gilstrap, Mary Kubica, Meg Gardiner, Rick Campbell, and Barry Eisler all release new novels. So maybe cut out a few coffee runs while we wait for the summer thrillers to roll in, because June is going to be epic!

In the meantime, there’s several really strong titles coming out this month–with a little something for everyone. As always, we’ve highlighted a couple of our highest-rated new releases to be our Featured Selections. This month, those books are Steve Hamilton’s Exit Strategy and Stephen Hunter’s G-Man.

Exit Strategy, Steve Hamilton’s gritty sequel to last year’s The Second Life of Nick Mason, is exactly what his fans are looking for. Mason’s story is unique and compelling. He’s a man who traded twenty years of his prison sentence, instead promising to provide his services to a known criminal mastermind. But making a deal with the devil always has consequences, and Mason quickly learns that even though he’s out of prison, he’s far from a free man. Crime fans will flip for this dark, action-packed thriller.

Our other Featured Selection, G-Man, brings back one of the most lethal snipers to ever walk the earth. Bob Lee Swagger is still an expert marksman, but he’s an old man now. To interject some action into the story, author Stephen Hunter relies on flashback scenes involving Bob Lee’s grandfather, who helped the FBI take down some of the most famous bank robbers, outlaws, and notorious criminals in the 1930s. It’s all done in an organic way that fits the story, and learning about the Swagger family is a real treat for longtime fans of the franchise.

On top of those two books, we also scored both Peter Kirsanow’s debut novel, Target Omega, and Ezekiel Boone’s Skitter, the second novel in his apocalyptic series about killer spiders, pretty high. Kirsanow’s book is perfect for fans of Brad Taylor and Mark Greaney, while Boone’s is a great fit for fans of Jurassic Park and The Walking Dead

Speaking of Jurassic Park, which was written by Michael Crichton, the late author’s recently discovered manuscript, Dragon Teeth, is finally hitting bookstores. Honestly, Dragon Teeth just missed being one of our featured titles, but ultimately we felt like it falls short of not only Jurassic Park, but also ER and a number of Crichton’s other creations.

Read more about all these books below!

Reading Challenge

Don’t forget about our Real Book Spy Reading Challenge, especially if you’d like to win prizes at the end of the year!

For more info on how the Reading Challenge works, click here. Otherwise, remember to let us know which books from this list you’re planning to read either by leaving a comment on this article or by posting your picks on social media using the hashtag #RealBookSpyReadingChallenge so we can track your participation.

We’re really close to unveiling some of the cool book swag we’ve collected from authors to give away (both to a single grand prize winner and several other participants) towards the end of the year. Trust us, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on this prize package! 


Tuesday, May 2

51Xq2v0JIcL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Marathon by Brian Freeman

After Dawn Basch, a prominent gun-rights advocate, publicly taunts the Muslim community, daring them to kill him in order to shut him up, tragedy suddenly strikes.

During the marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, a bomb rocks the streets, killing and injuring many innocent racers and bystanders. With tens of thousands of people on location, finding the bomber is the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack for investigators–who quickly get to work.

While Lieutenant Jonathan Stride begins searching for the person responsible, the FBI quickly takes over the case, limiting his involvement. It doesn’t take long for the public to assume the attack is related to Basch’s comments, with all eyes pointed towards different groups of Muslims who might have responded to Stride’s rhetoric.

That theory deepens when several witnesses suggest a man seen in surveillance photos acted suspiciously with a backpack. That man is eventually identified as Khan Rashid, who becomes the most wanted man in America overnight.

The problem, though, is that Stride finds out that the man who pointed the finger at Rashid might not have been telling the truth. If that’s the case, then not only is the wrong man being pursued by authorities while the real bomber slips away, but the entire motive for the attack must be called into question.

While everyone else searches for Rashid, Stride chases different leads, careful to not cast any assumptions without cause, leading to a surprise ending that might cause readers to view their surroundings a little bit differently. 

While Freeman obviously borrowed much of his story idea from the real-life Boston Marathon bombing, his plot is actually quite different than the actual events. That said, there are enough similarities that those offended or bothered by the Boston terrorist attack might want to skip this one–especially if you or someone you know was affected by the bombing. 

Apart from the obvious fact that this plot seems possible because of past events, it also works considering the political times we live in. Not everyone will agree with Freeman’s take on such matters, but it’s easy to see how the twists and turns in his plot–which involves public outrage and Islamaphobia–could easily play out under such circumstances. 

While some may consider certain parts controversial, Brian Freeman does weave in a thought-provoking message into his fast-paced plot, making Marathon a solid thriller that most fans of the genre will enjoy. 

Book Details

Author: Brian Freeman
Series: Jonathan Stride
Pages: 408 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1681442418
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: May 2, 2017

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51qNisGF22L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton (Featured Selection

Several months ago, Nick Mason made a life-altering deal with Darius Cole, the kingpin of a vast criminal organization. Terms were simple–Cole would help secure an early release for Mason, who still had twenty years left on his prison sentence for past crimes, in exchange for his services remaining on Cole’s payroll for the next two decades.

In theory, the deal sounds pretty good. Especially when you add in that Mason gets ten thousand dollars a month deposited into a secret bank account for him to use. He also gets to live in a beautiful, luxurious townhouse that overlooks Lake Michigan on the north side of Chicago, and access to an unlimited supply of fast, expensive cars.

Mason took the deal, in part, to be close with his wife and daughter, and walked out of jail after the police officer who testified against him had a sudden change of heart and changed his story, thanks to the “urging” of Cole’s crew. 

However, while he may be out of prison, Nick Mason is far from a free man. In fact, he’s anything but…

Mason simply traded in one sentence for another and now lives imprisoned to Cole and the tasks he assigns, which are becoming increasingly more dangerous. What started as carrying out petty crimes soon blossomed into breaking and entering, stealing, and, eventually, killing.

A former career criminal on Chicago’s south side, Cole tabbed Mason to be his new muscle, and with a single phone call sends Nick off to handle various problems as they arise. That’s the catch, really, to Mason’s new life. The Darius Cole-issued phone is to be on his person at all times, no excuses. When it rings, he’s to answer and then immediately follow any instructions, day or night, no questions asked.

After the events of last year’s novel, The Second Life of Nick Mason, which features Nick running errands for Cole while also taking on a unit of dirty cops and trying to get his wife (who has since moved in with another man) back, Steve Hamilton raised the stakes considerably in his latest thriller.

This time around, Cole–who, thanks to a technicality, was just awarded a new trial after previously being sentenced to two life terms–tasks Mason with tracking down and eliminating the three men scheduled to testify against him in court. The catch is that each man is currently being protected inside the WITSEC program, which has never been infiltrated before.

Wasting no time to draw readers in, Exit Strategy opens with a bang as Mason goes after the first witness. But, once the good men and women of the Federal Witness Protection Program put the puzzle pieces together and realize Cole’s plan, they harden down security for the remaining two witnesses, securing them in a pair of off-the-books military bases guarded by both U.S. Marshalls and armed military personnel.

With the odds stacked so firmly against him, Mason’s assignment is nearly impossible. Failure to succeed would mean bad things for his ex-wife and daughter, though, who Cole keeps under surveillance and promises to harm should Nick ever fail to follow orders, get caught by the police, or try to run from their agreement.

While making plans to take out the highly-guarded witnesses, Mason also starts developing an exit strategy, determined to leave his life as Cole’s criminal errand boy behind and to keep his family safe once and for all.

Hamilton brilliantly weaves Mason’s personal life with his professional life, and while he’s an anti-hero, the author still finds ways to make readers root for his main character. We’ve all done things we regret, making it easy to connect with that side of Mason. But what if your mistake led to you going to prison for nearly thirty years, wrecking your family and hurting everyone you love in the process?

To most, Cole’s offer would seem like a lifeline worth grabbing hold of, which Mason does, only to find out it puts the very people he so badly wants to win back in danger. Nick’s heart is in the right place, but he can’t catch a break, which will make readers long for his freedom and family nearly as much as he does. 

Written with blazing-fast pacing, Exit Strategy is Hamilton’s most gritty, action-packed novel so far. Between the many blood-pumping action sequences and relentless suspense, the pages practically turn themselves as Hamilton will have readers racing to see if Nick Mason can actually pull off the impossible–leading up to a shock ending that will have fans begging for the next novel.

Whatever you’re looking for, Exit Strategy has a little something for everyone and delivers enough thrills to keep even the pickiest crime fans happy. Circle the date on the calendar, Steve Hamilton’s latest one-night-read is not to be missed!

Book Details

Author: Steve Hamilton
Series: Nick Mason #2
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399574387
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 
Release Date: April 4, 2017

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51oLf5GrBDL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly 

While Jack West Jr. adjusts to a more quiet life on his farm in Australia, he’s informed of some troubling news that involves a runaway galaxy and the destruction of earth. His day worsens when he’s kidnapped, drugged, and then wakes up in a dark and damp cell.

As Jack would soon learn, he was kidnapped by the “four eternal kingdoms” who, very quietly behind the scenes, rule the world.

After being attacked in his cell, Jack killed the would-be attacker and walks through the still-open door. Stepping into the light, Jack finds himself in a huge arena, surrounded by other participants–all of whom are forced to partake in a battle-to-the-death earth-saving ritual that is as unbelievable as it sounds. As the announcer, who calls himself Hades, speaks, it becomes painfully obvious to Jack that he has no way to escape the arena and the games.

Making matters worse, each participant, including Jack, learns that their families have been kidnapped and are being held in viewing rooms where they can watch the games. If a participant dies, his family is killed too. For Jack, that means that not only is his life at stake, but so too are the lives of his daughter, Lily, her friend, and Sky Monster, one of Jack’s pilot buddies.

From there, Jack and the other participants are forced to compete in a dangerous series of events. Things are made increasingly more hazardous each step of the way, especially when Jack and the others attempt to complete their objectives with killer minotaurs coming at them in waves.

Along the way, Jack runs into another well-known character whom Reilly incorporated nicely into the plot. Long-time fans of Reilly’s work will definitely appreciate seeing the two characters together. Likewise, those who are already fans of Reilly’s unique blend of thrillers will most likely really enjoy The Four Legendary Kingdoms.

On the flip side, should someone pick this book up without knowing too much about it, chances are they’ll be surprised by the fantasy-like feel that, apart from the runaway galaxy stuff, isn’t all that different from The Hunger Games.

The games themselves are fun enough and entertaining, and Reilly is certainly a talented writer who knows how to set the stage and bring these unbelievable worlds to life. However, this isn’t the best book to dive into if you’ve never met Jack West Jr. before, as Reilly spends very little time going into the character’s backstory. Since understanding who Jack is and how he operates is critical to the story, or at least to the reader’s ability to thoroughly enjoy the plot, I would recommend new readers start with one of Reilly’s previous novels.

Matthew Reilly is known for weaving historical elements into his over-the-top action adventure novels, and The Four Legendary Kingdoms is no exception. Longtime fans of his series will devour the latest offering, while casual fans may struggle to get into the silly plot, which is far-fetched even for Reilly.

Book Details

Author: Matthew Reilly
Series: Jack West Jr. #4
Pages: 488 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501167154
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: May 2, 2017

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51kFGfbHJIL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgRobert B. Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins 

“Boston PI Spenser and right-hand Hawk follow a con man’s trail of smoke and mirrors in the latest entry of the iconic crime series. After conning everyone from the cable news shows to the local cops, it looks like the grifter’s latest double-cross may be his last.
 
Connie Kelly thought she’d found her perfect man on an online dating site. He was silver-haired and handsome, with a mysterious background working for the C.I.A. She fell so hard for M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment.
 
But within weeks, both Welles and her money are gone. Her therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, hands her Spenser’s card.
 
A self-proclaimed military hotshot, Welles had been a frequent guest on national news shows speaking with authority about politics and world events. But when he disappears, he leaves not only a jilted lover but a growing list of angry investors, duped cops, and a team of paramilitary contractors looking for revenge.

Enter Spenser, who quickly discovers that everything about Welles is phony. His name, his résumé, and his client list are nothing but an elaborate fraud. But uncovering the truth won’t be easy, as he’ll have to keep the mystery man alive long enough to get back his client’s money. As the trail winds from Boston to backroads Georgia, Spenser will need help from trusted allies Hawk and Teddy Sapp to make sure Welles’s next con is his last.”

Book Details

Author: Ace Atkins 
Series: Spenser #45
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399177000
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 2, 2017

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61lNYoBgixL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgInto the Water by Paula Hawkins 

“The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon The Girl on the Train returns with Into the Water, her addictive new novel of psychological suspense.

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
 
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
 
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
 
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.”

Book Details

Author: Paula Hawkins
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735211205
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: May 2, 2017

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Walt Gragg The Red LineThe Red Line by Walt Gragg

When Valexi Yovanovich, a high-ranking general, convinces Russian President Comrade Cheninko that he has a plan to take over and conquer Germany in a matter of days, all hell breaks out as World War III takes flight.

Set in the not-too-distant future, Russia has finally returned to its Soviet roots. With the Warsaw Pack fully reinstated, Cheninko has set his sights on Germany–where American soldiers still reside.

Using a heavy winter storm as cover, Yovanovich leads a massive number of Russian tanks and special forces soldiers to the border of Russia and Germany. Waiting for them is a small, but well-trained unit of American fighters who skillfully hold off the invading forces until they realize a bigger strategy is at work.

Spetsnaz and other Russian forces stealthily attack carefully selected targets, knocking out, among other things, the Americans’ communication.

Any hope of reestablishing communication relies on George O’Neill, an everyday-Joe Staff Sergent who is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. But to give George a chance, the American men and women fighting, who are severely outnumbered, must find a way turn the tables long enough to slow down the Russians. The Americans’ weapons and better training even out the playing field somewhat as the two sides battle it out, but as a new Cold War gets underway, it’s immediately apparent that this war won’t be like the first.

The first time around, Russia and America went nearly fifty years without a major, serious conflict that set the world on fire. But as this new Cold War breaks out, Gragg pulls back the curtain, giving readers a plausible, if not terrifying, glimpse at what an all-out war between two superpowers might look like.

While George O’Neill plays an important role, Gragg doesn’t rely on any one single character to drive the story. Instead, this plot is truly conflict-driven, and the author displays a deep bench of characters who all find their way into the game at some point and make a real contribution to the story.

The battle scenes are very well-written, and there’s no doubt that’s Gragg’s strength. Some of the dialogue is a tad flat, but doesn’t distract from the nonstop action, while the visuals are direct and vivid enough–especially the opening where American forces are watching the Russians assemble their army in the white-out conditions caused by the swirling blizzard–to make readers feel present as the battle unfolds.

While some may pick up a Tom Clancy-like vibe, especially some of the earlier Jack Ryan novels, I actually thought Gragg writes more in the vein of Larry Bond or Rick Campbell–with a little Dale Brown-likeness thrown in there.

As the story winds down, Gragg keeps the power shift swinging from one direction to the next, making it hard to predict who, in fact, will emerge victorious. In the end, however, Gragg’s biggest lesson of all might just be that when two superpowers collide, the whole world loses–though he does provide a much more satisfying conclusion than that.

The Red Line is a smart, timely military thriller from a promising new author that, while coming in at a hefty five hundred pages, reads incredibly fast.

Book Details

Author: Walt Gragg
Pages: 528 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0425283453
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 2, 2017

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51vhkZHoZZL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Skitter by Ezekiel Boone

If you’re not already terrified of spiders, you will be… 

Starting about a week after the events that took place in last year’s The Hatching, Ezekiel Boone’s latest novel picks up right where the last one left off–with humanity still at war with dangerous, flesh-eating spiders.

The world is still in shock after the sudden and devastating return of killer spiders that were found in Peru near the Nazca Lines. Melanie Gruyer, a no-nonsense professor, was the recipient of a FedEx package that contained the 10,000-year-old egg sac that hatched in her laboratory. Since then, tens of millions of people have died around the globe while the spiders continue to multiply at an alarming rate.

For a brief moment, humanity appears to have won the battle, though the war is still ongoing. But while a large number of the spiders are dead, or at least no longer hostile, the victory is short-lived.

Humans initially thought that the spiders backing off was a sign of retreat. Instead, they soon discover that it’s actually a fall-back tactic by the killer crawlers to protect their newly laid egg sacs. Professor Gruyer (who is viewed as “the most important woman in the world right now” by the president) and her team, who relocated from their American university to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, desperately search for a way to destroy the spiders before the sacs hatch.

Meanwhile, out in California, few survivors are left, and those who are still alive are subjected to quarantine. Elsewhere, China is half destroyed, and in Japan a huge truck-size egg sac is found.

The newfound mammoth sac is not only bigger, but it also glows, making it unlike any of the others turning up all over the world.

While professor Gruyer races to solve the mystery of what’s growing in Japan–and how to destroy the other sacs all over the world–the narrative shifts between her efforts, the adventures of two survivalists who wonder in search for ways to create a spider-killing weapon, and FBI agent Mike Rich’s struggle to protect his family.

Boone rounds out the ensemble cast with American President Stephanie Pilgrim, who is forced to make some unbelievably tough decisions. The added political element adds a really entertaining dynamic to the already exciting plot, but it also makes the less-than-likely scenario seem more authentic and less cartoonish.

If there’s a negative worth pointing out, it’s that there’s not much character development. To be fair, though, that’s not really necessary for a story about humans on the run from flesh-eating spiders. Still, Boone’s characters are fun, even without much backstory or depth to them, and are easy to cheer on in their fight for survival.

Swap out the zombies for spiders and you’ve got Ezekiel Boone’s The Walking Dead-like, highly-entertaining apocalyptic series. While the plot revolves around creepy-crawlers, the story moves at gazelle-like speeds, and Boone pushes the pacing to max level with short chapters as he jumps around between numerous engaging characters.

Building on the success of The Hatching, Ezekiel Boone’s Skitter is scary-good fun that sets the stage for at least one more epic showdown between mankind and the terrifying eight-legged beasts hellbent on destroying them. If you’re not already reading this series, it’s time to start!

Book Details

Author: Ezekiel Boone
Series: The Hatching #2
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501125079
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: May 2, 2017

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Tuesday, May 9

 

51ywn-leTIL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Thirst by Jo Nesbo 


“In this electrifying new thriller from the author of Police and The Snowman, Inspector Harry Hole hunts down a serial murderer who targets his victims . . . on Tinder.

The murder victim, a self-declared Tinder addict. The one solid clue—fragments of rust and paint in her wounds—leaves the investigating team baffled.

Two days later, there’s a second murder: a woman of the same age, a Tinder user, an eerily similar scene. 

The chief of police knows there’s only one man for this case. But Harry Hole is no longer with the force. He promised the woman he loves, and he promised himself, that he’d never go back: not after his last case, which put the people closest to him in grave danger.

But there’s something about these murders that catches his attention, something in the details that the investigators have missed. For Harry, it’s like hearing “the voice of a man he was trying not to remember.” Now, despite his promises, despite everything he risks, Harry throws himself back into the hunt for a figure who haunts him, the monster who got away.”

Book Details

Author: Jo Nesbo 
Series: Harry Hole 
Pages: 480 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0385352166
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: May 9, 2017

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Tuesday, May 16th

 

Stephen Hunter GmanG-Man by Stephen Hunter (Featured Selection)

As Bob Lee Swagger’s story continues in Stephen Hunter’s G-Man, the author takes readers back in time to explore the secret life of Swagger’s granddad, Charles Swagger.

After selling his family home in Arkansas, which had been Swagger-owned for many generations, Bob Lee settles into retirement and looks for his next challenge in life. His wife suggests he write a book, but as the legendary sniper considers penning his memoir, he gets a call from the family attorney that puts everything on hold.

It turns out that the people who bought Swagger’s Arkansas property found a locked metal box that had been buried deep underground. Swagger listens as his lawyer explains that inside the box, several questionable items were found. Among them are a thousand dollar bill, an FBI badge, a government-issued Colt .45 handgun, which had been wrapped in cloth and preserved, and what appears to be a hand-drawn map.

Swagger doesn’t know what to make of the box or its contents, which are eventually traced back to the 1930s. Subsequently, he begins an investigation into the life of his grandfather, Charles Swagger, hoping to find answers to his questions.

Readers learn Charles Swagger’s story right along with Bob Lee, who never knew much about his grandfather. In fact, all he knew was that his grandpa was a World War I hero and he’d lived in Arkansas. That’s about it. 

It turns out that Bob Lee was hardly the only expert marksman to come from the Swagger family gene pool. Before him, Charles was quietly known as a world-class shooter, which, Bob Lee learns, was the reason why his grandad was secretly recruited away from his post as Polk County Sheriff before joining the FBI and relocating from Arkansas to Chicago.

The book alternates back and forth between the 1930s, following Charles Swagger as he leads several FBI manhunts, and the present day, where Bob Lee tries to piece together his grandfather’s past.

Officially, there is no record of Charles Swagger working for the FBI, or their Chicago office. Unofficially, he was brought in to train new agents and head up several investigations of numerous high-profile bank robberies, chasing real-life criminals like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, and Baby Face Nelson.

Of them all, Baby Face Nelson (real name Les Gillis) was the most dangerous. And the scene involving his infamous shootout with FBI agents back in June of 1934 is especially riveting. It’s one of several white-knuckle action sequences, which are expertly written.

While Bob Lee Swagger remains the series star, the best pages of G-Man are dedicated to Charles. Stephen Hunter takes readers back in time, placing them in the moment during some of the most infamous shootouts in FBI history. And while those scenes will get your adrenaline pumping, Hunter sustains the pacing by throwing in several twists along the way for Bob Lee, who soon learns that he’s not the only one trying to uncover the truth about his grandfather’s past. 

As always, Hunter nails even the smallest of details when it comes to firearms. Everything from how different guns work, right down to how they feel in the shooter’s hands are expertly explained. The authentic descriptions of touch and feel will be appreciated by gun nuts, while history buffs will get a kick out of the flashback scenes and Hunter’s dead-on, realistic dialogue.

Some readers may miss the younger days of Bob Lee, who is now an old man, but Stephen Hunter–by adding flashbacks to Charles’ gung-ho days–has found an interesting way to keep his latest story full of action. The bullets fly early and often in this one, as G-Man provides longtime fans with an in-depth look at the Swagger family’s history. 

Book Details

Author: Stephen Hunter
Series: Bob Lee Swagger #10
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399574603
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Release Date: May 16, 2017

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Target Omega.jpgTarget Omega by Peter Kirsanow 

When the hunter becomes the hunted in Peter Kirsanow’s action-packed debut novel, one of the world’s most lethal operators goes on the run from the very country he’s trying desperately to protect.

Michael Garin is the leader of a counter-WMD strike team, known only as “Omega.” Formed under the Joint Operational Command, Omega hand-picks the best of the best operators from various branches of the United States Armed Forces.

As Clint Laws, a veteran spymaster and Garin’s mentor is fond of saying, “there are no coincidences in this business.” So when Garin spots something during a high-priority mission, he can’t shake the feeling that a bigger game is playing out behind the scenes.

Returning to his apartment in northern Virginia after a successful mission, Garin walks into an ambush. Two highly-trained Iranian gunmen were waiting for him. Unfortunately for them, Garin sensed something was off and sprang into action before they could take him out. Within seconds, both intruders were dead. Knowing that the probability of a backup team waiting nearby (standard operating procedure among assassins) was high, Garin flees the scene and begins calling the only people he can trust–his teammates. 

After all of his calls go unanswered, Garin fears the worst and starts making rounds, checking on each member of his team in person. One by one, his suspicion that he wasn’t the only operator targeted was confirmed. Somebody came after all of the Omega operators, and he’s the only one who survived the assault. 

Going to the only person still alive whom he knows he can trust, Garin connects with his former business partner, Dan Dwyer, who owns a successful private security firm. With help from Dwyer, Garin finds several leads to track down and sets about to uncover the truth about who killed his team members, and why.

Several flashback scenes show Garin during his days with the military. After many thought he flunked out of BUDS, failing to become a Navy SEAL, Garin popped back up on the radar when several American soldiers were pinned down in Iraq and taking heavy fire. Just as it looked like they would be overrun, a lone shooter appeared and started picking off enemy combatants. Such stories are par the norm whenever Garin’s name comes up within the special forces circles, where he’s revered as a living legend.

While some of the tales of Garin’s heroic escapades are embellished, there’s absolutely no doubt that he remains one of the most lethal and most feared special ops soldiers in the world.

As the story takes shape, the author reveals a hair-raising conspiracy that has been carefully and meticulously plotted. Several countries are secretly working together to coordinate a devastating attack on American soil, and only Garin knows who’s behind it all. His only allies are Dwyer and Olivia Perry, an aide to the National Security Advisor, who starts to put the pieces together much faster than her boss. 

A one-man vehicle of destruction, Garin leaves a path of bodies in his wake, which lands him on the FBI’s radar. With his own government believing him to be a killer on the loose, Garin soon finds himself being pursued by multiple countries, local law enforcement, one of the world’s most elite snipers, and the FBI.

With the attack date fast approaching, Michael Garin must find a way to stay alive and out of federal custody in order to stop an attack that nobody else sees coming.

After a few slightly choppy opening chapters, Peter Kirsanow settles into a groove and builds plenty of suspense to go hand-in-hand with his many action sequences. While some of the dialogue is a bit repetitive (especially in regards to each character’s understanding of Russia and what they will or won’t do) and the main character comes off as a bit too perfect at times, the final act gets a near-perfect score. It’s here that Kirsanow hits his stride, delivering a heart-pounding ending that will leave readers dying to get their hands on the next book.

Target Omega is easily one of the best debut political thriller novels of the past decade, and fans of Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and Brad Taylor will enjoy Kirsanow’s blend of hard-hitting action and larger-than-life characters.

Book Details

Author: Peter Kirsanow
Series: Michael Garin #1
Pages: 418 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1101985291
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: May 16, 2017

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Dale Brown - Price of Duty.JPGPrice of Duty by Dale Brown

In Dale Brown’s timely new thriller, Russia launches a secret operation from a secret compound built deep inside the Ural Mountains, taking cyber warfare to the next level.

After taking action against Romania, nearly causing a nuclear power reactor to self-destruct, the Russians turn their attention to Poland’s electrical grid and economy. With each attack, President Gennadiy Gryzlov uses his supercomputers’ mind-boggling technology to deliver one surgical strike after another, putting the rest of the world on notice in the process.

American President Stacy Anne Barbeau knows the Russians must be stopped, but she’s largely unprepared to take on Gryzlov and is forced to turn to her political adversary, former President Kevin Martindale, whose private military group has the means and operators necessary to locating and obliterating the Russians’ secret base.

To go to battle with Gryzlov’s secret soldiers, Barbeau and Martindale turn to Brad McLanahan and his Iron Wolf team of top-secret human-piloted combat robots. They also break out their newly created, but never used, fancy stealth fighter–and a handful of other really cool next-gen weapons.

Eventually, an assassination plot is revealed, adding to the tension and hard-hitting suspense. With the stakes raised as the Russians go after an enemy head of state, McLanahan and his team press forward towards an explosive ending that paves the way for the next novel–which cannot come soon enough.

Though this is the twenty-first novel in Brown’s Brad McLanahan series, it’s not necessary to read the previous books in order to jump in and enjoy this story. McLanahan is a compelling hero who takes charge and leads effectively. And while the human-piloted robots seem a little far-fetched, Brown makes it work in a way that seems plausible and, frankly, is quite fun to read.

Every so often the plot slows down due to lengthy descriptions of how some of the technology and weapons work and function, but those pages are usually sandwiched between action sequences–allowing the story to still read fast.

Considering some of the headlines that have dominated recent news cycles, Brown’s novel feels all too real and eerily authentic. One of the godfathers of techno-thrillers, Brown has saved some of his best and most creative story ideas for his latest thriller. Price of Duty is a smart, action-packed adventure that features some of the finest cyber terrorist attacks in print today.

Book Details

Author: Dale Brown
Series: Brad McLanahan #21
Pages: 442 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062441973
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: May 16, 2017

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51kwkzlBKkL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTestimony by Scott Turow 

At fifty-years-old, prosecutor Bill ten Boom leaves behind his life in Illinois and moves to the Hague, where he accepts a position with the International Criminal Court. Specifically, Boom is interested in investigating a case from 2004 that resulted in the massacre of several hundred women and children in Barupra, Bosnia.

According to Ferko Rincic’s account, the events were horrific. One of the only survivors, Ferko testifies that fifteen or twenty armed men herded the women and children into a cave, which was then blown up by the gunmen who rigged the explosives to make the cave crumble inward, trapping and killing everyone inside.

More than a decade after the heinous acts occurred, the International Criminal Court is finally getting around to pursuing charges. Boom wants the case, which pleases the court because they wanted an American to handle the proceedings anyways. Vowing to bring justice to those who murdered the innocent gypsies and children, Boom sets out to find those responsible and make them pay.

Among the potential suspects are the Serbian operatives, jihadists, and the United States Army. Boom follows different leads and eventually connects with a defense attorney named Esma Czarni–which pulls attention away from the case as the plot starts to wander.

As a protagonist, Bill ten Boom is a millionaire searching for meaning in his life. He sets out to take a rewarding, fulfilling job he hopes will provide the purpose he’s looking for that money never seemed to provide. In a nutshell, that formula is clichéd and has been done time and time again.

Blue collar workers, and most people in general, have a hard time relating to rich people who seem unhappy with their abundance of money. To pull that off, the character needs other redeeming qualities for readers to relate to. That’s Turow’s biggest misstep here, as Boom never develops in a way that will make readers care about him. The saving grace is the case itself, because anyone with a heart can be moved by the mass murdering of a town’s women and children.

As the story develops, which takes a while because Turow throws in a lot of misdirection and side plots, he eventually hits his stride. While understanding how to build suspense, the author’s real specialty is bringing the courtroom drama to life. And while there’s not a ton of courtroom scenes in Testimony, the ones that did make the final cut are classic Turow.

While readers might not be quite as moved by the testimony that drove Bill ten Boom to pursue the group of merciless killers, Scott Turow’s latest legal thriller brings enough drama to keep longtime readers satisfied.

Book Details

Author: Scott Turow
Pages: 496 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1455553549
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: May 16, 2017

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51sV5jMC6NL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgHong Kong Black by Alex Ryan

“Former Navy SEAL Nick Foley reluctantly agrees to help investigate when American CIA operative Peter Yu goes missing in China. But when Yu’s mutilated body washes up on a beach near Hong Kong, along with dozens of other victims, the case takes a macabre turn. Suddenly, Nick finds himself embroiled in another bio-terrorism investigation being conducted by China’s elite Snow Leopard counter-terrorism unit and the Chinese CDC, this time involving illegally-harvested organs for an unknown and nefarious end.

But Nick’s investigation does not go unnoticed, and soon he finds a target on his back. After thwarting an attempt on his life, he is forced to go off the grid and enlist the help of beautiful CDC microbiologist Dr. Dazhong “Dash” Chen to help unmask his would be killer. On the run and looking for answers, their budding romance is tested at every turn.

With each step closer they take to unmasking the truth, Nick and Dash find themselves drawn deeper into a global conspiracy that began over two thousand years ago with the First Emperor of China and now threatens to upset the world order as they know it in Hong Kong Black, the heart-pounding sequel to Alex Ryan’s Beijing Red.”

Book Details

Author: Alex Ryan
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1683310284
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Release Date: May 9, 2017

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51O7Ia7y+UL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTower Down by David Hagberg 

New York Times bestselling author David Hagberg continues his successful Kirk McGarvey series in Tower Down, a searing thriller about terrorist attacks on NYC’s pencil towers.

A freelance killer, code-named Al-Nassar, “the Eagle,” topples a New York City pencil tower and sends it crashing down onto the street. Hundreds of people are killed―both the multi-billionaires inside and the innocent bystanders on the sidewalks more than one thousand feet below. It’s like 9/11 all over again.

CIA legend Kirk McGarvey believes that someone in the Saudi Arabian government is behind the attack. The internal pinch of sharply declining oil revenues and the escalating costs of defending its borders against ISIS have made the Kingdom desperate. The Saudis hope to force the US to return to the Mideast and destroy their enemies, including ISIS.

But no one in the White House or even in the CIA wants to believe that their loyal Saudi allies would do such a thing. Only McGarvey, his partner, who is also the woman he loves, and his long-time friend, the computer genius odd-duck Otto Rencke, accept the truth and understand that another attack on a Manhattan skyscraper is imminent.

Can they stop the terrorists in time?” 

Book Details

Author: David Hagberg 
Series: Kirk McGarvey #21
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 076537871X
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: May 16, 2017

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513wQ4axMkL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgFull Wolf Moon by Lincoln Child 

“The New York Times bestselling author of The Forgotten Room and Deep Storm is back with a new thriller that follows the trail of a killer who cannot exist . . . featuring Jeremy Logan, the renowned investigator of the supernatural and fantastic.

Legends, no matter how outlandish, are often grounded in reality. This has been the guiding principle behind the exhilarating career of Jeremy Logan, the “enigmalogist”—an investigator who specializes in analyzing phenomena that have no obvious explanation—previously seen in The Forgotten Room, The Third Gate, and Deep Storm. Logan has often found himself in situations where keeping an open mind could mean the difference between life and death, and that has never been more true than now.

Logan travels to an isolated writers’ retreat deep in the Adirondacks to finally work on his book when the remote community is rocked by the grisly discovery of a dead hiker on Desolation Mountain. The body has been severely mauled, but the unusual savagery of the bite and claw marks call into question the initial suspicions of a wild bear attack. When Logan is asked to help investigate, he discovers no shortage of suspects capable of such an attack—and no shortage of locals willing to point the finger and spread incredible rumors. One rumor, too impossible to believe, has even the forest ranger believing in werewolves. As Logan gets to know the remote deep-woods landscape, including a respected woman scientist still struggling with the violent loss of her father in these very woods, Logan realizes he’s up against something he has never seen before.

His most action-packed and white-knuckled novel to date, Full Wolf Moon is the perfect combination of exotic locales, provocative science, and raw action that make for a deeply entertaining Lincoln Child blockbuster.”

Book Details

Author: Lincoln Child 
Pages: 256 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0385531427
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: May 16, 2017

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Tuesday, May 23

51tPG05Ci9L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgDragon Teeth by Michael Crichton 

Set in 1876, Yale professor Othniel C. Marsh takes a group of students out West to dig for dinosaur bones. Among the group is William Jason Tertullius Johnson, who gets sucked into going along on the dig when his nemesis, Harold Hannibal Marlin, bets him a thousand dollars that he won’t, in fact, tag along for the trip.

The oldest son of Silas Johnson, a wealthy Philadelphia shipbuilder,  William didn’t need Marlin’s money. Nor did he take the bet to find favor in the eyes of the university, where he’s landed in trouble repeatedly during his brief time on campus. No, William Johnson accepted the bet for one reason–pride.

After word of the bet spread around campus, there was no way William was backing out of the deal. So, in order to show up Marlin, William secured a place in Marsh’s group by pretending to be a photographer–a skill set he rushes to learn, having promised to be ready to take up to a hundred photos for Marsh during the expedition.

As the dig gets underway, a deep rivalry is brought to the forefront of the plot as Marsh worries that Edward Cope, whom William hitched a ride with after Marsh and his classmates left without him, will steal the credit for his discoveries. At one point, Marsh even suspects that William is a spy for Cope, showing just how paranoid the overweight, brash paleontologist really is.

Through the summer, William Johnson, who never even wanted to go along on the trip in the first place, begins to mature and find purpose in what they’re doing. But as the ‘coming of age’ part of the story comes to an end, the plot takes an exciting turn when the team makes a shocking discovery. Buried in the American West are the remains of a giant dinosaur, which, to be fully analyzed, needed to be transported back to the lab–a job easier said than done.

Both Marsh and Cope were real people, and so was their carefully detailed rivalry, though William Johnson was not. And whereas Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park details the adventure of living dinosaurs, Dragon Teeth focuses more on the art of paleontology and the race to make the next big discovery.

Once the manuscript was discovered after Crichton’s death in 2008, the author’s wife, Sherri, traced her husband’s work back to a point in time when he was in contact with the Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. It’s well researched, as Crichton obviously put in a lot of time studying not just paleontology, but what life was life back in the 1800s. 

Unlike Jurassic Park, however, Dragon Teeth, Crichton’s “other” dinosaur story, is more of a slow-burn adventure. Mixing plenty of historical fact and fiction, Crichton took the time to carefully develop his plot and characters before ramping up the suspense for a twisting, tension-filled final act that doesn’t disappoint.

While Dragon Teeth is definitely not on the same level as ER (which he also created) or Jurassic Park, it’s entertaining enough for Michael Crichton’s fans to enjoy one more adventure from the supremely talented storyteller.

Book Details

Author: Michael Crichton
Pages: 292 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062473352
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: May 23, 2017

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Tuesday, May 30

51DCWoM6WtL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgYou Will Know Me by Lisa Jackson 

“In a fast-paced, brilliantly twisted novel of suspense from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson, the deadly secrets of a long-ago summer stir to life once more.

It starts as a prank—a way to blow off steam after a long summer at Camp Horseshoe. Among the teen counselors, tensions and hormones are running high. No wonder the others agree when Jo-Beth Chancellor suggests they scare Monica O’Neal a little . . . or a lot. Monica has it coming, and no one will really get hurt. What could go wrong?

Everything.

Twenty years later, Lucas Dalton, a senior detective with the sheriff’s department, is investigating the discovery of human remains in a cavern at what used to be Camp Horseshoe. Lucas knows the spot well. His father, a preacher, ran the camp, and Lucas worked there that infamous summer when two girls went missing. No one knows what happened to either of them, though with a dangerous convict on the loose, gossip was rife that they may have been kidnapped, or worse.

For Lucas, the case is personal—perhaps too much so. But it’s time to uncover the whole truth at last. That’s why seven former female counselors are coming back to the small Oregon town—among them, Bernadette Alsace, the woman Lucas has never forgotten. Each one knows something about that terrible night. Each promised not to tell. And as they reunite, a new horror unfolds. First come texts containing a personal memento and a simple, terrifying message: YOU WILL PAY. Then, the murders begin.

It started years ago. But it will end here—as a web of lust, greed, and betrayal is untangled to reveal a killer waiting to enact the perfect revenge.”

Book Details

Author: Lisa Jackson 
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1617734667
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: May 30, 2017

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16 comments

  1. Please put me down for The Red Line, Target Omega, and Full Wolf Moon.
    And thank you again for reading a whole book a day and then reviewing it for us.
    A Herculean task !! (I think I’ll take off the month of June to read all the great new
    titles! The office can wait) Thanks so much, Diana

    Like

  2. Looking forward to Steve Hamilton, Matthew Reilly, Lincoln Child, and Michael Crichton. Is it necessary to read the previous Jack West Jr books to enjoy the new novel?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes and no. Truth is, if you haven’t read his book before, you may be shocked at how “out there” they really are. Almost silly, with how unrealistic it is. BUT, if you can look past that, you don’t need to understand all the past events to soak this one up.

      Like

  3. I know I’ve said it several times before, but I will I will say it again. Big THANK YOU for the work you do and the recommendations. I have found so many new (to me) authors that are great additions to my “Must read list”. I know that the authors gotta be very happy with you as well. You do them an in believable service. Keep it up, you are appreciated.

    Like

  4. Already tackled The Red Line, Full Wolf Moon. Now on to The Four Legendary Kingdoms. It has been a long wait to have Reilly’s series back. Great books. Also, I love this site. I can’t tell you the number of fellow readers I have turned on to this site. Thank you.

    Like

  5. Just finished The Red Line. I’ve read many military thrillers,
    but none have left me with such a strong feeling of grief and loss.
    WWIII could very plausibly happen like this. And in the end,
    everyone loses. Still, this is a shockingly realistic and superbly
    crafted novel – a must read for anyone who loves the military
    thriller genre.
    Ryan, thank you so much for all the work you do to bring us
    these reading

    Like

  6. Just finished”The fix” by Balducci, and upon your recommendation and rating, I’m now reading”Say nothing” by Parks. Thought “The fix” was good but not great, giving it a four star rating because I enjoyed the development of the Decker character, and I thought the ending was very satisfying. ” Say nothing “is excellent, and i’m very pleased with the first hundred pages. I would like to list these two books as my first entries in your readers challenge.

    Like

  7. Looking forward to the “Exit Strategy” this month. Really enjoyed the first book in the series last year (thanks to your recommendation)!

    Like

  8. Just finished reading “Target Omega”. While not quite
    as realistic as Brad Taylor or Dalton Fury, it is still a
    fast paced story with an intricate, plausible plot. A truly
    enjoyable read. Thank you for recommending this
    book to us.
    PS: Michael Garin rocks!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As a frequent visitor to New York’s Adirondack Forrest Preserve,
    I appreciated reading “Full Wolf Moon”. The writing style is
    scholarly and reserved, but the story moves quickly and has
    enough twists and turns that it engages the reader from
    beginning to end. A truly rewarding read.
    Thanks again, Ryan, for the recommendation.

    Like

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