The Real Book Spy’s June 2017 Reading Guide

Get your happy dance ready, because June is here and it’s hands down, no question, the best month of the year for thriller fans!  

No matter what you’re looking for, we’ve got you covered.

You want a top-flight mystery? Try John Grisham’s new novel, Camino Island, or Paul Doiron’s Knife Creek. How about a scary-good crime thriller? Meg Gardiner (UNSUB) and J.D. Barker (The Fourth Monkey) have your back. Old school spy thrillers your thing? Check out Joseph Kanon’s Defectors.

Looking for a Tom Clancy-like naval thriller, Rick Cambell’s Blackmail is for you. And speaking of Clancy, Mike Maden’s first Jack Ryan Junior novel is coming out, and it’s awesome.

If action-packed political thrillers are your favorite, well, Brad Thor, Ben Coes, Mike Maden, John Gilstrap, and Eric Van Lustbader all deliver in a big way. And, to top things off, our highest-rated novel ever–Don Winslow’s The Force, an epic cop drama–finally comes out and is perfect for fans of the hit television show, The Shield

As always, we’ve highlighted a few of our favorite books coming out. This month, our Featured Selections are Brad Thor’s Use of Force, Ben Coes’ Trap The Devil, and Don Winslow’s The Force

With Use of Force, Brad Thor reminds readers why he’s one of the greatest thriller writers the genre has ever known. If there were a Mount Rushmore of thriller authors, Thor would be on it–right next to Vince Flynn, Daniel Silva, and Tom Clancy. This year, he treats fans to his most action-packed, timely thriller yet–Use of Force is not to be missed! 

Ben Coes, over the past few years, has taken his game to a whole new level. Last year’s First Strike was epic, and pretty much erased any doubt that Coes’ Dewey Andreas series is one of the best things going right now. Nobody has climbed to the top of the genre faster than Ben Coes–and Trap the Devil is his most well-rounded, complete thriller so far. 

Don Winslow has made a habit of delivering incredible novels that nobody else could have written. By that, I mean that his distinct style allows for him to explore areas that other writers can’t quite pull off, and The Force is a terrific example of that. The cop drama, centered around one of the New York Police Department’s gang squads, works for so many reasons. Without giving anything away, this is our highest rated novel ever (it scored a 10/10 on our rating scale) for a reason. Trust us, you’ll be talking about this one long after you finish it! 

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, June 6th

 

51xGvd-qnoL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Indecent Exposure by Stuart Woods

With his forty-second Stone Barrington novel, Stuart Woods gives longtime fans enough to chew on but offers little for potential newcomers who haven’t read earlier books in the series.

Woods’ Barrington novels, for the most part, have always been slow-burning thrillers. But he takes that to a new level in Indecent Exposure. The one highlight, and main reasons his fans will enjoy this book, is that Woods spends a significant amount of time developing the relationship between Barrington and his former lover, Holly Barker.

Barker–who was recently appointed to Secretary of State after Kate Lee, the sitting Democratic president, is granted a second term by voters–and Barrington, the suave New York-based attorney, finally give their relationship a real chance to blossom. However, Barrington quickly realizes that being with Barker means spending more time in the spotlight than he’s used to.

Stone does an interview with Gloria Parsons, not knowing that she’s secretly cozying up to New York Governor Benton Blake, who was recently forced to resign after a scandal involving him and his now divorced wife. From there, Blake’s political aspirations cause a problem for Barrington, who somehow gets dragged into a deeply intertwined behind-the-scenes battle for a coveted Senate seat.

At best, the plot is confusing, as many readers will legitimately struggle to keep pressing on with so little to be excited about. In many ways, Woods’ series reads like a long-running television show, and this is just another episode. Nothing too exciting happens, but it’s nice to spend time with the characters again, assuming you’re already interested in them prior to starting this book.

Again, dedicated fans will find some pleasure in Woods’ latest Stone Barrington novel, while everyone else may feel left out and underwhelmed by Indecent Exposure‘s linear, slow-moving plot.

Book Details

Author: Stuart Woods
Series: Stone Barrington #42
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735217114
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: June 6, 2017

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512RnM56g6L._SY346_Camino Island by John Grisham

“A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.

Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.

Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets.

But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.”

Book Details

Author: John Grisham
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0385543026
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: June 6, 2017

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51OrpTEIFVL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_The Himalayan Codex by Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch

Set in the 1940s, following last year’s Hell’s Gate, zoologist R.J. “Mac” MacCready is at work in his office at the Metropolitan Museum of Natural History in New York when Pat Hendry stops by to present Mac with an unusual set of jawbones that is believed to be from a dwarf mammoth.

According to Hendry, the dwarf mammoth is said to be from the frigid mountains of Tibet, found in a secret area known as the Labyrinth. The previous book featured Mac exploring the jungle, and this year’s novel once again takes MacCready out of the office–this time to the Himalayas–where he soon discovers there’s something far more interesting than jaw bones residing in the Labyrinth. 

Aside from the dwarf mammoth, Mac learns that the location may also be home to a codex written by Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, who detailed his encounter with a mysterious creature that could hold the answers to human evolution.

If the rumors are true–that Pliny the Elder uncovered a new race of humans–the potential for bad is just as great, if not greater than, any good that could come from such a discovery.

Tasked with heading into the unknown in order to seek the necessary answers, Mac and his team battle harsh winter elements, unfavorable terrain, and multiple terrifying creatures while following Pliny’s codex into the dangerous Labyrinth.

R.J. “Mac” MacCready is a fun, Indiana Jones-like character who is quickly setting himself apart from others in the genre. The post-WWII setting comes to life, as the authors do a phenomenal job nailing even the smallest details that help transport readers back in time. Likewise, they go to great lengths to keep the really sophisticated science both simple and entertaining, striking a great balance and making everything easy to understand.

The story reads fast, and there’s plenty of action to go along with the top-notch suspense. Thoroughly explaining both the good and bad of such a startling discovery, the authors will have readers conflicted on which outcome they hope for–but keep them flipping fast and furiously to see how it all plays out. In the end, things are tied up with a satisfying, well-thought-out conclusion that is explained further during a lengthy author’s note that follows the final page.

While Hell’s Gate was a brilliant start to this terrific new series, Schutt and Finch top themselves with this nerve-wracking, heart-thumping thriller that is perfect for fans of Michael Crichton and James Rollins.

Book Details

Author: Bill Schutt and J.R. Finch
Series: R.J. MacCready #2
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062412558
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 6, 2017

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magpie murders.jpgMagpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

“From the New York Times bestselling author of Moriarty and Trigger Mortis, this fiendishly brilliant, riveting thriller weaves a classic whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie into a chilling, ingeniously original modern-day mystery.

When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.

Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.

Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.”

Book Details

Author: Anthony Horowitz
Pages: 496 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062645226
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: June 6, 2017

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9781501121395-1Defectors by Joseph Kanon

In the early 1950s, Frank Weeks, a beloved American operative who cut his teeth in OSS before settling in at the CIA, was unmasked as a Soviet spy. The revelation sent shockwaves through the United States–but it also sent shock waves through his family, with Simon, Frank’s younger brother, taking the hardest blow.

When Frank became a traitor to his country, Simon, who was working at the State Department, was forced to resign due to obvious security concerns.

A decade later, Simon landed on his feet after being recruited by M. Keating & Sons, a prominent publishing company–which he now runs after working his way up the career ladder. However, Frank is about to dominate headlines again and, just like before, it’ll greatly impact Simon and his job.

When news breaks that Frank, the most high-profile American defector in recent memory, is writing his memoirs, the reaction is mixed. Frank is determined to tell it all, his entire story from start to finish for the very first time, but he needs Simon’s help. Playing the family card, Frank convinces Simon to come to Moscow to help him with his book, where things don’t exactly go smoothly.

First, there’s the awkward reunion after Frank cost Simon his job more than a decade ago. Then there’s the book, which, much like his personality, Frank played up–embellishing and outright lying when it served him, and the story, best. Topping it off is Joanna, Frank’s wife, who he swears is one of the reasons he’s writing his book to begin with. As it turns out, though, Simon has his own romantic history with Joanna, adding another dynamic to the story as it develops.

As one might expect when dealing with a family of spies, things aren’t quite what they appear on the surface. What starts as a slow-burn eventually morphs into a suspenseful game of who-can-you-trust, as ulterior motives are revealed–forcing Simon to make one tough decision after another.

Much like John le Carré’s, Joseph Kanon’s plots are complex, as circumstances and characters are ever-changing and throwing readers off as they try to stay a step ahead of the action. Simon is a solid character, full of innocence and loyalty, whereas his brother is more of the stab-you-in-the-back type of person–a trait that goes so against who Simon is, that he literally can’t seem to comprehend it.

While you won’t find a lot of gunfights and explosions in Defectors, Kanon does nail the time period and setting, taking readers back to the 1960s–treating them to a suspenseful, wonderfully written, old-school spy thriller with a terrific cast of characters.

Book Details

Author: Joseph Kanon 
Pages: 290 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501121391
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: June 6, 2017

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Tuesday, June 13

 

51k8OYQ3gUL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Switch by Joseph Finder

While passing through L.A.X. on his way back to Boston, Michael Tanner, like millions of travelers are forced to do each year, had to surrender his MacBook while going through security. Once he was done, Tanner picked up his laptop, shoved it in his briefcase, and went about his way.

It wasn’t until he was on the plane that Tanner discovered the MacBook he’d grabbed wasn’t his own.

Realizing he’d obviously picked up someone else’s computer, a frustrated Tanner returned the MacBook to his briefcase and made a mental note to call the airport once he was back in Boston. 

The airport, however, was no help. This sort of thing wasn’t all that uncommon, but other than checking the lost and found, there wasn’t much they could do. 

For Tanner, this was just one more thing not going right in his life. His wife, Sarah, who also calls him Tanner instead of referring to him by his first name, had recently left him. On top of that, his business was at a crossroads, sinking faster than he cared to admit. 

What Tanner didn’t know, however, was that in Washington D.C., Will Abbott, the chief of staff to Senator Susan Robbins, a twenty-four year veteran of the Senate from Illinois, was desperate to get his boss’ computer back. The contents on the missing MacBook, a set of highly classified documents, was enough to sink both Will and Senator Robbins should they ever see the light of day.  That, no matter the cost, must be stopped.

As Finder ramps up the suspense, Tanner quickly realizes that he’s caught in the middle of a potentially huge scandal, where a single misstep would cost him more than his business and marriage, but also his life. 

While not quite as compelling as Nick Heller, Finder’s series protagonist last seen in Guilty Minds (2016), Tanner, the down-on-his-luck nice guy, is someone readers can easily relate to and connect with. Helped by the fact that the plot seems infinitely more plausible thanks to a number of recent headlines about politicians mishandling classified documents, The Switch is a timely thriller that wastes little time sucking readers in and taking them on a suspense-fueled thrill ride. 

Proving once again to be the master of conspiracies, Joseph Finder delivers another solid thriller that will keep readers guessing until the very end.

Book Details

Author: Joseph Finder 
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 110198578X
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: June 13th, 2017

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51-qrbwzx-L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Tom Clancy Point of Contact by Mike Maden

Following a successful mission with his team from the Campus, Jack Ryan is tasked with a different type of assignment from his boss, Gerry Hendley.

The Campus, the covert black-ops team that Ryan is a part of, answers only to the President of the United States–Jack’s father, Jack Ryan Senior. But when it comes to money, they’re funded through a financial analysis firm called Hendley Associates, where Junior is technically employed as an analyst.

When former U.S. Senator Weston Rhodes hires Hendley Associates to look over his company’s books ahead of a major business deal, he asks specifically for Paul Brown, a forensic accountant, and the best analyst Hendley has–which is Ryan.

It turns out that Rhodes’ defense company is about to close a deal to acquire Dalfan Technologies. But before the purchase of the Singapore-based tech company–which specializes in a number of high-tech tracking and weapon systems–is finalized, Rhodes wants someone to crunch the numbers to make sure there are no surprises that will turn up down the road. For that reason, a third party accounting firm is necessary, and Hendley’s crew is the best there is.

While taking the occasional “white-side” job between secret missions is essential to preserving Ryan’s cover with Hendley Associates, Jack isn’t exactly excited about leaving his team behind to play analyst for a week in Singapore. But what starts out as a routine audit soon turns into something far more dangerous when Ryan uncovers a potential sinister motive behind the merger.

Paul, meanwhile, has been given a far more top-secret mission, one that even Ryan isn’t aware of, but struggles to find a workaround to Delfan’s strict, cutting-edge security measures. As he and Jack continue to poke around, both quickly realize that their white-side assignment has turned into something much, much darker.

One of the genre’s most underrated authors, Maden puts his own spin on Jack Junior, who is a slightly different but vastly improved character from the guy we saw in last year’s Duty and Honor. In the past, Junior has sort of felt like a secondary character trying to play the lead, similar to how in the books Jack struggles to live up to the expectations set by his father, President Jack Ryan. With Mike Maden behind him, though, Ryan has really come into his own and flashes plenty of star power to build on moving forward.

Maden’s strengths are a perfect match for this franchise, and he kicks things off with an explosive first chapter that is very Brad Thor-like in its pacing, word descriptions, and overall style.

While it was already clear from his work on his Troy Pearce series that Maden knows his way around an action scene, he also brings a lot to the table when it comes to understanding new technology, next-gen weapons, and most importantly, how to incorporate them into his multi-layered plots.

That’s especially true here, as the hidden plotlines deep within the complex, inner workings of the story are spot-on for a Jack Ryan novel. Longtime fans can rest assured, Point of Contact reads like a vintage Tom Clancy thriller.

After three novels from Grant Blackwood, Mike Maden takes over the Jack Ryan Junior franchise and mixes nail-biting suspense with hard-hitting action to deliver a blockbuster hit that Clancy fans will love.

Book Details

Author: Mike Maden
Series: Jack Ryan Universe #23
Pages: 496 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735215863
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: June 13, 2017

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51uccy6X5rL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Bourne Initiative by Eric Van Lustbader 

Following last year’s The Bourne Enigma, Jason Bourne is once again forced out of hiding to clear his name–and kill those hunting him down.

Picking up not far from where the last book ended, General Boris Karpov, the leader of Russia’s FSB, is dead. Readers may remember that exact scene from Enigma; now it’s time to deal with the fallout.

It turns out that prior to his death, Karpov made an elaborate plan to reach beyond the grave and launch a cyber attack on the United States. Centered around stealing the president’s nuclear launch codes, should Karpov’s plan succeed, it would be a serious blow to America–something that must be stopped at all costs.

The big question the NSA must figure out, though, is who’s running things now that Karpov is gone. Russia is ruled out early on based on information obtained from a trusted analyst, making the secret player harder to identify.

The cyber weapon, described as “something so sophisticated that it’s far beyond anything the NSA has seen–or dreamed of–before,” was found accidentally when the NSA was sifting through the dark web tracking arms dealers. Immediately, it becomes the agency’s top priority.

Arthur MacQuerrie, head of the NSA’s top-secret Meme program, is convinced that Jason Bourne–the only man whom Karpov truly trusted–is the one who is implementing his friend’s plan. If true, that would mean that Bourne is committing treason, and must be dealt with immediately.

Flush with cash, Meme boasts “bleeding-edge technology to the point where all their equipment was upgraded twice a year,” and MacQuerrie unleashes those resources to track down and eliminate Bourne once and for all.

Eric Van Lustbader quickly recaps last year’s novel before settling into a groove, developing the plot and introducing characters–some new, some old. But the real fun begins when MacQuerrie sends assassins after Bourne, who once again proves to be the last person in the world anyone should ever try to kill.

Where last year’s The Bourne Enigma felt stiff and, at times, contrived, Van Lustbader brings his A-game this year. The Bourne Initiative is just the type of explosive, fast-paced thriller that Robert Ludlum’s fans crave.

Book Details

Author: Eric Van Lustbader
Series: Jason Bourne #14
Pages: 383 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1455597988
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: June 13, 2017

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519VWNwlXHL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Knife Creek by Paul Doiron

In his latest novel, Maine game warden Mike Bowditch makes the most startling discovery of his long career.

Upon receiving reports of feral swine migrating from the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Mike Bowditch–like all the other game wardens–was on the lookout for the pigs that posed a direct threat to the environment. When a call came in about a sighting, Mike, along with his girlfriend Stacy, trekked through the woods in hunt of black bear-sized pigs. 

Finding the pigs was the first of two shocking discoveries that the duo would make. Once the animals were dead, Mike and Stacy found the remains of an infant that had been wrapped in a pink t-shirt and buried in a shallow grave about a hundred yards from the Knife Creek trailhead off Saco Road. Worse, it was painfully obvious that someone had dumped the baby there for a reason–hoping the pigs would eat the remains and hide the evidence.

As the state police department take over the murder case, Bowditch quickly finds himself unable to give up the investigation. Acknowledging that he would spend the rest of his life “trying and failing to forget” the gruesome scene, he stays involved by helping to canvass the surrounding area.

Upon finding a remote cabin, Bowditch becomes suspicious of the two women staying there–but questioning them goes nowhere. A short while later, detectives match the baby’s DNA to Casey Donaldson, a woman who was previously thought to have died during a group rafting trip nearly four years ago–though the circumstances of her death are murky. 

As the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place, Bowditch embarks on a dangerous journey to find the truth about what happened to the abandoned infant, no matter where it might take him.

While always driving the story forward at a steady pace, Doiron still finds ways to develop his characters. Longtime readers will enjoy the progression of Mike and Stacey’s relationship, as the two now live together and plan a housewarming get-together with her family.

While Paul Doiron is often compared to #1 New York Times bestseller C.J. Box, the truth is that other than their characters both being game wardens (Box’s Joe Pickett is stationed in Wyoming), they don’t have a ton in common.

Aside from the fact that Doiron writes in first-person, letting Bowditch tell the story himself, his style is different than Box’s. Doiron’s series is a tad darker and has more of a crime fiction feel to it. The more accurate comparison might actually be to Minnesota-based novelist William Kent Krueger and his Cork O’Connor series. Either way, if you’re a fan of those guys, Paul Doiron should be the next name on your list of must-read authors. 

After starting off with a bang when he first introduced readers to Mike Bowditch in 2010’s The Poacher’s Son, Doiron has consistently put out top-notch mystery novels, and Knife Creek is one of his strongest entries yet.

Book Details

Author: Paul Doiron
Series: Mike Bowditch #8
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250102359
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: June 13, 2017

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518IrDgn2hL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

“At last, Helena Pelletier has the life she deserves. A loving husband, two beautiful daughters, a business that fills her days. Then she catches an emergency news announcement and realizes she was a fool to think she could ever leave her worst days behind her.

Helena has a secret: she is the product of an abduction. Her mother was kidnapped as a teenager by her father and kept in a remote cabin in the marshlands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. No electricity, no heat, no running water, not a single human beyond the three of them. Helena, born two years after the abduction, loved her home in nature—fishing, tracking, hunting. And despite her father’s odd temperament and sometimes brutal behavior, she loved him, too . . . until she learned precisely how savage a person he could be.

More than twenty years later, she has buried her past so soundly that even her husband doesn’t know the truth. But now her father has killed two guards, escaped from prison, and disappeared into the marshland he knows better than anyone else in the world. The police commence a manhunt, but Helena knows they don’t stand a chance. Knows that only one person has the skills to find the survivalist the world calls the Marsh King—because only one person was ever trained by him: his daughter.”

Book Details

Author: Karen Dionne
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735213003
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: June 13, 2017

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51NMINfadCL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Matchup edited by Lee Child

In the International Thriller Writers’ latest anthology of short stories, some of the most famous authors working today have teamed up to mix some of the genre’s most well-known characters.

Following FaceOff (edited by David Baldacci), where twenty-three authors teamed up to write original short stories that featured their series’ characters working together, MatchUp offers a juicy twist by having male and female authors write together.

Kicking things off are C.J. Box and Sandra Brown’s Honor &…, which combines Box’s fan-favorite Wyoming game warden, Joe Pickett, and Brown’s Lee Coburn. As Lee Child–who, apart from partnering with Kathy Reichs on his own short story, also writes introductions to each story–explains, Brown’s 2011 novel, Lethal, ends with Coburn touching down in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Leaving his district of Saddle String, Joe lends a hand in Teton County when the local game warden needs help checking out some elk hunting camps. It doesn’t take long for Joe to cross paths with Coburn, and while their initial meeting isn’t exactly friendly, the two end up working together in order to stay alive once bad guys show up looking for trouble.

While longtime fans of Box will find it a tad odd to see Joe constantly referred to as “Pickett” instead of Joe, like in the novels, Honor &… is a fun, action-packed short story that sets the right tone to kick things off.

Up next is the Val McDermid and Peter James collaboration, Footloose, which is about a foot-fetish reflexologist who runs into a pair of feet he wants to keep for himself.  The two crime writers deliver an entertaining story, which is followed up by one of the collection’s best short stories–Lee Child and Kathy Reichs’ Faking a Murderer.

Reichs’ forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan, and Child’s hard-hitting nomad, Jack Reacher, both got their starts in 1997. So what happens when two of the genre’s most well-known authors team up to combine such legendary characters? A whole lot of awesome, that’s what. Reichs’ straightforward approach is a direct contrast to Child’s wandering style, making their collaboration a lot of fun for their fans.

Steve Berry and Diana Gabaldon’s Past Prologue hits all the right notes. Berry, known for being a huge history buff, and Gabaldon, a scientist with four degrees (including a Ph.D. in behavioral ecology), each bring plenty of expertise to the table. Their short story is the only one written in first person, and the two found a really great way to side-step the fact that Gabaldon’s characters are set in the past while Berry’s thrillers are set in the modern day.

Gayle Lynds and David Morrell’s Rambo on Their Minds may prove to be the best and most memorable collaboration of all. Together they deliver a suspense-filled, action-packed hit that will, as the title indicates, indeed leave you thinking about Rambo.

Lynds and Morrell are the original co-founders of the International Thriller Writers, so their working together has been long overdue. For this story, Lynds brings back Liz Sansborough, who appeared in her first novel, Masquerade, back in 1996. To work in Rambo, the pair came up with a genius way to make the whole story possible, while mixing in Lynds’ classic style of espionage and Morrell’s trademark action.

Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta’s Short Story is, ironically, the longest story in this anthology. It’s also unique in that Slaughter decided to really add to and develop her character, Jeffrey Tolliver, revealing things about him that readers previously hadn’t known. Koryta, for the first time, wrote about Joe Pritchard in third person. Together, their story is fun and well-written, and their fans will absolutely love this collaboration.

Charlaine Harris and Andrew Gross combined to write Dig Here, which teams up Harper Connelly and Ty Hauck. Dig Here is one of the only stories in this anthology that has true supernatural elements, as Harris’ Connelly possesses the power to locate dead bodies and visualize their final memories. While very different writers, Gross and Harris find enough common ground to make this story work, providing more than a few thrills along the way.

Lisa Jackson and John Sandford, both seasoned veterans, put Regan Pescoli and Virgil Flowers together in Deserves to be Dead. Flowers, a Minnesota-based detective, takes a fishing trip out to Montana, which is where Pescoli is based. It doesn’t take long for this writing duo to hit their stride, putting out an engaging short story that fans will undoubtedly enjoy.

Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice’s Midnight Flame is compelling and fast-paced. J.A. Jance and Eric Van Lustbader’s Taking the Veil is solid fun. And then there’s Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille’s Getaway, which, without giving anything away, is terrific.

Scottoline’s Philadelphia-based lawyer, Bennie Rosato, and DeMille’s ex-cop, John Corey, couldn’t be more different–which is why they work so well together. Both authors are masters of their craft, and know what fans are looking for in these types of collaboration projects. They give readers what they want, providing one of the most memorable short stories of the bunch.

Even if you’ve never read short stories before, MatchUp is a must-read for fans of the thriller genre. Very rarely does this kind of star power assemble for one anthology, and each story delivers the goods, making sure readers never feel cheated.

While fans will especially enjoy the collaborations featuring their favorite authors, most readers will walk away dying to pick up more books from all the new characters they’ll come to love while reading through MatchUp.

Book Details

Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501141597
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: June 13th, 2017

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Tuesday, June 20th

 

51iQWdxv-oL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Trap The Devil by Ben Coes (Featured Selection)

Dewey Andreas returns for another high-stakes, conspiracy-laden, balls-to-the-wall adventure in Ben Coes’ latest thriller, Trap The Devil.

Still recovering from the serious injuries he suffered in First Strike (2016), Dewey Andreas is on restricted duty with the CIA. Ordered to see a shrink in order to help process everything he’s been through, Dewey reluctantly agrees, but only to get back in the field.

To ease his star player back into the game, CIA Director Hector Calibrisi sends Dewey to Paris as part of Secretary of State Tim Lindsay’s protective detail. Things take a shocking turn, though, when Lindsay is assassinated in his hotel room shortly after arriving.

Security footage reveals that Dewey was the last person to visit Lindsay in his hotel suite, and ballistic tests show it was Dewey’s gun that killed the Secretary of State. While Andreas remains adamant that he was at dinner during the time of the murder, he’s detained and cut off from any and all outside help and denied any opportunity to talk to Calibrisi.

Left alone, Dewey begins to analyze the situation and decides that in order to catch the real killer, he has to escape from the black site prison facility where he’s currently being held. That kicks off a classic Ben Coes high-octane action sequence that would be the book’s high point if it wasn’t for a white-knuckle chase scene set onboard a fast-moving train chugging through the Swiss Alps later in the story.

Free from the authorities but on the run, Dewey learns that Lindsay wasn’t the only high-profile American diplomat to die within the last few days. The Speaker of the House, Lowell Benson Trappe Jr., was also killed, though initial reports suggest he accidentally drowned while hunting on Ossabaw Island.

Dewey knows that there are no coincidences in his line of work, and that the only way two high-profile American diplomats die that close together is if someone is taking them out. Further investigation reveals that a secret cabal–formed in the 1980s– is operating behind the scenes as a shadow government, with a plan to take over the White House in order to implement their radical agenda.

More than thirty years ago, the CIA created a secret paramilitary unit dubbed ‘Order Six.’ Buried deep in the State Department’s budget, Order Six was developed to take preemptive measures in protecting the President of the United States. Recruiting from the very best of the best–including the CIA’s paramilitary, Delta, and the Navy SEALS, Order Six formed an elite strike team that could operate anywhere, including on American soil.

But now, years later, Order Six has gone rogue and is knee-deep in their plan to change America forever–a plan that includes killing everyone and anyone who stands in their way, including Dewey.

As Dewey races to avoid the authorities, stay one step ahead of an assassin hot on his heels, and stop the cabal before they accomplish their goal, he receives help from several familiar faces that longtime fans of Coes’ series will recognize, including former Navy SEAL and Dewey’s friend, Rob Tacoma.

The on-the-run scenario mixed with a deep government conspiracy reads like a cross between one of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne novels and some of Tom Clancy’s early work. Coes spices it up with his trademark brand of sarcastic humor, something he knows how (and when) to use better than most.

Just when you think Coes has peaked, he unveils a new gear, elevating his series to an entirely new level. While the nonstop action is the main course here, the complex, thought-provoking plot and character development prove to be the cherry on top to Coes’ relentless, adrenaline-pumping thriller.

Not only will readers see a new side to Andreas, who finally opens up and says things fans have waited years to hear him admit, but Coes slips one final shocking twist into his plot that will stun readers and have a lasting impact on Dewey moving forward.

With a plot that moves faster than the Lamborghini Aventador Dewey uses to evade French authorities, Coes’ latest offering is his best novel to date. While action and deftly-plotted scenarios have been his calling card in the past, the character development and emotion written into Trap The Devil elevates Ben Coes to the very top of the thriller genre, where he sits alongside the likes of Brad Thor, Daniel Silva, and the late Vince Flynn.

Book Details

Author: Ben Coes
Series: Dewey Andreas #7
Pages: 480 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250043182
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: June 20, 2017

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Don Winslow The ForceThe Force by Don Winslow (Featured Selection)

Don Winslow’s latest masterpice is a gritty, raw look into the life of a New York City cop, and all the conflict–some by chance, some by choice–that comes with it. 

On the streets, where it matters most, Sergent Denny Malone runs a unit known simply as Da Force. Malone’s crew–Russo, Big Monty, and Billy O’Neil–are part of the Manhattan North Special Task Force, an elite unit made up of New York City’s finest. And anyone who knows anything about Manhattan North knows that those streets belong to Malone.

Nobody, from gangbangers to corrupt city councilmen, can so much as spit without Denny finding out about it. 

Malone, a tatted-out Irish Catholic who has a love for rap music, comes from a line of hero cops. And after Malone’s crew pulls off what ends up being the biggest heroin bust in NYPD history, Denny himself is also labeled a hero by the media and his fellow officers. Sadly, though, Billy took a fatal round from a gangster and died in the drug house. 

What few people know is that Malone and his crew are dirty, and their record-setting heroin bust wasn’t exactly by the book.

Picking up several months later, Malone and his guys are trying to break in a new team member who was assigned to their unit as a replacement for Billy. On top of that, word on the street is that the drug kingpin who got ripped off by Da Force is looking for revenge. 

On Christmas, Malone spends the night picking up and dropping off cash-filled envelopes to other dirty cops and city officials. Unbeknownst to him, his chat with the assistant District Attorney was recorded by the FBI, who had the assistant DA under surveillance. In the process, they caught Malone conspiring to have a case fixed, but waited to make their move on him. 

As Malone’s crew prepares to bring down a huge gun purchase that’s rumored to be going down in the coming days–big enough to ignite a turf war between rival gangs–tempers start to flair as Russo and Big Monty both worry about an investigation into their drug bust. To cool off a bit, Malone orders up a “Bowling Night,” which is essentially an alcohol-fueled boys-night-out. When he returns home, the FBI is waiting for him, finally ready to make their move.

With a major gun deal about to go down, a turf war on the horizon, a drug kingpin hellbent on revenge, and the FBI secretly keeping tabs, Denny Malone quickly finds himself backed into a corner with very few options–and none of them good. 

The genius of Don Winslow’s writing is that he manages to strike a balance with Malone and his partners that make it possible for readers to still root for Da Force. Yeah, Malone and his guys are dirty, but the people they rough up and rip off are far worse. Besides, they do a lot of good things too, and each guy has a family and kids he’s out there grinding for.

Likewise, Winslow masterfully weaves current events and major headlines into the story, which allows him to tackle issues such as police brutality, protest efforts, and a variety of other topics, without being too preachy or breaking from his narrative.

As the tension rises, readers are met with their own tough decision on whether they should burn through the pages to get to the ending, or read slowly to savor the moment. (In the end, you can’t go wrong either way!)

While entertaining, Winslow’s novel isn’t just a treat to read–it provides a unique experience unlike anything else. Whether it’s blasting N.W.A. and singing along as they patrol the streets, or taking down gangbangers and drug dealers, readers will feel like a part of Malone’s crew. And while those who are easily offended by strong language may take issue with some of the dialogue, most readers will appreciate Winslow’s acute attention to detail. Not only do the characters walk and talk like New Yorkers, but the entire New-York-living vibe is spot-on. 

At one point, Malone delivers a speech to corrupt officials that rivals the “you need me on that wall” speech given by Colonel Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men. It’s just one of many emotionally-charged scenes that will stay with readers long after they finish the novel.

The Shield meets The Departed in Don Winslow’s The Force, one of the best cop dramas ever written, and the first novel we’ve ever scored a perfect 10/10 on our rating scale

Between The Power of the Dog (2005), The Cartel (2015), and now The Force, there’s no doubt that Don Winslow is one of the truly great novelists of his time. If you’re not already reading his stuff, put him at the top of your to-read list starting with The Force

Book Details

Author: Don Winslow
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062664417
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 20th, 2017

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51tfghw+-FL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThe Spy Across the Table by Barry Lancet

“In this exciting international thriller featuring Japanese antiques art dealer and PI Jim Brodie, a double-murder at the Kennedy Center forces Brodie into a dangerous game of espionage—putting him in the crosshairs of the Chinese, North Korean, and American governments.

Jim Brodie is an antiques dealer, Japan expert, and second-generation private investigator. When two theater friends are murdered backstage at a Kennedy Center performance in Washington, DC, he’s devastated—and determined to hunt down the killer. He’s not the only one.

After the attack, Brodie is summoned to the White House. The First Lady was the college roommate of one of the victims, and she enlists Brodie—off the books—to use his Japanese connections to track down the assassin. Homeland Security head Tom Swelley is furious that the White House is meddling and wants Brodie off the case. Why? For the same reason a master Chinese spy known only as Zhou, one of the most dangerous men alive, appears on the scene: Those murders were no random act of violence.

Brodie flies to Tokyo to attend the second of two funerals, when his friend’s daughter Anna is kidnapped during the ceremony. It is then Brodie realizes that the murders were simply bait to draw her out of hiding. Anna, it seems, is the key architect of a top-secret NSA program that gathers the personal secrets of America’s most influential leaders. Secrets so damaging that North Korea and China will stop at nothing to get them.”

Book Details

Author: Barry Lancet
Pages: 448 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 147679491X
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: June 20th, 2017

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Tuesday, June 27

 

Brad Thor Use of ForceUse of Force by Brad Thor (Featured Selection)

Following last year’s Foreign Agent, Brad Thor brings back Scot Harvath, the legendary counterterrorism operative, for his most action-packed novel to date.  

When a raging storm rocks the Mediterranean Sea, a small vessel is forced to make a distress call to the Italian Coast Guard, blowing the cover on a smuggling operation in the process. 

Meanwhile, Scot Harvath, who is now splitting his time between Boston and Washinton, D.C., heads up an operation just outside of Reno during the seven-day Burning Man event in Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Contracted through the CIA, though he is technically still employed by the Carlton Group–a private security firm that handles some of the Central Intelligence Agency’s darkest black ops–Harvath is on site to snatch a man named Hamza Rahim. 

It’s believed that Rahim is scouting the area for a potential terrorist attack. Therefore, Harvath, along with a highly-trained extraction team, is sent to bring him in so that the CIA can interrogate Rahim with the hope of penetrating his terrorist cell. But almost as soon as the operation kicks off, things turn south. Ultimately, people in government view the outcome of the mission in two completely different ways. 

In the aftermath of the Burning Man event, Harvath learns that among the washed-up dead bodies from the Mediterranean Sea-based distress call was Mustapha Marzouk, a known bomb maker with terrorist ties who’d been off the CIA’s radar for several years. 

Marzouk’s body turning up sends shivers down the spines of both Bob McGee and Lydia Ryan, the Director and Deputy Director of the CIA, who have both felt like a large scale attack from ISIS is inevitable. 

Officially, McGee and Ryan–along with the rest of the CIA–are handcuffed by the constraints of the federal government, as a growing number of politicians have vocalized their disdain for America’s foreign intelligence service. With the country split on how to handle ISIS, some even going so far as to suggest fighting back against the savage terror group only makes them stronger, McGee’s job becomes infinitely harder. 

When an attack is thwarted, nobody knows about it. But when an attack is successful, the CIA is put under the microscope and their methods are questioned. 

Now, with a potential major attack looming, both President Porter and Director McGee realize they need someone to slice through the bureaucratic red tape and get results, period. Their answer is to bring Scot Harvath in on a black contract, allowing the United States government plausible deniability, and to set him free to stop the terrorists from completing their objective at all costs. 

As the bad guys will soon learn, Harvath, a former Navy SEAL, is the last person you want coming after you if you’re planning an attack on American soil. What follows is three-hundred high-speed, explosive pages of do-not-mess-with-Scot Harvath, who will stop at nothing to see his mission through. 

One of the things that makes Thor, who was part of Homeland Security’s Analytical Red Cell Unit, so unique is that he’s constantly coming up with chilling new attack scenarios, adding nerve-wracking (and terrifying) suspense to his stories. Additionally, Thor incorporates newly-developed weapons and technology, including the use of drones, into his stories–adding another dynamic element to his already authentic-feeling battlefield sequences.

With action so real you can almost feel the recoil each time Harvath fires his rifle, one scene in particular, involving a ZU-2 antiaircraft gun, is bound to have readers’ fitness trackers fooled into thinking they’re doing cardio instead of just racing through the pages. 

While newcomers can jump in and enjoy this book without having read any of the earlier novels, longtime fans will especially appreciate some of the side stories (especially one involving a disgruntled former spy seeking revenge against Reed Carlton) and emotional moments that Thor packs in behind the main storyline. 

Along with delivering some of the best action scenes in print today, Thor continues to grow as a writer. Without giving anything away, Code of Conduct (2015) marked a change in Scot Harvath and Thor has developed his series protagonist brilliantly over his last three novels. Where most authors struggle to keep things fresh after turning in fifteen bestsellers, Thor keeps finding creative ways to take his series and characters to new heights. In fact, number sixteen might just be his best work yet–which is truly impressive when you consider his body of work. 

Thor, who has long been known for beating headlines, masterfully combines current events with nonstop action, creating a captivating plot that feels a tad too real for comfort. Anyone paying attention to current headlines should agree, Scot Harvath is the hero America needs in today’s tumultuous political climate. 

With his latest pulse-pounding adventure, Brad Thor puts the rest of the genre on notice–Use of Force is the thriller to beat in 2017. 

Book Details

Author: Brad Thor
Series: Scot Harvath #16
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 147678938X
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: June 27, 2017

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51Yc4CGGv6L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Final Target by John Gilstrap

Jonathan Grave and his partner, Boxers, knew their most recent job was dangerous well before they agreed to head deep into a Mexican jungle to rescue a DEA agent named Harry Dawkins. Not only did intel reports suggest that Dawkins would be heavily guarded inside the compound of a known drug cartel, but it was believed that the cartel had additional reinforcements close by.

By all accounts, the odds are stacked against Grave, who goes by his call sign ‘Scorpion,’ and Boxers, who goes by ‘Big Guy.’ However, things take a darker turn for the duo once they’re ambushed in the middle of the night and left for dead by the very people who sent them.

After their eye-in-the-sky support suddenly becomes unreachable, Scorpion and Big Guy lead Dawkins, their precious cargo, towards their exfil point while fighting off cartel gunman along the way. But upon reaching the designated extraction point, Scorpion realizes that they’ve been crossed when their getaway chopper and pilot are nowhere to be found.

After they’re engaged by more gunmen, Jonathan learns that among the dead cartel members, who call themselves the Jungle Tigers, was the brother of their leader, Alejandro Azul.

On their own and on the run, Scorpion, Big Guy, and Dawkins take up shelter in an orphanage located in a remote part of the jungle. As Jonathan and Boxers work all the angles trying to figure out who set them up, two things become abundantly clear: Whoever burned them wants Dawkins dead, which means there is a much larger conspiracy in play. And secondly, their presence at the orphanage has put the children’s lives in danger.

Throughout the story, Grave is conflicted. While he knows Dawkins is the mission and his job is to see to it that the DEA agent is returned back to the States, he can’t help but feel responsible for the kids who’ve endured hell on earth for far too long. Most of the children watched their parents be slaughtered by the cartels (or Alejandro Azul himself), and staying put–after they gave aid to Americans the cartels are gunning–for would mean certain death.

Ultimately, Jonathan decides to take the children, hoping there might be a way to get them into the United States where they could have a real chance at life.

The decision to take the kids, though, comes at a price. With no vehicle large enough to accommodate all of them, their only option is to go by foot through the rough jungle. As Jonathan, Boxers, and Dawkins lead the kids north, they’ll have to find a way to go a hundred-plus miles on foot, with a bloodthirsty Alejandro Azul–who vows to avenge his brother–and his goons hot on their trail.

That setup kicks off an action-packed few hundred pages, full of suspense and more than a few gunfights and well-timed explosions. 

Along the way, Jonathan bonds with one of the oldest orphans, a Mexican boy named Tomás, who reminds Grave a lot of himself at that age. Gilstrap uses their relationship to further develop his main character (who readers will find especially relatable in this novel) but without getting too emotional. This is, after all, a thriller, and Gilstrap’s ninth Grave novel is some of his finest work yet. 

Newcomers to the series might benefit from slightly more backstory to the secondary characters, as the scenes away from Grave, which are infrequent, take longer to develop. On the flip side, by not rehashing everyone’s past actions, as some authors tend to do, Gilstrap is able to keep the pacing steady and moving at a good speed.

Dropping your characters into the jungle is one thing, but expecting readers to follow them around for nearly four hundred pages is another thing entirely. Gilstrap, though, uses spot-on descriptions to make the jungle come to life, adding a fun, and at times creepy, element to his story. Readers will feel like they’re shoulder-to-shoulder with Scorpion and Big Guy, running from the cartel with the mission on the line. 

As a larger conspiracy slowly takes shape, further putting Grave’s mission–and life–in jeopardy, Gilstrap leads readers on an exciting adventure that twists, turns, and shoots its way to an electrifying ending.

It’s no secret that this summer is jam-packed with a number of highly-anticipated new releases. But while the majority of this year’s political thrillers and spy novels focus on either Russia or ISIS,  Gilstrap offers something completely different, making Final Target a strong pick for readers in search of a plot that features something other than Russian or Middle Eastern bad guys.

Book Details

Author: John Gilstrap
Series: Jonathan Grave #9
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1496712692
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: June 27, 2017

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518ILv5fUfL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Blackmail by Rick Campbell

Following the events of Campbell’s last two novels, America’s Navy is severely depleted after a lengthy war with China. In the aftermath, Yuri Kalinin, the Russian president, decides to implement a dangerous and complex plan designed to take back part of Ukraine while also choking off vital sea passageways designated for moving oil and natural gas around the world.

On board the K456 Vilyuchinsk, captain Dmitri Pavlov orders his crew to launch twenty-four P-700 Granit surface attack missiles at the USS Theodore Roosevelt, severely damaging the American aircraft carrier.

After the Office of Naval Intelligence confirms that the missiles were launched from the Russian submarine, the American president summons the Russian ambassador to the White House. Forgoing the Oval Office and opting instead to meet in the Roosevelt Room, the president and his advisors listen as Ambassador Tupolev explains that the entire ordeal was nothing but a training accident.

After Russia takes the blame and apologizes to the American people and government, they offer to pay a large sum of money to the families of any crewmen killed during the “training accident.”

Having attacked the USS Roosevelt as a way to test the American president, Kalinin believes the Unites State’s response is weak and an indication that they aren’t in any hurry to engage in another war. With that, their plan goes full steam ahead.

Things take a turn, though, when America–after learning of Kalinin’s hidden agenda–strikes Russian forces near Iran. With the lines clearly drawn and everyone’s intentions finally on the table, the gloves come off and things escalate in a hurry.

While the principal cast is quite large, Campbell does a fine job alternating narratives and advancing the plot through multiple points of view. Whereas the president is normally a prominent player in similar types of thrillers, Campbell’s fictional commander-in-chief takes a backseat to his team of advisors, including National Security Advisor Christine O’Connor.

While the chess match between America and Russia is compelling, the real treat is Campbell’s many thrilling action sequences. Nobody is writing more detailed submarine scenes than Campbell, who knows just how much information to provide without bogging down the story.

Blackmail is fun, smart, and wildly entertaining. After three solid novels, Campbell delivers his strongest naval thriller so far, expertly mixing action and geopolitics in a way that is strikingly reminiscent of the late Tom Clancy.

Book Details

Author: Rick Campbell
Series: Trident #4
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250072166
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: June 27, 2017

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Meg Gardiner UNSUBUNSUB by Meg Gardiner

Growing up, Caitlin Hendrix, like everyone else in the community, anxiously waited for the authorities to apprehend the Prophet, an evil serial killer who loved tormenting the media and the police, both of which were always several steps behind him.

Caitlin, unlike everyone else, had a front row seat to the FBI’s investigation. Her father, Mack Hendrix, was the lead detective working the case–and she watched as the Prophet slowly drove him to the brink of insanity with his endless mind games and misdirection.

As the case consumed Mack’s life, he couldn’t help but bring his work home with him–both literally and figuratively. One night, as a child, Caitlin listened as her father spoke on the phone to a colleague of his about the case. The Prophet had teased that he would kill again, and Mack was losing his mind trying to piece together every clue in time to stop the murderer. 

As her father paced outside on the phone, young Caitlin quietly made her way to the garage, where Mack had hung photos and laid out other evidence to help him work the case, which he did nearly twenty-four hours a day. She knew what was in there because her father had forbidden her to enter to keep her innocent eyes from seeing the Prophet’s evil work.

Disobeying, Caitlin walked into the garage and was immediately consumed with the horror her father had been battling and working nonstop to protect her and the rest of the Bay Area from.

Twenty years later, Caitlin now works as a narcotics detective. Her father, who never did catch the Prophet, is a damaged man who struggles with depression and even attempted suicide at one point to escape his failures. The Prophet, for whatever reason, stopped killing and hasn’t claimed another victim for two decades. He remains an UNSUB–FBI-speak for an unidentified subject–with his true identity still unknown to authorities.

After a successful drug raid one night, Caitlin is called to another crime scene. Her boss never bothers to explain why he called Caitlin and not a homicide detective, instead, he leads her to the victim’s corpse and shows her what prompted them to involve her.

Pounded into the victim’s chest is a pattern of nails, the same pattern that Caitlin had seen in the photos hanging in her garage as a child. And close by, another body was found along with a cryptic note that teased more was yet to come.

After laying dormant for twenty years, the Prophet has returned to killing.

Asked to help provide insight into the Prophet’s motives and thought process, Mack refuses to get involved with the case. It already ruined his life once, and he begs his daughter to stay clear of it as well, warning her that the Prophet will destroy her too. But Caitlin feels a pull towards the investigation and longs to unmask the killer who terrorized the Bay Area and nearly destroyed her father.

Once it’s reported that the daughter of the original detective who worked on the case twenty years ago is now heading up the new investigation, the Prophet begins to taunt Caitlin directly–flaunting the fact that she can’t decipher his codes and catch him.

After convincing her boss to let her switch from narcotics to homicide, Caitlin starts by going back to the beginning and pouring over the original files her dad helped compile decades ago. Soon, another body turns up, as does another message from the Prophet–who makes it clear he’s just getting started. 

Inspired by the real-life Zodiac killer who was never caught, Meg Gardiner turns in a complicated, well-researched, scary-good crime novel that feels all too realistic. As suspects emerge, readers will form their own opinions about the Prophet’s true identity. In fact, I was convinced I had the case solved before Caitlin, only to have Gardiner pull the rug out from beneath my theory.

With the Bay Area once again living in fear as a serial killer remains on the loose and keeps claiming victims, Caitlin races to solve the case that nearly did her father in–and that is now threatening her own sanity.

Meg Gardiner knows how to get readers’ hearts pumping, and she brings plenty of thrills with this one. UNSUB is a first-rate crime thriller that’s well-written and carefully plotted. Just when readers think they’ve zeroed in on the killer, Gardiner delivers one devilish twist after another. 

Book Details

Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: Caitlin Hendrix #1
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1101985526
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: June 20, 2017

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51rVgKhjPqL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker

Chicago homicide detective Sam Porter has been after the self-proclaimed Four Monkey Killer for five years. Now, after being hit by a city bus, the slippery killer is dead, but there’s one last victim who needs to be saved–and precious little time to find her.

Always choosing young women as his victims, the Four Monkey Killer is anything but random. He targets women based on the actions of their relatives, and is a methodical, cold-blooded killer who taunts the Chicago Police Department in an act of defiance–and as part of a larger game.

When Sam Porter is summoned early one morning to a crime scene, it’s not immediately apparent why someone called for a homicide detective.  Word has it that a pedestrian stepped in front of a bus, immediately dying on impact. But when searching the corpse for clues to ID the body, police found a small white box containing a human ear–which is the calling card of the Four Monkey Killer.

Also found at the scene is the killer’s journal which, combined with the severed ear, leads Porter to believe the murderer’s last victim is still alive.

Having been unable to solve any of the killer’s riddles and clues in the past, Porter pours over the journal–both trying to understand the killer’s motive and to search for any clues that might lead him to the victim. In the process, Barker takes his lead character, and the reader, on a frightening, hair-raising trip through the mind of a serial killer that is both chilling and seductive.

As Porter identifies the killer, his gruesome backstory provides insight into the man’s troubled mind. And while Barker’s novel isn’t for the faint of heart, the main theme here is a sadistic, expertly-written game of cat and mouse played by two experts on opposite sides of the law. It’s dark, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Barker, who made a name for himself as a horror author, brings an exciting energy to his new genre–churning out a masterful first crime fiction novel that is perfect for fans of Seven and The Silence of the Lambs.

Book Details

Author: J.D. Barker
Series: 4MK #1
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0544968840
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: June 27, 2017

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51ygwSwlrBL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Zero Sum by Barry Eisler

“Returning to Tokyo in 1982 after a decade of mercenary work in the Philippines, a young John Rain learns that the killing business is now controlled by Victor, a half-Russian, half-Japanese sociopath who has ruthlessly eliminated all potential challengers. Victor gives Rain a choice: kill a government minister or die a grisly death. But the best route to the minister is through his gorgeous Italian wife, Maria, a route that puts Rain on a collision course not only with Victor but with the shadowy forces behind the Russian’s rise to dominance—and the longings of Rain’s own conflicted heart.

It’s a battle between kingpin and newcomer, master and apprentice, a zero-sum contest that can only end with one man dead and the other the world’s foremost assassin.

Book Details

Author: Barry Eisler
Series: John Rain #9
Pages: 267 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1477824480
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

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513iRTHWbwL._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgEvery Last Lie by Mary Kubica

“New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow’s pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.”

Book Details

Author: Mary Kubica
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0778319989
Publisher: Park Row Books
Release Date: June 27, 2017

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20 comments

  1. WOW – what a great month!! Am most excited about ZERO SUM by Eisler. John Rain is a super fun read and I really enjoy the first person writing that Eisler uses. The new Jack Ryan novel, Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave and Boxers and of course …. DEWEY RETURNS!!!! Love the Ben Coes series!!

    Also have ordered the Himalayan Code so I could try out a new author.

    It will be a good month! Steve

    Like

  2. Its going to be a busy reading month. I have preordered Matchup, Trap the Devil, The Force and Use of Force. Waiting for my Kindle downloads.

    Like

  3. I am reading Trap the Devil, The Switch, and Use of Force. Hoping to get to Defectors this month as well but will probably push to July.

    Like

  4. Going to be a great month! Looking forward to the return of Dewey in Trap The Devil. Also planning to read The Force and The Switch.

    Like

  5. Ryan, thanks for recommending “The Magpie Murders”. Agatha Christie would have loved the book.
    I enjoyed it so much. Now I have to wait for the release of “Trap the Devil” and “The Force”.

    Like

  6. Oath of honor, four stars; second life of Nick Mason, five stars; overwatch, five stars; The first hostage, five stars ;say nothing, five stars The fix 3 1/2 stars.

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  7. Just finished Matchup. This was a great book. I like the concept of pairing up different authors to write the short stories. Going to add the first book Faceoff to my reading list. Now I have to decide which book to read next. Trap the Devil or The Force.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Decide to read The Force. More than halfway thru th book and the best word to describe this book is “Intense”. It really exposes you to a whole new world of being a detective in New York City. A must read. Again, Thanks to the Book Spy for the great reviews and forum for highlighting great new books.

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  8. Trap the Devil continues Ben Coes high caliber of exciting adventure writing keeping the reader engaged to the end. Hard to put it down.

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  9. Ryan, you nailed it with your review of “The Force”. It’s not only a perfect 10, it’s a masterpiece.
    I just finished the book and I feel shaken by it’s harsh, gritty realism. This is not a book for the faint of
    heart, but it is one of the best you have ever recommended. Thank you again for all the hours you
    have dedicated to making The Real Book Spy the go-to place to find the best thrillers.

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  10. Just finished reading Trap the Devil. This was the first Dewey Andreas book that I have read. i would definitely recommend this book to others. What an outstanding month for books. Read Matchup, The Force and Trap the Devil. Next book is Brad Thor’s Use of Force. Looking forward to seeing July’s reading list.

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  11. Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath is right up there with Mitch Rapp as my favorites. With that said, I was very surprised by the way Brad’s ending of Use of Force. It was almost like it should have been 50 pages longer. I got the feeling like he was rushed to complete the book and short changed the ending. I’ve read all of Brad’s books and I have never been disappointed in the way he wrapped up a book.

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  12. Trap the Devil was amazing – and I totally agree with the summary above that it was the best of the series. I have to admit it took me a bit to remember some of the history and characters (has it been that long since I read the last one?), but Coes is much better and more subtle in the ways in which he reminds the reader of prior books and plots. (Some are so blatant as to cut and past the same history, updated a bit for each prior novel.) The reminders are especially important in this novel, as characters come from the past to play important roles. And there is a great closing of a loop that had remained open for a long time. I am already looking forward to the next one!

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