A Book Spy Review: ‘Warning Light’ by David Ricciardi

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It’s baptism by fire for Zac Miller, one of the genre’s top young heroes, in this high-stakes debut thriller from David Ricciardi.

Due to severe mechanical issues, a commercial flight heading to Singapore is forced to make an emergency landing in Iran.

While not the Iranians’ first choice, the only runway the Airbus is capable of landing on happens to be located at a military base. As the passengers deplaned, Zac Miller, a twenty-eight-year-old American technology consultant, uses his cell phone to take a photo of the pink sunset blanketing the mountains in the background. While the other passengers think nothing of Miller’s momentary photography session, the move was witnessed by several Iranian soldiers.

Moments later, Zac finds himself in an interrogation room staring down an intense colonel of the Revolutionary Guard, who accuses him of being a spy.

While not technically trained as a spy, Zac Miller is actually a low- to mid-level analyst working with the CIA on a top-secret mission called Operation SNAPSHOT. The plane’s mechanical failures, while very real to the pilots and flight crew, were all staged. The entire operation was designed to get an asset on the ground in Iran to take photos of a mountainside where the CIA believes the Iranians are hiding something dangerous.

Just before the operation was ready to launch, however, the agent tasked to the mission was found to be known to the Iranians. With the operational window closing, Zac begged his superiors to send him instead — a request he soon regrets.

Armed with basic hand-to-hand combat skills — thanks to a month of training he underwent at the CIA’s clandestine operations training facility at Camp Perry, Virginia — and strong instincts, Zac escapes captivity, only to find himself on the run in the desert and pursued by armed soldiers. 

Making matters worse, unbeknownst to Zac, the Iranians put an agent posing as Miller on the plane, which eventually lands in Singapore. The double commits various crimes, including murder, leaving behind Zac’s DNA, which causes his superiors at the CIA to question whether he’s gone rogue.

Desperate to get back home and deliver the evidence he obtained, Zac must make his way across the desert, navigate the open sea, and somehow zigzag his way through Europe. It’s an incredible journey filled with many twists and turns, as David Ricciardi takes readers along for the relentless ride.

From the heart-pounding opening chapters to the satisfying ending, Ricciardi relies on his acute attention to even the smallest details to add realism to his debut novel. When readers first meet Zac, he’s an unproven, untested, and a realistically flawed character. Over the course of his journey, Ricciardi masterfully develops him into a solid protagonist reminiscent of a young  Jack Ryan.

Forged through fire and battle-tested, The Zac you see on the final page is a different man than the character you meet on page one. Ricciardi treats readers to an exhilarating front-row seat view of the entire maturation process that his young operative is forced to undergo through the most grueling circumstances imaginable, delivering a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience along the way. 

The next must-read espionage thriller series is finally here — if you don’t know who David Ricciardi is already, you will soon. Told with breakneck pacing and nail-biting suspense, Warning Light is an early favorite for best debut thriller of the year.

Book Details

Author: David Ricciardi
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399585737
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 17, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10
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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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