The Real Book Spy’s January 2018 Reading Guide

Welcome to 2018, thriller fans! 

This year is kicking off with a bang thanks to brand new titles from James Lee Burke, Brad Taylor, Gregg Hurwitz, Meg Gardiner, and many others. On top of that, one of the year’s top debuts is coming out.

Karen Cleveland’s Need to Know is a cross between Gone Girl and the Angelina Jolie movie Salt. . . it’s really good and features a wicked twist. Bottom line: Cleveland’s debut is a ton of fun!  

As always, we’ve highlighted two books as our Featured Selections. This month, those books are Brad Taylor’s Operator Down, the next book in his Pike Logan series, and Gregg Hurwitz’s third Orphan X thriller, Hellbent. Read more about these titles, and everything else hitting bookstores this month, below. 

Reading Challenge

For everyone who took part in our 2017 Reading Challenge, thank you for playing along! The goal was to help people find more good books to read, and we hope to have done just that. We have a ton of prizes and one massive grand prize package to hand out. Winners will be announced in a couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for that. 

Likewise, stay tuned for details about our 2018 Reading Challenge. We’re planning to go even bigger and better this year, and already multiple publishers have pledged books and signed swag to the cause. We’ll be making an announcement soon! 


Tuesday, January 2nd


RobicheauxRobicheaux by James Lee Burke

Following Light of the World (2013), Dave Robicheaux is back in James Lee Burke’s all-new novel, Robicheaux.

Now semi-retired after a long career as a detective with the sheriff’s department, Robicheaux is reeling from the loss of his wife, Molly, who was killed in a car accident. Molly’s death brings about an old demon that Dave knows all too well, the overwhelming desire to drown his sorrows in liquor.

Sadly, the recovering alcoholic nixes the word “recovering,” as he falls back into the very pit he once worked so hard to climb out of. Back on the bottle, Robicheaux starts acting against his better judgment. He spends some time at the site of his wife’s death, and even confronts the man driving the vehicle that killed her at his home. Then, half a day after attending a local AA meeting, Robicheaux is boozing at the bar like alcohol is the only medicine that can fix his problems. Instead, it does just the opposite. 

After waking from a drunken bender that resulted in a heavy blackout, Robicheaux has no idea where he’d been or how he got home. He can’t remember anything, in fact, about the night before. Foggy and sick to his gut, he receives a call to head out to a crime scene where a dead body was found early that morning. To his horror, Robicheaux discovers that the dead man is the same man who killed his wife, and the very same man he confronted and challenged the day prior.

Seconds after the coroner rules that the man was beaten to death by someone likely on meth or something else–because come on, who could dole out such a beating with their bare hands without some type of drug numbing their pain?–Robicheaux discovers the bruises and scrapes on his own knuckles. So does Sheriff Helen Soileau, who pulls Dave off the case.

To get to the bottom of what happened and find out whether or not he murdered the man who killed his wife, Robicheaux turns to his long-time friend and private investigator Clete Purcel for help. Together, they set out to uncover the truth, but along the way, the duo churns up all kinds of trouble as they run into a number of unsavory bad guys, each with their own agendas and shady intentions. 

Burke’s latest effort is an emotional ride, especially for longtime fans of his bestselling series. With the action dialed down, Robicheaux works thanks to the powerful impact created by the internal conflict waging war inside of Burke’s beloved characters. In many ways, they’re the same people fans have come to know over the course of twenty previous novels. Robicheaux still lives by Spanish Lake, and Clete’s apartment is still on St. Ann Street. But each of them faces their own trials and tribulations, especially Dave, all of which is written in a way that allows readers to feel the pain Robicheaux is battling–creating a raw,  gripping experience that’ll stay with you long after the story ends. 

It’s always a treat when Dave Robicheaux lines store shelves, and longtime fans will especially appreciate this one. James Lee Burke has truly outdone himself–Robicheaux is another masterpiece from one of today’s premier storytellers. 

Book Details

Author: James Lee Burke
Series: Dave Robicheaux #21
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501176846
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10 
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The bomb maker.jpgThe Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry

“A bomb is more than a weapon. A bomb is an expression of the bomber’s predictions of human behavior―a performance designed to fool you into making one fatally wrong move. In The Bomb Maker, Thomas Perry introduces us to the dark corners of a mind intent on transforming a simple machine into an act of murder―and to those committed to preventing that outcome at any cost.

“A threat is called into the LAPD Bomb Squad and when tragedy ensues, the fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company. Just returned from a tough job in Mexico, Stahl is at first reluctant to accept the offer, but his sense of duty to the technicians he trained is too strong to turn it down. On his first day back at the head of the squad, Stahl’s three-person team is dispatched to a suspected car bomb. And it quickly becomes clear to him that they are dealing with an unusual mastermind―one whose intended target seems to be the Bomb Squad itself.

“As the shadowy organization sponsoring this campaign of violence puts increasing pressure on the bomb maker, and Stahl becomes dangerously entangled with a member of his own team, the fuse on this high-stakes plot only burns faster. The Bomb Maker is Thomas Perry’s biggest, most unstoppable thriller yet.”

Book Details

Author: Thomas Perry
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0802127487
Publisher: Mysterious Press
Release Date: January 2, 2018
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Traitor.jpgTraitor by Jonathan de Shalit

In the early 1980s, Alon, a young Israeli walking the streets of Rome, entered an American embassy. Believing that within the next two decades he’d be in a position to obtain critical intelligence, Alon offered to become an informant for the United States.

It’s a bold, brave move. . . but there’s one major problem with Alon’s plan, something outside of his control. The man Alon met with, John Roberts, is actually a mole for East Germany. 

As he climbs the career ladder, providing the U.S. with information every step of the way, Alon is actually keeping the Germans in the know, inadvertently, of course, through Roberts —  not the United States.

Things take a heart-pounding turn when the Mossad learns a traitor among their own ranks is working with East Germany, prompting the Israeli president to authorize the Mossad’s former chief to do whatever it takes to flush out the mole, code-named “Cobra.” As a team of spies begins their hunt, Alon must figure out how to stay a step ahead of them long enough to go after the man who has betrayed him for nearly three decades — setting up an electrifying final act that pits traitor vs. traitor.

It’s a game between spies, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. 

While many readers will note the similarities to Daniel Silva, the truth is that Jonathan de Shalit — a pseudonym used by the author who is a former high-ranking member of the Israeli Intelligence Community — actually has more in common with Silva’s character, Gabriel Allon. If Silva’s beloved character (a Mossad agent turned chief of Israel’s spy agency) ever wrote a thriller, it’d look a whole lot like Traitor. 

The story itself is more of a slow burn in the vein of Jason Matthews and Charles Cuming, rather than the balls-to-the-wall action that fans of Vince Flynn and Brad Thor are used to. Much like how Tom Cruise’s character never fires a weapon in the first Mission: Impossible movie, Traitor is still a nerve-wracking espionage thriller, but without all the heavy action sequences. Instead, a premium is placed on characters and intellect, making this a thinking man’s book, but with enough thrills to keep readers engaged throughout.

Written with stunning authenticity from someone who knows what they’re talking about, Jonathan de Shalit’s Traitor is a smart, thought-provoking, rising crescendo of suspense that hits all the right notes from start to finish. Don’t miss one of 2018’s hottest debuts! 

Book Details

Author: Jonathan de Shalit
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501170481
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10 
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Woman in the windowThe Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

“For readers of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in thirty-six languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: a twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

“It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

“Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

“Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

“What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

“Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.”

Book Details

Author: A.J. Finn
Pages: 448 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062678418
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: January 2, 2018
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Tuesday, January 9th


512s0I59eCL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Operator Down by Brad Taylor (Featured Selection)

When Aaron Bergman and Alexandra, a young female agent, are kidnapped during a mission gone totally wrong, it’s all hands on deck to rescue the Mossad agents in Brad Taylor’s latest thriller, Operator Down.  

Despite many interrogations at the hands of his captors that left him beaten and bruised, Aaron holds out — urging Alexandra to do whatever it takes to stay alive — because he knows with absolute certainty that once Shoshana finds out he was taken, she’ll come for him no matter what. He’s not sure when, or how long it’ll take, but he trusts her, and, above all else, he knows that Shoshana is capable of breathtaking violence when the situation calls for it. 

Aaron also knows Shoshana will likely bring backup, and that whoever it is will be highly-trained and more than capable of assisting her. All he needs to do is survive long enough to give her time to do her thing.

As it turns out, Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill happen to be in Israel on a Taskforce-assigned mission to track an arms dealer believed to be selling nuclear weapons components. While shadowing their target, they inadvertently come across intel from a recorded restaurant conversation suggesting an attack on a female Mossad agent is in the works. It doesn’t take long for Pike and Jennifer to connect the dots and realize Shoshana — an old friend and colleague of theirs — is the one being targeted, and Pike shows up at the last minute to thwart the assault. 

Initially, Pike and Jennifer had thought Aaron and Shoshana were on their honeymoon, where they were supposed to be. Shoshana had kindly blown them off upon hearing they were in Tel Aviv days prior, but once the trio figured out that Aaron was captured, they get the band back together to bring the pain on the men who snatched Bergman and Alexandra. 

Aaron was right — Shoshana, a one-woman human-killing machine, will stop at nothing to save him. But things aren’t quite as straight-forward as they first seemed. 

With Pike and Jennifer eager to lend a hand (or trigger finger), they formulate a plan to rescue Aaron. However, things quickly change when a much larger conspiracy is uncovered, revealing a plot to topple a democratic African country — forcing Pike Logan to choose between following their Taskforce orders or helping Shoshana rescue Aaron. 

Since Taylor throttled back to one book a year (after previously maintaining a two-book-per-year publishing schedule), he’s taken his writing to another level. The action that the former Delta Force operative is known for writing into his thrillers is still front and center, but his plotting and character development have gotten much better. Likewise, his stories have gotten more complex, but without sacrificing pacing or entertainment. His books are still lightning-quick and a ton of fun to read — and Operator Down is perhaps Taylor’s finest work yet. 

Brad Taylor’s unmatched ability to mix hard-hitting, authentic action with daring plots that feel like they’re ripped from next week’s headlines is on full display here. While Pike Logan will always be the main character, few authors in this genre have a roster of fan-favorite characters deeper than Taylor, who uses them brilliantly in Operator Down, the first must-read political thriller of 2018. 

Book Details

Author: Brad Taylor 
Series: Pike Logan #12
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1101984813
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: January 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10
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The Fire Maker.jpgThe Firemaker by Peter May

“A grotesquely burned corpse found in a city park is a troubling mystery for Beijing detective Li Yan. Yan, devoted to his career as a means of restoring the respect his family lost during the Cultural Revolution, needs outside help if he is to break the case.

“The unidentified cadaver, in turn, provides a welcome distraction for forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell. Campbell, married to her work and having left America and her broken past behind, throws herself into the investigation and before long uncovers a bizarre anomaly.

“An unlikely partnership develops between Li and Campbell as they follow the resulting lead. A fiery and volatile chemistry ignites, exposing not only their individual demons but an even greater evil–a conspiracy that threatens their lives, as well as those of millions of others.”

Book Details

Author: Peter May 
Pages: 560 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1101984813
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: January 9, 2018
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Tuesday, January 16th


City of endless night.jpgCity of Endless Night by Preston and Child

“When Grace Ozmian, the beautiful and reckless daughter of a wealthy tech billionaire, first goes missing, the NYPD assumes she has simply sped off on another wild adventure. Until the young woman’s body is discovered in an abandoned warehouse in Queens, the head nowhere to be found.

“Lieutenant CDS Vincent D’Agosta quickly takes the lead. He knows his investigation will attract fierce scrutiny, so D’Agosta is delighted when FBI Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast shows up at the crime scene assigned to the case. ‘I feel rather like Brer Rabbit being thrown into the briar patch,’ Pendergast tells D’Agosta, ‘because I have found you here, in charge. Just like when we first met, back at the Museum of Natural History.’

“But neither Pendergast nor D’Agosta are prepared for what lies ahead. A diabolical presence is haunting the greater metropolitan area, and Grace Ozmian was only the first of many victims to be murdered . . . and decapitated. Worse still, there’s something unique to the city itself that has attracted the evil eye of the killer.

“As mass hysteria sets in, Pendergast and D’Agosta find themselves in the crosshairs of an opponent who has threatened the very lifeblood of the city. It’ll take all of Pendergast’s skill to unmask this most dangerous foe-let alone survive to tell the tale.”

Book Details

Author: Preston & Child 
Series: Agent Pendergast series
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1455536946
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: January 16, 2018
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Light it upLight It Up by Nick Petrie

Following his award-winning debut thriller, The Drifter (2016), and 2017’s hit Burning Bright, Nick Petrie brings back Iraq war veteran Peter Ash for his most hard-hitting novel yet.

Answering a friend’s call for help, Peter Ash finds himself in Colorado working for a security company run by Henry Nygaard’s daughter. The company’s primary source of income is providing protection to Denver-based “cannabis entrepreneurs,” who deal mostly in cash and therefore have become a prime target for thieves. After one of their vehicles goes missing, along with all the cash and crew–including Henry’s son-in-law–Peter agrees to be part of the next security detail. 

Riding shotgun down the highways in Colorado, Peter’s vehicle and their cargo are attacked. Not one to roll over in the face of adversity, Ash fights back hard. Soon, multiple attackers are dead, and Peter barely manages to escape alive before fleeing into the mountains. 

In the aftermath of the attack, Peter becomes a suspect when law enforcement officials think he may have something to do with the hijackings. Several things, though, don’t add up. For starters, Peter can’t figure out why thieves would go to such a great risk to steal a few hundred thousand in cash, which would then need to be split up among themselves. More importantly, he notes, is that everything about the attacks–how they’re planned, where they’re executed–indicates that they’re being carried out by professional, well-trained assailants. Not amateurs. 

The more Peter digs for answers, the more questions pop up. As his investigation continues, it takes him in a direction he never saw coming as Nick Petrie slowly pulls back the curtain to reveal a much larger plot lurking in the background. . . 

Petrie deserves a lot of credit for how he’s developed his protagonist over his first three books. Peter Ash isn’t the most attractive guy, and he’s not necessarily the smartest. But he is fiercely loyal and possesses a particularly lethal set of skills that tends to make bad guys stop breathing when they cross him.

Beyond that, he’s flawed like the rest of us. Battling PTSD, Peter suffers from a severe form of claustrophobia that makes it difficult for him to not only be in tight places but even indoors. These real-life issues make him layered and complex, but also relatable. There’s also, of course, a Jack Reacher-like side to Peter Ash, who is a wandering, combat-proficient nomad. Bottom line, Petrie has quickly turned him into one of the genre’s best characters in a very short amount of time. 

Get ready. . . Peter Ash is back in Light It Up, the latest action thriller from Nick Petrie, one of the genre’s fastest rising new stars. 

Book Details

Author: Nick Petrie
Series: Peter Ash #3
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399575634
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10 
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THe Take.jpgThe Take by Christopher Reich

“Riske is a freelance industrial spy who, despite his job title, lives a mostly quiet life above his auto garage in central London. He is hired to perform the odd job for a bank, an insurance company, or the British Secret Service, when he isn’t expertly stealing a million-dollar watch off the wrist of a crooked Russian oligarch.

“Riske has maintained his quiet life by avoiding big, messy jobs; until now. A gangster by the name of Tino Coluzzi has orchestrated the greatest street heist in the history of Paris: a visiting Saudi prince had his pockets lightened of millions in cash, and something else. Hidden within a stolen briefcase is a secret letter that could upend the balance of power in the Western world. The Russians have already killed in an attempt to get it back by the time the CIA comes knocking at Simon’s door.

“Coluzzi was once Riske’s brother-in-arms, but their criminal alliance ended with Riske in prison, having narrowly avoided a hit Coluzzi ordered. Now, years later, it is thief against thief, and hot on their trail are a dangerous Parisian cop, a murderous Russian femme fatale, her equally unhinged boss, and perhaps the CIA itself.

“In the grand tradition of The Day of the Jackal and The Bourne Identity, Christopher Reich’s The Take is a stylish, breathtaking ride.”

Book Details

Author: Christopher Reich
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316342351
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10 
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Munich.jpgMunich by Robert Harris

“From the internationally best-selling author of Fatherland and the Cicero Trilogy–a new spy thriller about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, set against the backdrop of the fateful Munich Conference of September 1938.

“Hugh Legat is a rising star of the British diplomatic service, serving at 10 Downing Street as a private secretary to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Rikard von Holz is on the staff of the German Foreign Office–and secretly a member of the anti-Hitler resistance. The two men were friends at Oxford in the 1920s, but have not been in contact since. Now, when Hugh flies with Chamberlain from London to Munich, and Rikard travels on Hitler’s train overnight from Berlin, their paths are set on a disastrous collision course. And once again, Robert Harris gives us actual events of historical importance–here are Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, Daladier–at the heart of an electrifying, unputdownable novel.”

Book Details

Author: Robert Harris
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316342351
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: January 16, 2018
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Tuesday, January 23


The Mitford Murder.jpgThe Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

“Set amid the legendary Mitford household, a thrilling Golden Age-style mystery, based on a real unsolved murder, by Jessica Fellowes, author of the New York Times bestselling Downton Abbey books.

“It’s 1920, and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London.

“Louisa’s salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nursemaid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy, an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories.

“But then a nurse―Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake―is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the crimes of a murderer who will do anything to hide their secret…

” Based on an unsolved crime and written by Jessica Fellowes, author of the New York Times bestselling Downton Abbey companion books, The Mitford Murders is the perfect new obsession for fans of classic murder mysteries.

Book Details

Author: Jessica Fellowes
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250170788
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: January 23, 2018
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Cutting EdgeCutting Edge by Ward Larsen

A Coast Guard swimmer’s life is suddenly turned upside down after a helicopter crash that killed his entire crew in the latest thriller from Ward Larsen (Assassin’s Code, 2017).

Stationed in Alaska, Coast Guard rescue swimmer Trey DeBolt loves everything about his job–the action, the sense of purpose, and the rewarding feeling he gets each time he saves someone’s life. But when the helicopter carrying his crew goes down, the twenty-something-year-old was officially declared dead. Unofficially, he was saved by an ambitious nurse who hid him off the grid. . . 

Waking up in Maine, DeBolt is surprised to still be alive, having remembered, vaguely, hearing the doctors pronounce him dead. Confused and struggling to remember what happened to him, Trey is confronted by Joan Chandler, who explains that they’re safely tucked away in her beach house. Over the next few weeks, Joan slowly nurses him back to health. The stronger his body gets, so too does DeBolt’s mind, which continues to race with questions.

Joan continues to promise him answers once he’s back to full strength, but a snooping Trey locates a file with his name on it that only causes more confusion. Before he can confront her, however, a team of trained killers assassinates Joan in her beach house as a horrified Trey stands helplessly on the beach, unable to help in any way. Realizing that the gunmen are looking for him too, he takes off towards the one place he thrives the most. . . the water. 

Surrounded by darkness and crashing waves, Trey finds himself navigating with an eerie sense of direction that he never possessed prior to his accident. That sense soon grows into visions, guiding him as he races to stay alive and uncover the truth about what happened to him. Behind the mysterious door lies a top-secret government conspiracy so controversial that those involved will stop at nothing to keep it hidden. 

Ward Larsen dials up the heat for his latest thriller, featuring a polarizing new hero in the vein of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, but with a twist. Cutting Edge isn’t your prototypical action thriller, as Larsen mixes in a ton of suspense and more than a few surprises on his way to an electrifying ending. The formula works well — as good as his David Slaton series is, this is almost certainly Larsen’s strongest work to date. Beyond the characters and plot, the writing itself is top-notch. Larsen uses beautiful, rich, and vivid descriptions to set the scene and tone early on. And his description of what it’s like to be in icy waters will chill readers to the bone. 

Like the violent, harsh waters Trey DeBolt is used to battling, Cutting Edge will shake, toss, and spin readers nonstop while they race through the pages. Ward Larsen takes his game to a whole new level. . . this book is an absolute blast to read! 

Book Details

Author: Ward Larsen
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0765393417
Publisher: Forge
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10 
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THe NIght Trade.jpgThe Night Trade by Barry Eisler

“From New York Times bestselling author Barry Eisler…Livia Lone is back.

“For sex-crimes detective Livia Lone, a position with a government anti-trafficking task force is a chance to return to Thailand to ferret out Rithisak Sorm, the kingpin behind her own childhood ordeal.

“But after a planned takedown in a nightclub goes violently awry, Livia discovers that she’s not the only one hunting Sorm. Former marine sniper Dox has a score to settle, too, and working together is the only way to take Sorm out.

“Livia and Dox couldn’t be less alike. But they share a single-minded creed: the law has to serve justice. And if it doesn’t, justice has to be served another way.

“What they don’t know is that in threatening Sorm, they’re also threatening a far-reaching conspiracy—one involving the highest levels of America’s own intelligence apparatus. It turns out that killing Sorm just might be the easy part. The real challenge will be payback from his protectors.”

Book Details

Author: Barry Eisler
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1477820043
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: January 23, 2018
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The Wife.jpgThe Wife by Alafair Burke

“His Scandal
Her Secret

“From New York Times bestselling author Alafair Burke, a stunning domestic thriller in the vein of Behind Closed Doors and The Woman in Cabin 10—in which a woman must make the impossible choice between defending her husband and saving herself.

“When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

“Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look at the man she married. And when she is asked to defend Jason in court, she realizes that her loyalty to her husband could unearth old secrets.

“This much-anticipated follow-up to Burke’s Edgar-nominated The Ex asks how far a wife will go to protect the man she loves: Will she stand by his side, even if he drags her down with him?”

Book Details

Author: Alafair Burke
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062390511
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: January 23, 2018
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Need to knowNeed to Know by Karen Cleveland 

On the surface, Vivian Miller has a happy, perfect life. But all of that’s about to change… 

A CIA analyst tasked with helping to identify and track Russian sleeper cells, Vivian has developed an algorithm that helps her do her job with unprecedented speed and precision. With a few clicks of her mouse, she’s able to pinpoint potential Russian operatives hiding in plain sight on American soil, and then dive into their lives, learning everything about them in real time.While her effectiveness has her on the career fast-track, with a much-deserved promotion on the near horizon, Vivian is proud of the work she does — but is still left feeling guilty that her job keeps her away from her family as much as it does. Thankfully, she has a supportive husband, Matt, with whom she has four kids. They own a modest house in a nice suburb and generally lead happy and fulfilling lives.

One day, while pouring over a fresh batch of potential Russian sleeper cells, Vivian is confronted by a shocking revelation that threatens everything she believes in and everyone she loves. With her entire world suddenly turned upside down, Vivian struggles to balance her family life with her professional life, while scrambling to make sense of her options and how best to move forward.

Karen Cleveland turns heads with her thrilling debut, the rights of which have already been snatched up by Universal Pictures with Charlize Theron attached to play the lead role. Vivian Miller comes across as an average woman with plenty of relatable qualities. Any working parent can sympathize with her constant guilt about working long hours and not spending enough time with her children and spouse. Having worked as an analyst herself, Cleveland expands on that, giving readers a peek behind the curtain, showing the pressure cooker-like situation Vivian works and thrives in from day to day.

While she starts out an ordinary working individual, Vivian quickly morphs into a strong protagonist who grows with the story. That said, this isn’t a Vince Flynn type of storyline, as Cleveland tosses in a number of elements that makes Need to Know read, at times, like a psychological thriller that just so happens to touch on the world of spies and sleeper cells.

Falling somewhere between the Angelina Jolie action flick Salt and the popular television show The Americans, Karen Cleveland’s Need to Know is a terrific debut thriller that reads fast and has enough twists and turns to keep your pulse pounding from start to finish.

Book Details

Author: Karen Cleveland 
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1524797022
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10 
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Tuesday, January 30th


Hellbent.jpgHellbent by Gregg Hurwitz (Featured Selection)

“Do you need my help?

That’s how former government assassin turned vigilante Evan Smoak answers his special RoamZone each time it rings. As a rogue, highly-trained former member of the Orphan Program, a top-secret government project designed to turn children into killers, Evan has left that life behind. Now he’s known only as the Nowhere Man, the last hope for many people in desperate need. 

This time, however, Evan recognizes the voice on the other end of the phone. The person in desperate need of help is Jack Johns, Evan’s mentor and former handler. 

Charles Van Sciver, the head of the Orphan Program, is shutting things down. That means scrubbing everyone still linked to the program, including Evan Smoak, one of the original recruits, who was designated Orphan X. After many failed attempts (shown in past books) Van Sciver finally decides that the best way to get to Orphan X is to go after his handler.

Unable to get to Jack in time to save him, Evan listens in horror as the only father figure he’s ever known is apprehended by a team of operators sent by Van Sciver. Moments later, Jack’s body falls from a helicopter hovering at sixteen thousand feet above ground. 

For the first time in his life since meeting Jack, Evan Smoak feels lost. Too stunned to do anything, Orphan X considers his options, all the while thinking about the message Van Sciver sent to him as the painful truth eats at him. He’s the reason Jack Johns is dead.

At the young age of twelve, Evan was plucked from a Baltimore orphanage and placed in Jack’s care. Like the other handlers, Jack raised Evan to be a killer, teaching him all the necessary tradecraft and skills he’d need to succeed. And succeed, Evan did. But Jack did one thing differently that none of the other handlers even considered with their recruits–he raised Evan like a son and taught him to remain human by ensuring he held onto his conscience. So while Evan is a killer, he’s not a mindless killer, which is what ultimately led to him breaking from the Orphan Program years prior and taking up the mantle as the Nowhere Man. 

Ready to move, Evan begins by retracing Jack’s footsteps. While the message from Van Sciver is painfully clear, there’s another message for Evan to focus on. Before falling from the helicopter, Jack left a coded message of his own–a final mission, and one that Evan must complete at all costs. 

Evan quickly learns that, with the Orphan Program being shut down, Jack had taken in another cast-off and began training them according to the same commandments instilled in Evan. His dying wish is for Evan to find the last Orphan and make sure Van Sciver doesn’t get his hands on them. 

Fueled by his intense thirst for revenge, Evan accepts his mentor’s final mission but also sets his sights on finally burning the Orphan Program to the ground. To do that, he’ll need to stay one step ahead of Van Sciver, the coldest killer the program’s ever produced, and his loyal assassins. 

All of this is made more difficult when Evan’s RoamZone rings yet again. In the midst of trying to find the young Orphan and avenging Jack’s death, there’s now another person in need of the Nowhere Man’s help. Plus, to top it off, Evan is about to learn that the Orphan Program stretches far above Van Sciver, a twist that he didn’t see coming but something that must be dealt with. 

So far, three books in, Gregg Hurwitz is pitching a perfect game. One of the things that makes this series so good is that Hurwitz keeps finding legitimate reasons to continue telling Evan’s story. Unlike other series where authors keep sending their heroes on new world-saving missions, Hurwitz continues to think up compelling scenarios to drop his protagonist into.

The first book (Orphan X) saw Evan helping someone who accidentally got caught up in danger caused by his former life, and the second book (The Nowhere Man) followed Evan who, coincidentally, found himself in the very type of situation someone would typically call him for help with. And while the first two installments are terrific, Hellbent, which features the most personal mission for Evan yet, is something special. 

Well-written and engaging, Hurwitz’s pacing is quick and relentless as Orphan X soars to new heights in Hellbent, a serious contender for best thriller of the year. Someone tell Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne to move over–Evan Smoak is the new king of the genre. 

Book Details

Author: Gregg Hurwitz
Series: Evan Smoak #3
Pages: 403 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250119170
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.5/10
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Into the black nowhereInto the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

Evil resides everywhere, but in Meg Gardiner’s new novel, it calls Gideon County, Texas home. 

Following her hit novel, UNSUB (2016), Gardiner brings back former California-based narcotics detective Caitlin Hendrix, who is now a rookie FBI agent assigned to the bureau’s elite Behavioral Analysis Unit.  After proving to have a knack for tracking killers in California, Caitlin’s new gig allows her to cross state lines and pursue the most dangerous and deranged murderers in the country. 

The story opens with an overtired first-time mother waking up to the familiar sound of her ten-month-old baby crying. It’s just after midnight when Shana Kerber rolls out of her bed, notices that her husband, Brandon, still isn’t home yet, and heads for the nursery where little Jaydee is yelling for her late night snack.

To her horror, Shana finds Jaydee’s room empty and follows the crying to the living room, where a stranger is sitting on her couch, holding her crying daughter. They say everyone has a gun in Texas, but it doesn’t mean people carry them throughout the house. Unfortunately for Shana, her 12 gauge is under the bed, leaving her unarmed, tired, too stunned to think clearly, and totally vulnerable. When Brandon arrives home a tick after one in the morning, he finds the front door open and Jaydee crying on the family room floor. His wife is nowhere to be found. 

Two days after Shana vanishes, Caitlin is read into the situation brewing in Texas. It turns out that Shana is actually the fifth woman to go missing over the past six months. All of the disappearances have occurred on Saturday nights around similar circumstances. More alarming is the fact that the disappearances are occurring closer together, suggesting that whoever is behind the vanishings is gaining confidence.

After the Gideon County Sheriff’s Department asks for the FBI’s help, it’s wheels up for the Behavioral Analysis Unit, led by legendary FBI profiler, Special Agent in Charge C.J. Emmerich. Along with Emmerich and Caitlin is Brianne Rainey, a ten-year veteran of the FBI and a brilliant investigator. Together, the trio starts building a profile of the Texas murderer, who has more than a few things in common with real-life serial killer Ted Bundy. 

As Caitlin gets further into the mind of the killer, she finds herself drawn to one man in particular, but catching him proves to be much harder than she originally thought. As a dangerous game of cat and mouse gets underway, Gardiner dials up the suspense on her way to delivering another nail-biting climax that will have readers glued to their reading chairs. 

Meg Gardiner is at her best yet again, terrifying readers with another wickedly-good storyline that’s impossible to put down. The author has clearly done her homework, going into great detail to explain the thought process behind a killer’s actions as they prey on their victims. Likewise, Gardiner provides tremendous and interesting insight into how investigators look at everything, even the smallest of details, inside a crime scene for clues as they work to identify traits and characteristics about the killer they’re chasing. It’s all fascinating, and Caitlin–one of the strongest new female protagonists in the genre–is the perfect lead to bring it all to life. 

Keep the lights on while you read this one… Meg Gardiner’s Into The Black Nowhere is a gripping crime thriller that will chill you to the bone and leave you begging for more.

Book Details

Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: UNSUB #2
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1101985550
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10 
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51beqOUGjFL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Dark in Death by J.D. Robb

“Lieutenant Eve Dallas returns in Dark in Death, by J.D. Robb, the #1 New York Times bestselling master of suspense, and takes on a case of death imitating art…

It was a stab in the dark.

“On a chilly February night, during a screening of Psycho in midtown, someone sunk an ice pick into the back of Chanel Rylan’s neck, then disappeared quietly into the crowds of drunks and tourists in Times Square. To Chanel’s best friend, who had just slipped out of the theater for a moment to take a call, it felt as unreal as the ancient black-and-white movie up on the screen. But Chanel’s blood ran red, and her death was anything but fictional.

“Then, as Eve Dallas puzzles over a homicide that seems carefully planned and yet oddly personal, she receives a tip from an unexpected source: an author of police thrillers who recognizes the crime―from the pages of her own book. Dallas doesn’t think it’s coincidence, since a recent strangulation of a sex worker resembles a scene from her writing as well. Cops look for patterns of behavior: similar weapons, similar MOs. But this killer seems to find inspiration in someone else’s imagination, and if the theory holds, this may be only the second of a long-running series.

“The good news is that Eve and her billionaire husband Roarke have an excuse to curl up in front of the fireplace with their cat, Galahad, reading mystery stories for research. The bad news is that time is running out before the next victim plays an unwitting role in a murderer’s deranged private drama―and only Eve can put a stop to a creative impulse gone horribly, destructively wrong.”

Book Details

Author: J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #46
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250161533
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: January 30, 2018
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Killer choiceKiller Choice by Tom Hunt

How far would you go in order to try and save a loved one? That’s the question Tom Hunt explores in his fast-paced debut thriller, Killer Choice

Gary Foster is an ordinary guy who is suddenly dealt a cruel and devastating blow when Beth, his pregnant wife, is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer after she suddenly collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital for tests.

As reality sets in and the couple begins to process the fact that Beth’s cancer is inoperable, Gary starts looking for other options, no matter how far-reaching they may be. He learns that Beth’s only hope is an experimental treatment done abroad, but their insurance won’t cover it. Co-owners of a small business in River Falls, Michigan, the Fosters don’t have the $200,000 to pursue the treatment themselves.

After unsuccessfully trying to raise the money through various means and resources, things take a jarring turn when a mysterious stranger offers Gary the money, under one condition: he has to kill someone, no questions asked. 

Tom Hunt does a fine job showing the torment Gary goes through as he tries to make his decision, and then as he tries to rationalize and justify his choice to do whatever it takes to save his dying wife. Things don’t go the way Gary imagined, but once he’s crossed that moral line, there’s no going back. Instead, he pushes forward, doing things he never imagined doing, while grappling with the fallout and consequences of his actions. 

While the story pops with emotion and suspense, things eventually fall into a predictable pattern. The final act lacks the same drama that fuels the plot early on, and the ending itself is one many readers will likely see coming. Still, as a whole, Hunt’s first thriller is exciting, thought-provoking, and just plain fun to read. It’s easy to wonder what you might be capable of in Gary’s shoes, and that’s part of the magic here. . . Gary could be any of us. 

Killer Choice features a brilliant concept, and author Tom Hunt excels at translating raw emotions onto the page. There’s a handful of very solid debuts coming out in 2018, and this is definitely one of them.

Book Details

Author: Tom Hunt
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399586407
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 30, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0/10 
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  1. Will read Robicheaux, Operator Down, Light It Up, Cutting Edge, and Hellbent from the
    January reading list. Thank you so much for continuing these lists into 2018.
    Happy New Year!

    • Thank you, Diana, for following and being such a great reader. All of the books you mentioned are really good. Hellbent and Operator Down are probably my favorites, but Robicheaux is right up there too. . . and Cutting Edge and Light it Up are both very solid. Happy New Year!

  2. Strong start to the year!

    Planning to read Traitor, Operator Down, Need to Know, Hell Bent, and potentially Munich and The Take if time allows. Happy New Year to Ryan and all of the RBS readers!

  3. Hellbent is top of my list. Munich is excellent as it was out in europe months ago and need to know is also going to be on my list.

    • Looking back on this and after reading Need to Know, i can honestly say that this was the first book I ever sped read just to get to the end of it. It was like a bad sampling of 50 shades of Spies. Tame and Momsy and if this is going to a basis of a top notch film I will NOT be waiting with abated breath. Enid Blyton would of done better with Five go on a mole hunt…..

  4. My plan for this year is to read every book on your monthly reading list. However, that’s impossible for me to do in a month only because I’m OCD when it comes to reading a series of books out of order.
    For this month, I’ll definitely read/listen to Brad Taylor, Meg Gardiner, AJ Finn, Robert Harris, Gregg Hurwitz and Karen Cleveland.

    • Finished Operator Down – Great Book, Easily an 8 or higher
      Finished The Woman in the Window – Good Book, I’d say 6-7
      Next up – Robicheaux

  5. Traitor by Jonathan de Shalit is a good book and worth reading from someone that really knows what is really going on. With this being his first in English book, he will be one to watch and see if he starts adding in the action scenes that we all love and crave!

  6. I have already read Traitor and Need to know thanks to your earlier list of 2018 debut thrillers. Now on to the new Unsub and brad Taylor books. Thanks as always Ryan.

  7. I just Finished Operstor Down by Brad Taylor. I must say, this was the first book of this series that I’ve read but after finishing this, I plan on reading more! I loved the plot and how the two, seemingly separate operations, threaded into one with the awesome twist of the wonderful yet crazy Shoshana lol. No one better get in her way! Action packed with numerous twists and turns, this is book you can’t pass up!

  8. Just finished “Full Assault mode” by Dalton fury. Not his best work but good. Rated it three stars. Book should have been 200 pages less. Original material, and excellent storyline and character development.

  9. Just finished “final target“ by John Gilstrap. Exceptional! Rated it 5 stars.It had everything including cowboys and Indians, metaphorically speaking.

  10. Just finished Mark Greaney’s Gray Man Series…can not wait for the next book!! Brad Taylor’s Operator Down was amazing, didn’t want it to end! So glad he kept Shoshana and Aaron around. Had the pleasure of seeing Brad at Murder by the Book book signing in Houston….what a great time! Now on to Nick Petrie’s Light It Up. I don’t know anything about this author or this book, totally going on your recommendation…not worried, you haven’t let me down yet!!!

  11. Finished Robicheaux and was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the best story but it is so well written that it keeps you going. Cletus Purcell makes a great side kick too. Whoever likes audiobooks, Will Patton does an amazing job on this one.

    • Need to Know by Karen Cleveland, completed just now and I hate to say that it just wasn’t good to me. A lot of filler and fluff compiled with foolish actions by the main character.

      • Finished listening to Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz. His best book by far!!! A very tough choice between Operator Down and Hellbent as the best book so for this year.

  12. Brad Taylor is not my favorite writer. Just finished “ring of fire“, and gave it three stars. I keep reading his books because other readers give him such high marks, but he never fails to disappoint me.

  13. Finished my selections from your January list and what a thrilling ride!!
    Robicheaux, Operator Down, Light It Up, Cutting Edge, and Hellbent.
    My favorite is Operator Down, but Peter Ash(Light it up) and Trey Debolt
    (Cutting Edge) are in the running for my favorite protagonists. Now on to
    February! Thank you, Ryan, for compiling these reading lists!

  14. Just finished Into the Black Nowhere. Great Crime Thriller. Meg Gardiner hit a home run with this book and her character Caitlin Hendrix. Looking forward to more UNSUB books.

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