The Real Book Spy’s May 2018 Reading Guide

Welcome to May! 

We’re one month away from summer, when some of the genre’s biggest stars (Daniel Silva, Brad Thor, Mike Maden, etc.) hit bookstores. Still, May is bringing the pain too, with plenty of action-packed thrillers set to come out. 

For starters, Alex Hawke makes his highly-anticipated return in Ted Bell’s Overkill, nearly three years since the last time fans saw him in Patriot (2015). This time out, Hawke mixes it up with Vladimir Putin, who kidnaps Alex’s son in order to distract the MI6 operator while he plans a daring attack. All of Bell’s stuff is fantastic, but this one might be his best yet. 

Matthew Betley’s third Logan West novel, Field of Valor, comes out later this month and is an absolute must for fans of high-flying political thrillers. Betley’s latest is one of my favorite books of the year, and, while the guy’s known for his amazing action sequences, Betley shows plenty of ability to manipulate readers’ emotions with several tear-jerking scenes. Seriously, this book’s not to be missed, so make sure you pick it up right away. 

Following other hit debut novels like The Terminal List (Jack Carr) and Warning Light (David Ricciardi), Nicholas Irving, one of the most decorated snipers in the history of the United States military, is set to release his first novel (he’s penned a couple nonfiction books already), Reaper: Ghost Target, which was co-authored with A.J. Tata. Like Irving, Tata is a decorated combat veteran, but he’s also an accomplished thriller author. Together, those guys are lights-out, and Reaper is so awesome that I read it in one sitting. Think Stephen Hunter meets Brad Thor, and you’ve got Irving’s new hero, Vick Harwood, who is loosely based on himself. 

Ace Atkins (Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic) once again does his thing with Spenser, Robert B. Parker’s Boston-based private investigator; and Peter Kirsanow (Second Strike), one of the most underrated thriller authors working today, brings back Tier One operator Michael Garin for another hard-hitting mission to stop a Russian attack on U.S. soil. Stephen King (The Outsiders) has a new book out, as does Larry Bond (Arctic Gambit), two guys who’ve done it for a long time. . . and when it comes to nail-biting psychological thrillers, Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother is every bit as great as The Girl on the Train

Browse all this month’s new releases below, then leave a comment to let us know which books you’re most excited about! 

Tuesday, May 1st

OverkillOverkill by Ted Bell (Featured Selection)

Lord Hawke, one of fiction’s greatest heroes, returns in Overkill, the explosive new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Ted Bell. 

Following Bell’s last bestseller, Patriot (2015), Alex Hawke is still at odds with his frenemy Vladimir Putin, the ruthless Russian president who saw his last attempt to strike fear into the West thwarted by the former MI6 agent. This time around, Putin has a new plan in the works to blast back onto the world stage, and he’s come up with a daring way to take Hawke off the board while he implements his new sinister plot, a little operation he calls Overkill

Both loved and hated in his own country, the Russian president finds himself in the middle of an assassination attempt aboard his Gulfstream 750. He’s made powerful enemies in the traitorous Oligarch criminals inside the Kremlin, who have hatched an elaborate plan to have him killed. A former KGB agent himself, Putin has long sensed what is coming and has taken provisions to protect himself.  So when his private aircraft crashes into a fiery ball high in the Alps, the world thinks Putin is dead — which is just what he wanted. 

Hawke, meanwhile, spends a vibrant Christmas morning with his son, Alexei, as the two embark on a ski trip in Switzerland, soaking up some much-needed father-son time. 

Terror suddenly strikes, though, when a mysterious explosion rocks their cable car, snapping wires and cables halfway up the mountain. Their dangling gondola, suddenly reduced to a death box of panic and fear, is left hanging thousands of feet above the ground. A brilliant rescue operation saves most on board, but back at the hospital, Hawke’s world is rocked for the second time that same day when he discovers that Alexei was never admitted to receive medical attention along with the other children.

After searching the hospital and the surrounding area, Hawke realizes his son has been kidnapped, and vows to do whatever is necessary in order to get his boy back.

Lending a hand is Chief Inspector Ambrose Congreve, one of Hawke’s dearest and most trusted friends — whose brilliant detection abilities are put to good use here. For muscle, Hawke calls on his old pal Stokely Jones, along with a few others (including several surprise returning characters), and together the newly assembled team begins a manhunt like no other.

As the search gets underway, Hawke makes a disturbing connection between his son’s disappearance and Putin’s questionable whereabouts, leading to a stunning ending that will leave readers gasping for air and begging more.

Bell’s tenth Alex Have thriller has it all — action, conspiracies, nonstop twists and turns, badass heroes, and villains galore. One of the antagonists, a man who goes by the name Shit Smith, may very well go down as one of the best baddies in the series to date, and Putin’s hideout, a fortress he calls the Falcon’s Lair (those who’ve read Bell’s novella White Death will recognize it), is as cool as it gets. 

A master wordsmith, Ted Bell is one of the most gifted writers alive today regardless of genre, and nobody is able to manipulate readers’ feelings quite like he can. His stunning visual descriptions go perfectly with his natural storytelling ability and acute attention to detail, placing readers right in the line of fire with Hawke — a compelling leading man who’s walked through the fires of hell more than any other mainstream protagonist in print today. 

Alex Hawke is this generation’s James Bond, and Overkill screams with gripping, high-octane action from start to finish. . .  Effortless, timely, and masterfully written, Ted Bell’s latest is an absolute must. If you enjoy Fleming, Clancy, or Flynn, and haven’t met Lord Hawke yet, do not wait another second!

Book Details

Author: Ted Bell
SeriesAlex Hawke #10
Pages: 496 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062684515
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10


Old black magicRobert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic by Ace Atkins 

To investigate a decades-old crime, Spenser, the Boston-based private investigator, navigates the mysterious waters that are the black market art scene in Ace Atkins’ latest thriller, Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic.

Twenty years after the infamous theft, the art world is still talking about the night that thieves stole three rare paintings from the Winthrop Museum. The perpetrators were never caught, and the paintings never recovered. Many believed the paintings were stashed away or sold, while others feared they were destroyed. 

Now, two decades later, new life is breathed into the cold case when Marjorie Ward, the Winthrop’s director, begins receiving mysterious letters that seem to provide proof that the paintings are out there.

Spenser, on the surface, doesn’t care about the Winthrop Museum or the people who run it — a feeling that is entirely mutual. In fact, the iconic PI only gets involved when Locke, an old friend and colleague, asks him to.  Sadly, Locke, who has tracked the case for many years, is dying. The ill investigator passes the case to Spenser, who is quick to point out that he has done art before, even if it’s not his area of expertise.

Of the three missing works, El Greco’s The Gentleman in Black, valued around $70 million, is considered the biggest prize of the bunch. However, when Marjorie Ward goes about getting them back — through means Spenser doesn’t agree with — things take a dark turn. Subsequently, Spenser is released from the case, and a fancy British investigator is brought in to replace him. The silver lining for Spenser is that he’s now freed up to pursue the paintings completely on his own, without any oversight from Marjorie or the Winthrop Museum. 

Deciding to see the case through, in part because of a massive reward the museum has offered to anyone who locates the paintings, Spenser goes back to the beginning to run down every lead. Instead, he finds that most of the detectives and police officers who originally worked the case are now retired. But it’s another revelation when he stumbles upon ties to the Boston mob that changes the course of the investigation. . . as things instantly become far more dangerous for Robert B. Parker’s legendary character. 

Ace Atkins continues to be right on the money, again churning out a fantastic novel to keep Spenser alive and well. What he’s done with this series since taking over after Parker’s death is incredible. Nothing against Jesse Stone and the job Reed Ferrell Coleman has done there (he’s been lights-out as well), but Atkins reigns supreme and brings a needed energy to Spenser and this beloved franchise.

Atkins’ portrayal of Spenser is true and authentic to the character Robert B. Parker created. Where he’s upped the ante is by infusing colorful secondary characters and villains into the plot, something he’s known for with his own Quinn Colson (The Fallen, etc.) series. That’s especially true with this book, as Spencer delves into the deep underworld of black market art deals and shady business dealings. 

Atkins brought his A-game yet again, delivering his best Spenser novel so far. . . Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic is a wild and fun ride, with a final twist that’s sure to leave readers heads’ spinning.

Book Details

Author: Ace Atkins
Series: Spenser #47
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399177019
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10


Alter EgoAlter Ego by Brian Freeman

Old demons come back to haunt Jonathan Stride in Alter Ego, the ninth novel in Brian Freeman’s (Marathon, etc.) bestselling series. 

Years back, Stride, a police lieutenant in Duluth, Minnesota, apprehended a serial killer by the name of Art Leipold. A reporter by day, Art had killed multiple young women before Jonathan Stride was able to bring him down, ending a high-profile case that caught the attention of some major Hollywood players. Now, a movie is set to begin filming in Duluth, and Stride is just one of many local residents who want nothing to do with reliving the evil experience.

On a remote back road, a deadly car accident leaves Stride feeling like a bigger game is afoot when the driver, who was killed in the crash, turns out to be an experienced hitman in possession of a gun that’s linked to another murder. The following day, Haley Adams, a college student in Duluth who was working as an intern on the film set, goes missing.

His gut tells him that the two incidents are connected, though Stride isn’t sure how. He begins his investigation by visiting the set, where A-list actor Dean Casperson is portraying him in the movie. Rather than becoming starstruck, though, Stride leaves with an uneasy feeling towards Casperson, who, by all accounts, is a nice, charming, and sought-after megastar with a huge fan base and serious box office appeal. However, his intuition is later proved to be right on the money when it’s revealed that Haley Adams isn’t actually Haley Adams, but someone else using a fake ID to get close to Dean Casperson. . .  which causes Jonathan Stride to wonder what, exactly, the star actor is up to that someone would go to such lengths in order to spy on him. 

It turns out that beneath his thousand-watt smile and charming demeanor, Casperson has a dark alter ego, and Stride soon finds himself going toe-to-toe with the man playing him on the big screen in what quickly becomes the most dangerous case of his career. 

Brian Freeman took a really unique and compelling story idea and absolutely knocked it out of the park. All the characters, including the villain, are well-developed, and Freeman does so in a way that doesn’t bog the story down or sacrifice pacing. Filled with nonstop surprises around every corner, and twists most readers will never see coming, Freeman ramps up the suspense on his way to delivering an exciting ending that’ll stay with readers long after turning the final page. 

Brian Freeman ups his game with his latest offering. . .  Alter Ego is the kind of you thriller you don’t want to end, and one you won’t be able to stop talking about once it does. 

Book Details

Author: Brian Freeman
Series: Jonathan Stride #9
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1681441292
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10


A Loyal Spy.jpgA Loyal Spy by Simon Conway

“Winner of the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award, a Contemporary Spy Thriller for Fans of Brad Thor and John Le Carré.The last time Jonah saw Nor ed-Din, he was lying face-down in a pool of icy water in the Khyber Pass. He thought he had killed him, but now the trail of betrayal has come full circle.

Friends since childhood, Jonah and Nor ed-Din had been groomed for the intelligence service, with Jonah as handler for Nor’s penetration of ISI. But when Nor is cut loose after the Soviets are forced to withdraw from Afghanistan, the pattern of engagement and abandonment begins. Years later, when contact with Nor is revived to stage an off-the-books, multi-agency assassination attempt on Bin Laden that goes badly wrong, Jonah no longer knows who Nor is really working for—and whether he has simply taken revenge on his former countrymen in a private act of jihad.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the failed operation comes back to haunt its survivors, sowing mistrust when they most need CIA support. For, gradually, the outlines of a plot begin to emerge that takes Nor from the diamond fields of Africa to the mountains of Afghanistan and to the beating heart of London, where millions of lives are at stake.”

Book Details

Author: Simon Conway
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 162872823X
Publisher: Arcade 
Release Date: May 1, 2018


The Perfect motherThe Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

Aimee Molloy’s exciting new psychological thriller (which is being adapted for film with Scandal‘s Kerry Washington attached to star) follows a group of new mothers and their relationships when one of them discovers their child is missing.

Twice a week, the “May Mothers,” a group of women who all gave birth to their first child within the same month, meet up at Prospect Park to talk, share their feelings, and discuss their children and motherhood in general. But, needing a weekend to blow off steam and let loose without any strollers, diaper bags, or crying children to interrupt them, the group plans a kid-free Fourth of July trip to the bar. 

Nell Mackey, the good-looking, unofficial leader of the group, knows that Winnie Ross — who is much quieter and reserved than the other ladies — won’t go for their night out due to concerns about not being there for her young son, Midas. So, naturally, Nell takes things into her own hands and arranges for her nanny, Alma, to watch Midas. Problem solved. However, after a night of drinking, horror strikes when Alma calls to report that Midas is missing from his crib and is nowhere to be found.

In the aftermath of Midas’ kidnapping, the May Mothers are heavily scrutinized by the media, who puts each woman (author Colette Yates and Francie Givens, who recently moved to New York from down south, round out the group) under the microscope. Their lives are picked apart, and their jobs as mothers are called into question as nearly every decision they’ve made is analyzed by people and talking heads who’ve never met them. The investigating isn’t just external, though, as the ladies quickly go about exploring each other’s lives, revealing more than a few secrets to go with several perfectly-timed twists as Molloy’s superb story unfolds. 

There’s so much to love about this book, which is hard to compare to anything else on store shelves right now. First of all, Molloy’s plot feels honest and real, and most everyone will relate to at least one of the characters. There’s no doubt that being a mom in today’s world bears added stress and pressure thanks, in part, to unfair expectations that are thrown in our faces by reality TV and various sitcoms. The bar isn’t just set high — in most cases, it’s altogether unobtainable, and society looks down on those who are deemed to be parenting the “wrong” way. All of that is explored here, but there’s also so much else going on. . . 

Aside from the parenting stuff and how that relates to the real world, Molloy’s novel is still, at its core, a delicious suspense thriller that dazzles with its ability to shock readers over and over again. Things seem straightforward at first, and many readers will be fooled into thinking they’ve figured everything out way before the final act. But, in splendid Harlan Coben-like fashion, Molloy finds ways to keep readers off-balance and guessing right up until the end.

Aimee Molloy’s The Perfect Mother is sensational. . . raw, honest, and surprisingly refreshing. Fans of Gillian Flynn have got to read this book. 

Book Details

Author: Aimee Molloy
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062696793
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10


Tuesday, May 8th

Reaper bookReaper: Ghost Target by Nicholas Irving and A.J. Tata (Featured Selection)

Elite sniper Vick “The Reaper” Harwood is an American hero. . . but is he also a blood-thirsty vigilante? 

That’s the premise for Reaper: Ghost Target, the must-read new thriller from real-life sniper Nicholas Irving (the real Reaper and inspiration for Harwood) and retired brigadier general turned bestselling author, A.J. Tata. 

On the heels of a failed operation in Afghanistan, Harwood returns to the United States without his spotter or his beloved rifle, which he affectionately refers to as “Lindsay,” and with very little memory of what actually happened. 

He was sent to kill his nemesis, Khasan Basayev. Nicknamed “the Chechen,” Basayev and Harwood have faced off more than once on the same battlefield, representing different sides of the war. Three weeks earlier, the Chechen had shot Harwood’s friend and spotter, Jor LaBoeuf, between the eyes. Now, ready to claim retribution with the squeeze of a trigger, Harwood finally had the drop on Basayev.

Laying prone behind his rifle from eight hundred yards out, Harwood peered through the scope and laid the crosshairs on the Chechen’s head. But before he could pull the trigger, mortar rounds started exploding all around him. In the midst of all the explosions and subsequent flying debris, Harwood was knocked unconscious.  

He wakes up a week later in a military hospital, surrounded by doctors and nurses. He sustained a serious head injury, which has affected his memory, among other things, and he can only remember bits and pieces of the mission. He’s eventually deemed unfit for active duty and sent back to the States. 

Just like that, one of the most feared snipers in America’s military, the man with a record thirty-three kills in just ninety days, is forced to sit on the sidelines. 

Months later, Harwood is doing better physically, but mentally he still struggles with weird “episodes” where he blacks out for minutes at a time. He’s now teaching special forces snipers around the country, trying to complete his rehab so he can get back into the game and on the battlefield with his fellow soldiers. He’s also dating Olympic gold medalist Jackie Colt, a sharpshooter with world-class precision, whom he met back in Afghanistan when she traveled with other athletes and celebrities in an effort to meet and give back to the troops. He’s happy, but something is missing. . . 

The blackout episodes are getting worse, and more frequent, which frustrates Harwood. He’s supposed to be the Reaper, a living legend. His men look to him and ride into combat knowing that as long as the Reaper has their back, they have a leg up on the enemy. 

The story takes its first high-powered turn when a general is assassinated near Fort Bragg — shot through the head from a long distance away. Harwood had been experiencing a blackout at the time of the shooting, and cannot confirm his whereabouts. A similar incident happens again a few days later. And again, Harwood had been incapacitated by a blackout, leaving him with no alibi or recollection of what happened. The story twists a second time when a special FBI task force headed up by Deke Bronson, a former marine who saw combat in Fallujah, traces the bullets to Harwood’s rifle, making him the prime suspect in the high-profile killings. 

As a trail of bodies piles up, leading right back to Harwood, the Reaper is forced to go on the run in an attempt to evade authorities while he searches for the truth. While the whole country thinks he’s become an unhinged killer, Harwood refuses to believe he’s capable of such traitorous actions. Clearing his name, though, won’t be easy, especially when he realizes it’s those closest to him who holds the key to making sense of what’s happening. 

Written by two guys with plenty of first-hand experience, Reaper: Ghost Target bleeds with gripping authenticity from beginning to end. Irving and Tata are a lethal combination, and Vick Harwood is a hero unlike anyone else the genre has to offer. . . think of a modern-day Captain America, but instead of a shield, the Reaper uses an SR-25 sniper rifle, taking out enemies from up to a mile away with devastating precision. 

Balls-to-the-wall action meets a chilling conspiracy in this phenomenal start to a promising new series from heavy-hitters Irving and Tata. Do not miss this book! 

Book Details

Author: Nicholas Irving and A.J. Tata
Series: Vick Harwood #1
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250127343
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10


The crooked staircaseThe Crooked Staircase by Dean Koontz

Jane Hawk is back in Dean Koontz’s latest novel, and she’s continuing her war against the people behind the death of her husband. 

For those not caught up on the series, Jane’s husband, a decorated Marine, was brainwashed before killing himself. . . but he wasn’t the only one. In a massive conspiracy, the government has taken to implementing nanotech technology into men and women across the country, which has caused a significant spike in the national suicide rate. Few people know the truth behind everything, but Jane is hellbent on bringing the shadowy cabal to its knees — a task that remains nearly impossible. 

Already, Jane has been in hot water and branded a traitor to her country. Forced to live on the run, Jane’s son is in hiding — though the hope of one day returning to him is a serious motivator — and she’s still adjusting to her suddenly upside-down life. 

Continuing her siege against those running the mind-control program, Jane sets her sights on Booth Hendrickson, the man behind the conspiracy. But Hendrickson, an official with the Department of Justice, is a hard man to get to, especially when you’re the most wanted fugitive in America. Jane finds a way in that requires her getting close to a woman named Petra Quist. If she can do that, she can climb the ladder to Hendrickson, who may be underestimating Jane, a woman who, at this point, has nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking chances and playing it fast and loose. 

A lot of the themes from Koontz’s first two books overlap here, though the story does take on its own shape somewhere around the half-way point. For those who’ve played the Splinter Cell games, Jane Hawke is sort of like a female version of Sam Fisher. She’s great at a lot of things, and very good at everything else. There’s no obstacle she can’t climb, no bad guy she can’t take out, and no technology she can’t crack. She’s a well-rounded heroine who will stop at nothing to meet her objective. . . and for what it’s worth, it’s a heck of a lot of fun watching her do her thing. 

Koontz understands how to play up the suspense and balance that with a quick-moving plot. The Crooked Staircase is well-written and fun, though the overall story itself does require readers to suspend their disbelief at times. 

Book Details

Author: Dean Koontz
Series: Jane Hawk #3
Pages: 512 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 052548342X
Publisher: Bantam
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10


For those who know the ending.jpgFor Those Who Know the Ending by Malcolm Mackay 

“Martin Sivok is in trouble. Tied to a chair, plastic strips biting his wrists, inside a deserted warehouse. . . There are only so many ways this scenario can end, most of them badly. For now his best hope is figuring out who put him here–and staying conscious long enough to confront them.
To stay awake he reviews the past year of his life: evading the law in the Czech Republic by running to Glasgow, settling into a borderline respectable relationship with his landlady, and getting back into the life at the very bottom of the criminal ladder, alongside Usman Kassar, a cocky, goofy kid anxious to prove himself.
The job should be simple: Smash heads, grab cash, run. The trouble with being two outsiders is, you don’t always know whose heads are too dangerous to crack, or whose cash is too hot to handle…
In sharp, precise prose, Malcolm Mackay–an “elegant stylist” unmatched in contemporary noir (Chicago Tribune)–captures the character of Glasgow and its underworld denizens.”
Book Details

Author: Malcolm Mackay 
Pages: 272 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316556076
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Release Date: May 8, 2018

The agencyThe Agencyby James Phelan 

Set in 2005, Jed Walker returns for a fifth time out in James Phelan’s latest novel, The Agency.

Following a ten-year career in the Air Force as part of their special ops division, Jed Walker joins the CIA rather than take a desk job, then breezes through their training program. While other recruits stumble and fail to live up to expectations, Walker exceeds them — and impresses his superiors. 

In no time, Walker is approached to carry out his first mission, though the details are a little sketchy from the get-go. Rather than head overseas, Legendary CIA operative Harold Richter tasks Walker with heading to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he’ll have no backup and no official ties to the world’s premier spy agency. Walker heads out and gets started, but quickly finds his path crossing with Steph Mensch, an attractive British agent working on behalf of MI6. It turns out that both Walker and Steph have been sent to monitor a yacht full of Russians, who are in the area to make a splashy purchase.

Walker’s job is to find out what they’re buying and who’s selling it, but things take a turn when Steph is kidnapped, forcing Walker to make tough choices that could have devastating consequences not only for himself and Steph, but also for the nation he’s sworn to protect. To save the day, he’ll need to go off-mission, and with Hurricane Katrina barreling down on New Orleans, there’s very little time to act, and absolutely no room for error. . . 

Jed Walker’s first mission with the CIA is a doozie, and James Phelan does a fine job slowly revealing the big picture to readers, building plenty of tension and suspense along the way. The characters are developed nicely, especially Walker and Steph, and by dropping this fictional plot into such a significant moment of American history, the story has a very real feel to it. Plenty of writers have tried to pull off stories against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina, but few have succeeded. While James Lee Burke is still the gold standard there, Phelan does a fine job himself. 

If there’s a negative to be had, it’s that Walker feels a tad too perfect in the beginning. Asking readers to believe anyone can breeze through the CIA’s training requires suspending your disbelief, but that’s hardly something to get upset over. On the other hand, many readers may find a certain line in the beginning about members of the United States Army to be at best distasteful, and at worst offensive. 

Overall, James Phelan’s The Agency is a top-notch spy thriller that continues to develop Jed Walker into a formidable protagonist on par with Jack Reacher and John Wells.

Book Details

Author: James Phelan
Series: Jed Walker #5
Pages: 350 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1681440075
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10


Gale ForceGale Forceby Owen Laukkanen

Owen Laukkanen puts his Stevens & Windermere series (The Forgotten Girls) on hold to deliver this gripping maritime thriller.  

McKenna Rhodes is a fine salvage captain. If there’s a single knock on her or her ship, Gale Force, it’s that she’s untested. However, that changes quickly when Pacific Lion, a massive cargo ship, suffers damage on its way to the United States and suddenly needs a tow to safety. 

Rhodes inherited Gale Force from her father, who died at sea in an accident. McKenna witnessed his death, and it changed her. No longer is she fearless of the deep sea, opting instead to stay tight to the Alaska coastline. But refusing to take chances means that Rhodes and her crew are barely making ends meet and are struggling to keep their operation going. So when the owners of the Pacific Lion offer $30 million to whoever can tow their cargo ship to safety, that kind of cash goes a long way to making Rhodes feel less apprehensive.

If money talks, $30 million screams right in your face. 

Unfortunately for Rhodes, she’s not the only one after the money. Other ships, including one bigger than hers, are en route to Pacific Lion‘s position in hopes of scoring the reward money for saving the massive vessel out of Yokohama. But that’s hardly the only hurdle in Rhodes’ way. . . 

As if the swirling winds and violent seas aren’t dangerous enough, Rhodes knows that her crew will need to risk their lives in order to complete the job. What she doesn’t know, though, is that a man named Tomio Ishimaru had snuck onto the Pacific Lion after stealing $50 million in Yakuza bearer bonds. Multiple criminal organizations want Ishimaru’s head and the money he stole, making the weather and raging waters the least of Rhodes’ problems — something she’ll soon find out. 

While there have been some great thrillers with high-powered action sequences taking place at sea in recent memory (Mark Cameron’s Tom Clancy Power and Empire, David Poyer’s Hunter Killerand almost everything from Cussler’s universe, just to name a couple from last year alone), I can’t think of a single thriller comparable to Laukkanen’s latest offering, which is really remarkable when so many new releases are just retellings of the same story already printed over and over again with different names and cover art. 

While it might seem odd jumping into a book that stars a salvage boat and its crew, Laukkanen’s natural storytelling ability is enough to hook readers early on, even before the action kicks off. Once it does, there’s tons of suspense and enough high-speed twists to make readers feel like they’re on the choppy waters with McKenna Rhodes. Laukkanen’s character development is flawless, making readers really care about Rhodes and her crew. Trust me, more than a few will be holding their breath as the ending nears. 

Owen Laukkanen’s latest thriller features a riveting, tense, and blazing-fast plot. . . his Stevens & Windermere series is solid, but Gale Force is Laukkanen’s finest work so far. 

Book Details

Author: Owen Laukkanen
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735212635
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10


Blackout.jpgBlackout by Alex Segura

“In Blackout, the latest novel in Alex Segura’s acclaimed Pete Fernandez Mystery series, startling new evidence in a cold case that’s haunted Pete drags the exiled PI back to his hometown of Miami. But as Pete and his partner Kathy Bentley delve deeper into the unsolved murder, they become entangled in Miami’s obsession with a charismatic and dangerous cult leader and his even more menacing followers. At the same time, the detectives find themselves at odds with a Florida politician’s fixation on wealth, fame and power. It all converges in the heart of the Magic City and Pete is left scrambling to pick up the pieces―or die trying.

The Pete Fernandez novels have always run on two tracks – the long-buried Miami mystery that Pete is forced to solve, and Pete’s often unpredictable evolution from self-destructive alcoholic to somewhat functional private eye. In Blackout, those two tracks blend into one dark, personal and deadly tale of dangerous obsession that will leave Pete Fernandez completely changed. It’s all been building to this.”

Book Details

Author: Alex Segura 
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1947993046
Publisher: Polis Books
Release Date: May 8, 2018


ObscuraObscura by Joe Hart

Set in the year 2028, Doctor Gillian Ryan fights back against a devastating new disease running rampant, affecting countless innocent lives, in Joe Hart’s new standalone novel, Obscura.

A super form of dementia is slowly moving across humanity like a plague, leaving a pile of bodies in its wake. For neural radiologist Gillian Ryan, finding a cure to the deadly disease is more than just a job, it’s inherently personal as she’s already lost her husband to it and now faces the very real possibility of losing her eight-year-old daughter, Carrie, as well. The disease, known as Losian’s disease, presents itself much like Alzheimer’s, affecting patients neurologically, though it progresses much faster than anything doctors and scientists have seen before. 

When her own private funding dries up, Ryan is given the chance to get out of the lab and be part of a NASA team that’s heading to a space station where, coincidentally, crew members have begun showing early signs of Losian’s disease. Though agreeing to go on the mission means near-unlimited amounts of funding and top-notch equipment, thanks to NASA picking up the tab, Doctor Ryan is apprehensive about leaving her daughter for obvious reasons.

Traveling to the space station, which is located in close proximity to Mars, is no walk in the park. But, by leaving the planet to study affected subjects, Doctor Ryan can do things not deemed legal on earth. That unrestricted access to research could be the difference between finding a cure or watching Losian’s continue to decimate humanity. Ultimately, Gillian decides that the prospect of developing a cure to save Carrie warrants her leaving, and she takes the NASA gig, hoping to return home in a few months with the ability to save her daughter and countless others. 

With her mission set, Ryan travels to the space station where, almost immediately, she discovers that nothing is quite what it seems. . . and nothing could have prepared her for the horrors that wait or the secrets space has to offer. 

Joe Hart does a fine job mixing sci-fi and horror elements into this unpredictable thriller, which falls somewhere between Matt Richtel’s Dead on Arrival and Life, the Ryan Reynolds space flick that features an equally terrifying plot. There’s a lot of misdirection, and Hart knows how to build suspense. His twisting plot will keep readers off-balance and dying to know how things will play out. Likewise, his lead character here, Gillian Ryan, is no cookie-cutter heroine. She’s deeply flawed and, at times, even a tad unlikeable. Still, it’s clear what drives Ryan — and readers will no doubt root for her as she heads into the dark unknown. 

It’s probably not for everyone, but those seeking an off-planet sci-fi thriller with a haunting plotline will devour Joe Hart’s Obscura, which reads quick and is jam-packed with terrifying surprises.

Book Details

Author: Joe Hart
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1503949893
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: May 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10


Tuesday, May 15th

Second StrikeSecond Strike by Peter Kirsanow 

After introducing readers to black ops super soldier Michael Garin in his debut noveTarget Omega (2016), Peter Kirsanow brings back his top operator for Second Strike, another fast-paced thriller ripped from the headlines.  

After he and his teammates, all part of Omega–an elite, top-secret task force embedded deep in the special forces architecture and designed to prevent weapons of mass destruction–were targeted by enemy combatants, Michael Garin single-handedly thwarted a Russian plot to detonate an EMP device above America. Still, the mission came at a great cost to Garin, who lost his entire team when a skillful assassin picked them off one by one. 

Now, several weeks after the events of Target Omega, Garin learns that the attack he stopped was just the beginning. 

With the Omega team non-existent now that all the operators are dead, Garin takes time off and uses an alias to compete in a grueling physical fitness challenge known as the Crucible. Traveling with his trainer, Luci Saldana, Garin runs into two gunmen at their hotel. After taking out the would-be killers, Garin and Luci go on the run.

Unbeknownst to Garin at the time, an ordinary traffic stop in Georgia led to a mass shooting when the unknown driver killed three police officers and several citizens–each of them shot once between the eyes. Garin’s mentor, Clint Laws, has drilled into him that, in their business, there are no coincidences. Putting two and two together, Garin realizes something bigger is going on than meets the eye and enlists the help of his friend Dan Dwyer, who runs a huge military and security firm. 

It turns out that the Russians had a backup plan involving sleeper cells ready just in case their initial efforts to detonate the EMP–which they had staged to look like the attack came from Iran–failed for any reason. Unfortunately for Garin, the same people who ignored his warning of the initial threat once again discredit his concern. Many in the American government think a second attack would be too daring and, frankly, too stupid. Even for the Russians. 

Using Dan’s resources to stay off the grid while he goes after those planning the attack, Garin’s job is made infinitely more complicated and dangerous when it’s revealed that Russian assassin Taras Bor–the man responsible for killing Mike’s Omega teammates–is back in the States. 

Peter Kirsanow definitely knows his way around an action scene, of which there are plenty in Second Strike. The story continues nicely on the foundation built in Target Omega, while at the same time remaining inviting to newcomers, who will feel up to speed quickly thanks to a recap of events written into the flow of the plot early on. The attack scenario and political elements mirror current news headlines, making this a timely thriller relevant to today’s news cycle. And the spy vs. spy element of Garin facing off with Bor–a very strong antagonist–makes for a fun, high-stakes game of cat and mouse. 

If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that once again Garin is painted as a tad too perfect. Kirsanow goes a bit overboard at times explaining how awesome and skilled his character is, which really isn’t needed since readers can conclude what a great operator Garin is on their own. Moreover, by making Garin nearly indestructible and head and shoulders above the rest, it leaves little room for him to be challenged, subsequently reducing the amount of conflict and suspense that could otherwise be added in. 

OverallSecond Strike is another very solid thriller from Peter Kirsanow, one of our picks for best debut author in 2016. Michael Garin is an intriguing new hero, similar in ways to both Jason Bourne and Ben Coes’ Dewey Andreas, while also bringing several unique elements that make him stand out from the genre’s other protagonists.

Plenty of action, a fearless hero, and a gripping plot that feels at times a tad too real for comfort–Second Strike is a fun, unrelenting action adventure that delivers all the goods. 

Book Details

Author: Peter Kirsanow
Series: Michael Garin #2
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399585737
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10 


How it happened.jpgHow it Happened by Michael Koryta

“Kimberly Crepeaux is no good, a notorious jailhouse snitch, teen mother, and heroin addict whose petty crimes are well-known to the rural Maine community where she lives. So when she confesses to her role in the brutal murders of Jackie Pelletier and Ian Kelly, the daughter of a well-known local family and her sweetheart, the locals have little reason to believe her story.
Not Rob Barrett, the FBI investigator and interrogator specializing in telling a true confession from a falsehood. He’s been circling Kimberly and her conspirators for months, waiting for the right avenue to the truth, and has finally found it. He knows, as strongly as he’s known anything, that Kimberly’s story-a grisly, harrowing story of a hit and run fueled by dope and cheap beer that becomes a brutal stabbing in cold blood-is how it happened. But one thing remains elusive: where are Jackie and Ian’s bodies?
After Barrett stakes his name and reputation on the truth of Kimberly’s confession, only to have the bodies turn up 200 miles from where she said they’d be, shot in the back and covered in a different suspect’s DNA, the case is quickly closed and Barrett forcibly reassigned. But for Howard Pelletier, the tragedy of his daughter’s murder cannot be so tidily swept away. And for Barrett, whose career may already be over, the chance to help a grieving father may be the only one he has left.
HOW IT HAPPENED is a frightening, tension-filled ride into the dark heart of rural American from a writer Stephen King has called ‘a master’ and the New York Times has deemed ‘impossible to resist.'”
Book Details

Author: Michael Koryta
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316293938
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: May 15, 2018


Tuesday, May 22

Field of ValorField of Valor by Matthew Betley (Featured Selection)

Former Marine Force Recon platoon commander turned FBI special agent Logan West returns for his third adventure in Field of Valor, Matthew Betley’s most explosive novel to date. 

West, now part of the FBI’s elite unit known as Task Force Ares, is still reeling from the loss of a close friend whose death provided a shock ending to Betley’s last book. Hellbent on bringing down a secret shadow government calling themselves the Organization, West calls on buddy John Quick and Oath of Honor carryover Cole Matthews to help him run down their first real lead in months.

West, Quick, and Cole all head to the National Air and Space Museum in search of a man known as the Recruiter. Instead, they inadvertently walk into an ambush — setting up an entertaining action scene inside the James S. McDonnell Space Hanger. In the midst of the chaos, Logan gets a call from an unknown number. Never one to shy away from a ringing phone (Betley’s fans will appreciate the subtle nod to the opening scene in his first book, Overwatch), West once again impulsively answers the call, sparking deja vu all over again when his doing so kicks off a chain of events that no one could have predicted. 

It turns out that a man from Logan’s past is part of the Organization, and he arranges a meeting with the group’s leader, Constantine Krawcyk-Kallas, who lives in an eye-popping mansion located on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Constantine walks Logan through the Organization’s history, explaining that they’ve long served a valuable purpose — using their cover in the shadows to circumvent laws when necessary, but only for the greater good. They’re plugged in, well-connected, and have a nearly unlimited amount of funds at their disposal.

They also have a serious problem.

One of their members has staged a coup within their ranks and is now acting as a rogue republic with the intention of pitting America against China in an effort to destabilize the world’s economy. 

With a string of attacks being carried out on U.S. soil, Logan West once again finds himself up against a running clock, this time to stop the Organization before it’s too late. But with no idea of how high or wide the corruption goes within his own government, West cannot trust anyone but John and Cole, and this time. . . that might not be enough. 

Betley opens this book with a balls-to-the-wall car chase that has enough bullets, sarcastic one-liners, and suspense to fill an entire novel. While the opening is outstanding, the fact that Betley is able to sustain the energy he opens with throughout the almost four hundred pages is what’s most impressive. The speed of the plot and overall pacing is on point, as Field of Valor shoots out of the gates Top Thrill Dragster-style, before whipping readers around several well-timed twists and turns — all while maintaining its breakneck speeds and wise-cracking ways. 

While the authentic, sarcastic dialogue he’s known for is still his go-to play, Betley proves to have more than just a fastball in his arsenal. When the moment calls for it, he’s able to strategically slow things down in order to really deliver powerful, emotional scenes that add to the story. It’s those kinds of touch passes that show the author’s growth, as Betley continues to prove he’s one of the most talented storytellers in the genre right now. His ability to manipulate readers’ emotions in a variety of ways pays off during one particularly gut-wrenching scene that involves a father and his son. . . which is sure to have plenty of grown men suddenly dealing with fake debris in both of their eyes at the same time.  

Few series feel as tailor-made for the big screen as Betley’s. Whether it’s Logan West cranking up the stereo in his car to provide a little background music to the action scene or John Quick snapping off witty comebacks even in the most high-pressure situations imaginable, everything about Betley’s fictional world screams Hollywood, which is fitting since the author recently announced that Thunder Road has acquired the movie rights to his franchise. 

Fast, hard-hitting, and impossible to put down, Field of Valor is hands-down one of the best action thrillers hitting bookstores in 2018. 

Book Details

Author: Matthew Betley
Series: Logan West #3
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501161989
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: May 22, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.75/10


The outsider.jpgThe Outsider by Stephen King

“An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.”

Book Details

Author: Stephen King
Pages: 576 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501180983
Publisher: Scribner
Release Date: May 22, 2018


Seal Team Six.jpgSEAL Team Six: Hunt the Viper by Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

“Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo’s shockingly authentic military thriller sends Thomas Crocker and his SEAL Team Six brothers to confront a notorious ISIS general, The Viper, during the occupation of Aleppo, Syria.
Despite the efforts of the Assad government and its Russian and Turkish allies, Syria is succumbing to the Islamic State. While Crocker and his SEAL Team Six comrades try to help a small Kurdish border town organize a resistance army, he finds an unexpected connection with Severine, a French epidemiologist working for Doctors Without Borders.
As Severine and her colleagues establish a makeshift hospital in besieged Aleppo, Crocker counsels caution. He knows too well that their NGO status will be no protection from the Viper, a notoriously vicious ISIS general with a deeply personal hatred of the West. When the Viper’s men kidnap one of Severine’s American colleagues, Crocker will pull every string at his disposal to launch a rescue mission. But in a situation where the US has no official business, he’ll push every boundary of how far he’s willing to go–and how far his SEAL brothers in arms will follow him–to save innocent lives.”
Book Details

Author: Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316556408
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Release Date: May 22, 2018

Tuesday, May 29th

Arctic GambitArctic Gambit by Larry Bond

Bond opens his latest thriller, set in 2021, with a white-knuckle prologue that depicts the final moments of the USS Toledo, which stumbled upon a secret base just outside Russian territorial waters. Ultimately, the American submarine was hit by a torpedo, sinking it and killing everyone onboard. As tragic as the events are, the Toledo crew was able to transmit images of the base back to U.S. officials, prompting Jerry Mitchell, now the commodore of Submarine Development Squadron Five, to send one of his vessels to investigate what, exactly, happened. 

The findings are startling, to say the least. Initially, the big revelation was thought to be the finding of Russia’s hidden base. It turns out, though, that the base itself is only half of the equation.  It’s what the base was built to hide that’s the real headline. 

With plans to invade old Soviet Union territory, Russia has modified one of their existing weapons — the STATUS-6 nuclear-propelled and nuclear-armed torpedo — into a devastating new first-strike weapon known as Drakon, capable of unprecedented stealth and cataclysmic damage. If fired from the underwater base that the USS Toledo inadvertently discovered, the Drakon weapon would give Russia the ability to launch a nuclear war against the United States by throwing the first knockout-style punch, one that the U.S. may never fully recover from. 

American President Lowell Hardy answers by tasking the Jimmy Carter, commanded by Jerry Mitchell and Louis Weiss, to destroy the base at all costs — and Bond takes readers onboard the reconnaissance submarine alongside the courageous crew members, detailing each and every moment leading to a gripping final act that features a high-flying showdown that is not to be missed. 

Over the past few years, several authors have shown to be adept at creating entertaining, high-stakes naval thrillers. David Poyer and Rick Campbell, especially, have breathed new life into the genre, but as far as who sits on top, Larry Bond just reminded everyone why he’s one of the greatest authors this genre has ever known. Once again, Bond is able to take readers beneath the water, presenting a pulse-pounding plot, which he balances with a plethora of colorful, well-developed, and relatable characters that in turn make the reader care more about the story’s outcome. 

Bond’s latest novel features a fast-moving plot that hits with the force of a torpedo, knocking readers back into their reading chairs while daring them to put the book down. Trust me, you won’t be able to. . . This is vintage Larry Bond, and Arctic Gambit is the must-read naval thriller of the year. 

Book Details

Author: Larry Bond
Series: Jerry Mitchell #6
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0765334925
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10


Shelter in placeShelter in Place by Nora Roberts

“From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts comes Shelter in Place―a powerful tale of heart, heroism . . . and propulsive suspense.

It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at the video-game store tending to customers. Then the shooters arrived.

The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, hopelessly clutching her cell phone–until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.

But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait–and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.”

Book Details

Author: Nora Roberts

Pages: 448 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250161592
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: May 29, 2018


The Gray Ghost.jpgThe Gray Ghosts by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell

“The search for a legendary automobile threatens the careers and lives of husband-and-wife team Sam and Remi Fargo in this thrilling new adventure in Clive Cussler’s bestselling series.

In 1906, a groundbreaking Rolls-Royce prototype known as the Gray Ghost vanishes from the streets of Manchester, England, and it is only the lucky intervention of an American detective named Isaac Bell that prevents it from being lost forever. Not even he can save the good name of Marcus Peyton, however, the man wrongly blamed for the theft, and more than a hundred years later, it is his grandson who turns to Sam and Remi Fargo to help prove his grandfather’s innocence.

But there is even more at stake than any of them know. For the car has vanished again, and in it is an object so rare that it has the capacity to change lives. Men with everything to gain and a great deal to lose have a desperate plan to find it–and if anybody gets in their way? They have a plan for that, too.”

Book Details

Author: Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell
Series: A Sam and Remi Fargo Adventure #10
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735218730
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 29, 2018


Blood Standard.jpgBlood Standard by Laird Barron

Award-winning author Laird Barron makes his crime fiction debut with a novel set in the underbelly of upstate New York that’s as hardboiled and punchy as a swift right hook to the jaw–a classic noir for fans of James Ellroy and John D. Macdonald.

Isaiah Coleridge is a mob enforcer in Alaska–he’s tough, seen a lot, and dished out more. But when he forcibly ends the moneymaking scheme of a made man, he gets in the kind of trouble that can lead to a bullet behind the ear. Saved by the grace of his boss and exiled to upstate New York, Isaiah begins a new life, a quiet life without gunshots or explosions. Except a teenage girl disappears, and Isaiah isn’t one to let that slip by. And delving into the underworld to track this missing girl will get him exactly the kind of notice he was warned to avoid.”

Book Details

Author: Laird Barron
Series: Isaiah Coleridge #1
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735212872
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 29, 2018


Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) 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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