The Real Book Spy’s June 2018 Reading Guide

Summer is finally here. . . which means some of the thriller genre’s biggest stars are gearing up to release new novels! 

While next month sees the return of fan-favorites such as Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath and Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon, the single most anticipated thriller comes out in June — The President is Missing.

The President is Missing, a collaboration project from former President Bill Clinton and America’s favorite novelist, James Patterson, comes out Monday, June 4th, and promises to be one of the biggest releases in recent years. The very next day (June 5th), Anthony Horowitz’s new novel, The Word is Murder, comes out. A playful take on the classic Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Horowitz has put himself in the story this time around, playing the role of Watson to a brilliant, albeit stubborn and partially unlikable, detective. Well-written and thoroughly entertaining, this is one of my favorite books of the summer. 

The following week (June 12th), Mike Maden releases his second Jack Ryan Junior novel, Tom Clancy Line of Sight. If I had to pick one book from this list to recommend, it’s that one. Maden, a brilliant choice to step in and continue Clancy’s series last year, brings a ton to the table. Previous books in the Junior series have always felt overshadowed by the fall release of the Jack Ryan Senior books (now written by Marc Cameron) that have traditionally received higher praise from fans and critics. Not anymore. Maden puts his stamp on the series with this book, which has a killer twist that’ll knock readers off their feet. 

John Connolly delivers what I think is his best book in years in The Woman in the Woods, the 16th book in his bestselling Charlie Parker series. Bryan Reardon’s The Real Michael Swann is a real trip and has more twists and turns than anything Six Flags has to offer. Caroline Kepnes’ modern take on H.P. Lovecraft’s novel The Dunwich Horror, which she explores in her new book Providence, is hypnotic and fresh, all while staying true to her provocative style. Jonathan Grave is back too, in John Gilstrap’s Scorpion Strike, another action-packed thriller that tops last year’s Final Target. Bottom line, it’s a good time to be a thriller fan! 

Find out more about those titles and many others below. Happy reading! 


Monday, June 4th

 

The President it missingThe President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

“The dream team delivers big time . . . Clinton’s insider secrets and Patterson’s storytelling genius make this the political thriller of the decade.” –Lee Child

The publishing event of 2018: Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s The President Is Missing is a superlative thriller . . . one that can really happen, and one that must not be missed.

The President Is Missing confronts a threat so huge that it jeopardizes not just Pennsylvania Avenue and Wall Street, but all of America. Uncertainty and fear grip the nation. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the Cabinet. Even the President himself becomes a suspect, and then he disappears from public view . . .

Set over the course of three days, The President Is Missing sheds a stunning light upon the inner workings and vulnerabilities of our nation. Filled with information that only a former Commander-in-Chief could know, this is the most authentic, terrifying novel to come along in many years. And a timely, historic story that will be read–and talked about–for years to come.

Book Details

Author: Bill Clinton and James Patterson
Pages: 528 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316412694
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company and Knopf
Release Date: June 4, 2018

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Tuesday, June 5th

 

The Word is murderThe Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

On a glorious sunny morning, Diana Cowper, a wealthy, sixty-something-year-old woman, walks into the office of Robert Cornwallis, a London-based mortician, to make arrangements for her own funeral.

Six hours later, Diana is murdered.

Clearly, she’d made post-death arrangements. . . so, is it possible Cowper also planned her own murder?

That’s the setup for Anthony Horowitz’s (Magpie Murders, 2017, etc.) latest novel, but it’s how the bestselling author executes his story that makes The Word is Murder stand out in a crowded field.

To tell the story of the investigation that follows Diana’s murder, Horowitz drops himself playfully into the plot, his voice serving as the narrator throughout. The Anthony (don’t call him Tony) that we meet here is, of course, a fictional version of the real-life author. That said, there’s plenty of facts in this fictional world. For example, in the novel, Anthony is an author who is supposed to be working on a project called The House of Silk, a Sherlock Holmes mystery that really was written and subsequently published by Horowitz in 2011.

Genius investigator Daniel Hawthorne is brought in to work Diana’s murder case, and Anthony makes arrangements to shadow him, helping if he can, in order to write a crime novel about the case itself. Hawthorne, an ex-detective inspector with a penchant for solving murders, previously served as a consultant for one of Anthony’s earlier novels. The two have an established rapport, and it doesn’t take long to realize that Anthony, the story-writing sidekick, is playing Watson to Hawthorne’s Sherlock Holmes. . . much to the dismay of Anthony’s agent, who believes he’s busy working on a screenplay for a Steven Spielberg.

Once the roles are established, the plot really takes off as the two characters begin searching for answers to the strange case before them. Things take a delicious turn when Hawthorne discovers that Diana Cowper’s final recorded message implicates a man named Jeremy Godwin, whom she accidentally struck with her vehicle more than a decade prior — leaving Godwin severely brain damaged, and therefore making it impossible for him to be the killer. . .

Look, this book is tons of fun. The quirky idea of putting himself in the story could have been a big mistake, but Horowitz manages to get out of the way and let the other characters drive the story when needed. Hawthorne is a perplexing character with a past he’d rather not discuss, and he’s not even entirely likable. Still, readers will get a kick out of seeing the astute detective in action, which is every bit as fun as following around Mr. Holmes. In one of the best lines in the book, Hawthorne responds to Anthony about what people really want out of a murder mystery, serving up a tongue-in-cheek one-liner that then becomes the book’s working title, “the word is murder.”

Anthony Horowitz might be the only writer on the planet capable of pulling this off, and man, does he deliver. . . The Word is Murder is a brilliant, fun, well-written crime novel with plenty of suspense and at least one twist readers will never see coming. Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, especially, will devour this book.

(Note: Next up for Horowitz is Forever and a Day, a new James Bond prequel novel that’s set to come out this November.)

Book Details

Author: Anthony Horowitz
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062676784
Publisher: Harper
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10

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Something in the waterSomething in the Water by Catherine Steadman 

Catherine Steadman bursts onto the thriller scene with this exceptional debut psychological thriller, written in the vein of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.

Steadman opens her rip-roaring debut with Erin Locke, the book’s narrator and the main character, digging her husband’s grave. It’s a well-written and intriguing scene that also sets the tone moving forward. . . because, as the story shifts back to the couple’s honeymoon, Erin and her new hubby, Mark, dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole after making a shocking discovery that will forever change their lives. 

It was supposed to be a happy time. Erin and Mark had just tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony then jetted off to Bora Bora, where a five-star bungalow awaits them. As the story unfolds, readers learn that Erin is a documentary filmmaker working on a project that allows criminals behind bars to ponder their eventual freedom and what they’d like to do with their lives. Mark, meanwhile, an investment banker, has lost his job. The couple is preparing to be frugal once they return from Bora Bora, at least until Mark finds a new job and their financial situation brightens, but a random discovery offers them flexibility on that front if the couple is daring enough to take a chance. 

While scuba diving, Erin and Mark come across a duffel bag hidden in the water. Before they decide to touch it, before they even ponder opening it to look inside, they unintentionally light the fuse that kicks off a chain of events they couldn’t have possibly seen coming. Soon, their world comes crashing down around them as a number of mysterious characters descend upon their honeymoon, forcing the couple to make one impossible decision after another.

Things worsen considerably when they inadvertently find themselves being investigated by a DCI agent who takes an interest in Erin when one of the prisoners she was profiling disappears after being released from prison and is suspected of being linked to a terrorist organization. Ignoring your conscience is one thing, but, as Erin and Mark are about to find out, it’s a whole lot harder to abandon your moral principles under the watchful eyes of the Division of Criminal Investigation. . . 

One bad decision can take you further than you ever intended to go, changing your life forever. But what if you innocently got yourself into something you never intended or planned on? That’s the magic behind Steadman’s thriller, which mixes a Paula Hawkins-like unreliable narrator with a Joseph Finder-like conspiracy, creating enough suspense to have even those with nerves of steel gnawing at their fingernails. There have been some notable writers in past years who’ve delivered hit debuts, but few stand out like Steadman, who should appeal to both diehard readers and casual fans of suspense. 

Deftly plotted and told with lightning-quick pacing, Catherine Steadman hits readers with twists and turns they’ll never see coming, landing one expertly thrown punch after another. . . Something in the Water is psychological suspense at its absolute finest, and Steadman has all the makings of a writer poised to shoot straight to the top of the genre. 

Book Details

Author: Catherine Steadman
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1524797189
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10

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The Moscow OffensiveThe Moscow Offensive by Dale Brown

Stacy Anne Barbeau, America’s inept commander-in-chief, fails to see the threat that Russia poses to the United States and the rest of the world, making it especially easy for Gennadiy Gryzlov, the Russian president, to launch a crippling attack against the West.

Playing the long game, Gryzlov has taken his time plotting and planning his big moment. Unbeknownst to America, Russia was able to reverse engineer a damaged Cybernetic Infantry Device, proprietary technology that has changed the way the United States fights its wars. The twelve-foot “humanoid combat robots” are part of an elite military unit known as the Iron Wolf Squadron, operating underneath Scion, a private security firm owned by Kevin Martindale, who had occupied the Oval Office before Stacy Anne. 

Thankfully, America’s former president is still paying attention — but even Martindale is shocked when it’s revealed that not only was Russia able to build their own combat robots, but that Gennadiy Gryzlov secretly purchased a freight company, allowing him to move his units around the world without anyone noticing. 

Wrapped up in helping to protect Europe as part of the newly-formed Alliance of Free Nations, Martindale and his team of pilots — including veteran combat soldier Brad McLanahan — must work quickly to defend America, taking on Russia’s new fighters in a heavyweight showdown between giant killing machines. . .

The Cybernetic Infantry Devices in Brown’s fictional universe are comparable to the AMP suit Colonel Miles Quaritch (played by Stephen Lang) used in the movie Avatar, or like much, much smaller versions of the Jaeger robots in Pacific Rim. However, whereas those movies don’t necessarily feel real (after all, one features dinosaur-like alien monsters and the other takes place on a faraway planet), Brown’s units come across as authentic and possible. Each member of the Iron Wolf Squadron is said to be armed with “more firepower than a conventional platoon,” and it’s pretty darn cool to see these machines square off and have at each other. 

Beyond the killing machines, which, let’s be real, totally steal the show, Brown continues to show a deep understanding when it comes to geopolitics and national security. So while this is absolutely a techno-thriller at its core, it’s also a very smart, timely, and terrifying political thriller that points out potential vulnerabilities in America’s current security and defense measures. Plus, the author continues to develop his characters nicely, including Brad, who still lives partially in the shadow of his legendary father, Patrick McLanahan.

Current, spot-on, and full of bone-crushing action, Dale Brown’s The Moscow Offensive is one of his best novels to date, and a sure bet to please action junkies who also like heaping sides of politics and next-gen tech.

Book Details

Author: Dale Brown
Series: Brad McLanahan
Pages: 448 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062442015
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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The Book of M.jpgThe Book of M by Peng Shepherd

WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE UP TO REMEMBER?

Set in a dangerous near-future world, The Book of M tells the captivating story of a group of ordinary people caught in an extraordinary catastrophe who risk everything to save the ones they love. It is a sweeping debut that illuminates the power that memories have not only on the heart but on the world itself.

One afternoon at an outdoor market in India, a man’s shadow disappears—an occurrence science cannot explain. He is only the first. The phenomenon spreads like a plague, and while those afflicted gain a strange new power, it comes at a horrible price: the loss of all their memories.

Ory and his wife Max have escaped the Forgetting so far by hiding in an abandoned hotel deep in the woods. Their new life feels almost normal, until one day Max’s shadow disappears too.

Knowing that the more she forgets, the more dangerous she will become to Ory, Max runs away. But Ory refuses to give up the time they have left together. Desperate to find Max before her memory disappears completely, he follows her trail across a perilous, unrecognizable world, braving the threat of roaming bandits, the call to a new war being waged on the ruins of the capital, and the rise of a sinister cult that worships the shadowless.

As they journey, each searches for answers: for Ory, about love, about survival, about hope; and for Max, about a new force growing in the south that may hold the cure.

Like The Passage and Station Eleven, this haunting, thought-provoking, and beautiful novel explores fundamental questions of memory, connection, and what it means to be human in a world turned upside down.

Book Details

Author: Peng Shepherd
Pages: 496 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062669605
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10

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A Blood ThingA Blood Thing by James Hankins

Andrew Kane is used to busy, chaotic days — that’s just part of life when you’re the sitting governor of the great state of Vermont. With the grand opening of a new senior citizen center on the docket, Cross heads out for a public meet and greet, which starts off normal enough until a stranger slips him a cell phone before whispering, “Keep that phone with you at all times, Governor. And keep it secret. You’re going to need it after the arrest.”

Before Kane can ask any questions, the stranger disappears into the crowd. Confusion hangs over the governor, who, as soon as he has the chance, calls his brother Henry, who works in Internal Affairs. Just as they begin investigating the stranger and the mysterious cell phone, their younger sister, Molly, calls to express her concerns about Tyler, her twin brother who was left mentally challenged after a childhood accident. Now twenty-nine-years-old, Tyler is a child in a man’s body who relies heavily on his sister and their big brothers to care for him. With Andrew busy running the state, Henry agrees to head over to Molly’s in order to help track down Tyler, who is missing.

When Tyler does finally return home, he’s not alone. The police arrive with an arrest warrant and cuff Tyler on the spot for allegedly murdering a local woman named Sally. All of the Kane siblings know their brother is innocent and being framed, but who would possibly set him up for murder. . . and why? 

Before Henry can find answers to those questions, Andrew gets a call on the burner phone given to him by the stranger. The voice on the other end of the line demands the governor either pardon a convicted felon or watch his little brother go down for killing a woman in cold blood. Letting Tyler take the fall is a non-starter for Andrew, who chooses to risk his integrity in order to protect his special needs brother. Hoping it’s a one-and-done situation, Andrew complies with the demands, only to discover that the caller was just getting started. Soon, he’s sucked into a dangerous game of blackmail and deceit as he finds himself being pulled deeper and deeper into a sinister plot.

As the story heats up, Hankins’ plot begs the question. . . how far would you go to protect someone you love if you knew they were innocent?

While a little light on action, Hankins’ latest offering is big on suspense. Though Andrew and Tyler are the focal points for most of the story, the book is really about the Kane family as a whole and what they’re willing to do in order to protect one of their own. That’s a premise most readers can relate to, even if they aren’t part of a powerful family with a great lineage like the Kanes, who’ve long held high positions in local and federal government. Hankins does a fine job developing his cast as the story unfolds, and the plot’s many moving parts are all brought together and tied up nicely with a nail-biting final act.

The setup here isn’t all that different from Brad Parks’ critically acclaimed Say Nothing (2017), and like Parks’ thriller, James Hankins’ A Blood Thing is the type of page-turner that you’ll want to tell everyone you know about as soon as you turn the final page.

Book Details

Author: James Hankins
Pages: 397 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1503950166
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10

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Free fallFreefall by Adam Hamdy

Adam Hamdy’s Freefall, the second book in a planned trilogy, is solid but doesn’t quite live up to the hype created by the first book, Pendulum.

Set eight months after the ending of Pendulum, Freefall opens with an emotional, heart-breaking scene that shows Sylvia Greene, a newspaper editor, follow through with her plan to hang herself. It’s haunting and painful, and Hamdy writes the heck out of it, though readers are left wondering why, exactly, the woman killed herself.

Meanwhile, journalist John Wallace has accepted an extended assignment in Afghanistan, where he’s laying low and still healing from the wounds — most of them emotional scars — caused by the events that took place in the last book. His thoughts are never too far from his old nemesis, Pendulum. He is, for all intents and purposes, a tormented man searching for answers and looking for an escape. Whatever peace he’d hoped to find in Afghanistan alludes him, and soon he finds himself up against an assassin who nearly succeeds in taking his life.

Hamdy offers the first twist of the book when it’s revealed that the assassin sent to kill Wallace has a connection to Pendulum, which stuns the main character. Not knowing where else to turn, Wallace reaches out to FBI agent Christine Ash for help. The two begin investigating a string of brutal murders, chasing leads and following clues, all of which leads to a group calling themselves the Foundation, a secret organization of powerful men and women who have agents in place all across the globe.

As Wallace and Ash plot their attack against the rogue cabal who’s successfully infiltrated the highest levels of governments around the world, they quickly discover that even in their worst nightmares, neither of them had a clue as to what they were truly up against.

Adam Hamdy is a prolific writer. I mean, he can really, really write. The way he’s able to mix deceit, corruption, and murder into the free-flowing story is quite impressive, as is his character development that builds on the success of Pendulum. The first couple hundred pages are top-notch, which makes the slight decline in the second act a real head-scratcher. The second half of the book isn’t altogether bad, but it does feel slightly rushed as if the author lost his focus for a moment before regaining it at the book’s end.

Solid, but not a game-changer. . . still, readers will enjoy Freefall and look forward to seeing how Adam Hamdy brings his trilogy to a close next time out.

Book Details

Author: Adam Hamdy
Series: John Wallace #2
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1635060001
Publisher: Quercus
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10

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Tuesday, June 12th

 

Line of SightTom Clancy Line of Sight by Mike Maden

Following the events of Tom Clancy Point of Contact, Jack Ryan Junior returns, this time to carry out another assignment for his employer, Hendley Associates, a front for a top-secret program known as the Campus, which answers only to the president of the United States of America, Jack Ryan Senior. . . Jack’s father.

Lunch around the Ryans’ table, located in the president and First Lady’s private quarters, becomes a tad awkward when Cathy Ryan asks her son why Hendley Associates, a financial firm that her son works for, is sending one of their top analysts over to Ljubljana, Slovenia. Senior, one of the greatest presidents the country has ever known, stops reading his newspaper long enough to watch Junior explain through spoonfuls of beef stew that a company based in the former Yugoslavia plans to offer an IP on the NASDAQ, and hired Hendley Associates to handle the preliminary financials.

It turns out that Dr. Cathy Ryan treated a young girl who was injured twenty-six years earlier in Sarajevo. During the Bosnian civil war, Aida Curic nearly lost one of her luminous blue eyes when she was hit by a piece of shrapnel. Cathy managed to save Aida’s eye and her vision, and since then has often thought about the girl, who clearly had a profound impact on the First Lady. Such an impact, in fact, that she asks her son to see if he can locate Aida while he’s there, in order to deliver a letter Cathy has written.

Jack agrees, thinking it’ll be fun to explore Sarajevo, but also assuming the mission will be harmless. . .  which he couldn’t have been more wrong about.

After eight days of real Hendley work, Jack sets out trying to find Aida. Failing to locate the girl after doing everything he can to track her down, Jack is ready to return back to the U.S. empty-handed when Curic, now a twenty-eight-year-old woman with jaw-dropping good looks, knocks on his door late at night after hearing about his efforts to find her. Caught off-guard and distracted by her beauty, Jack hands over the letter Cathy sent, then lets it slip that he’d like the chance to get to know her better. Aida, who owns a successful tour guide company, offers to show Jack around the city the following day.

Delaying his return home, Jack spends time with Aida, and it doesn’t take long for her to have a major impact on another Ryan when Junior falls head over heels for her. The two hit it off immediately, and Jack even lends a hand to Aida’s business, which serves as a front for aiding refugees, all while ignoring his boss’s instructions to return home immediately.

Instead, Jack’s focus is on Aida, who teaches him about her war-torn country, which he develops a soft spot for during his prolonged vacation. The two continue spending time together but, eventually, danger finds him, and Jack is hellbent on protecting Aida at all costs. What Junior doesn’t know, though, is that a secret group of international hitmen known as the Iron Syndicate are after him. And worse, there are powerful forces at work behind the scenes, knee-deep in a plan to ignite a third world war. . . and it’s up to Jack to figure it all out and stop them before it’s too late.

It’s always neat when a book’s title has dual meanings, and Maden’s latest most certainly fits that bill. Obviously, there’s a nod in the title to Doctor Cathy Ryan’s letter to a former patient who had eye surgery. It’s also a secret reference to several deeper plot points, which is ironic in the sense that there are several very solid twists readers will never see coming. Those shocking moments are balanced out by Maden’s ability to continue developing Jack Junior, raising the stakes by challenging the operator to not only save the day, but to do so while also protecting someone he cares about.

Mike Maden shows once again why he was such a brilliant choice to continue this franchise. From the impressive, Clancy-esque opening which shows a missile strike in Syria, full of technical details and executed exactly the way Ryan’s creator would have written it, to the heart-pounding final act, Maden puts on one heck of a show.

There’s probably some truth to the fact that Jack Ryan Junior has always lived in the shadow of his father, and the same goes for this series — which gets a tad less coverage than the Senior books. That’s all about to change beginning with this thriller, and longtime Clancy fans will appreciate Maden’s efforts to stay true to the universe and characters Tom Clancy created, while also putting his own stamp on the series.

Lightning-quick, filled with action, and heavy on surprises, Tom Clancy Line of Sight is a game-changer. . . Make plans to be at the bookstore the second it opens on June 12th, because Mike Maden’s latest Jack Ryan Junior book is one of this summer’s must-read thrillers.

Book Details

Author: Mike Maden
Series: Jack Ryan Junior #4
Pages: 480 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735215928
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10

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WOman in the woodsThe Woman in the Woods by John Connolly

Charlie Parker is back, and he throws down with the Devil himself in The Woman in the Woods, the 16th book in John Connolly’s New York Times bestselling series. 

Deep in the Maine woods, heavy rain leads to a disturbing revelation. The corpse of a young woman, her body perfectly preserved in a secret grave, is suddenly unearthed, raising a number of questions. Chief among them, what happened to her baby? Forensic analysts have determined that the woman gave birth to a child just before dying. The only clue, which may not be a clue at all, is a religious symbol left near the scene. 

To get answers, Charlie Parker is hired by Moxie Castin to identify the woman and see if he can figure out what happened to the child. Assisting him is the ever loyal Louis, though longtime fans will notice the absence of Angel, who does appear but is largely sidelined while he undergoes an operation to help battle a serious medical issue (his fate could become a focal point later on). Together, Charlie and Louis get busy, only to quickly discover that they aren’t the only people looking into the woman in the woods — setting them on a collision course with a number of baddies, including a truly evil Englishman who tops them all.

Quayle, a British attorney who’s hunting a mythical book that could forever change the world by completely altering the way humans perceive gods, is perhaps the very epitome of evil. One of Connolly’s darkest antagonists to date, the supernatural themes that were slowly built up in this series are on full display here as Quayle and Parker square off, a fight made more complicated after Louis manages to start a small war with a local deadbeat named Bobby Ocean. As if all that isn’t enough, there’s a boy in the woods who receives calls on his toy phone. . . including one from a woman who’s said to be dead. 

Connolly excels at introducing a simple idea or message and then wrapping copious amounts of danger and conflict around them by utilizing a number of sub-plots and secondary characters. That’s certainly the case this time around, as the issue at heart deals with an abused woman fleeing her situation to make a better life. That in and of itself is straightforward, but from there on out, Connolly is purely unpredictable. He’ll even trick readers into thinking they can guess the ending, before leaving them shocked and clamoring for book seventeen. 

Rich with characters and told with his usual blend of humor and darkness, The Woman in the Woods has all the mystique of John Connolly’s best thrillers, topped off with his most evil antagonist yet.

Book Details

Author: John Connolly
Series: Charlie Parker #16
Pages: 496 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501171925
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10

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The Real Michael SwannThe Real Michael Swann by Bryan Reardon

No one ever expects to be caught in a terrorist attack on their way home from work, but in Bryan Reardon’s new thriller, Michael Swann finds himself in the midst of chaos after a bomb rings out at Penn Station on an ordinary summer afternoon.

The story opens with Michael chatting away on his cell phone to his lovely wife, Julia, who is back at their West Chester, Pennsylvania home with their two children. Suddenly, an explosion fills the air, abruptly cutting off their call — leaving Julia in panic as she struggles to process what just happened. Soon, news reports come pouring in, confirming her worst fear, that a bomb detonated at the very location her husband was standing.

Multiple media outlets all report the same thing, that the bomb was an act of terrorism. But, in a surprise twist, the bomber isn’t revealed to be some Middle Eastern jihadist who came to America to strike a blow to the Great Satan like so many expected. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as the bomber is said to be an American who was targeting members of a large chemical corporation. . . a man by the name of Michael Swann.

Upon hearing her husband’s name in connection with the bombing, Julia’s nightmare quickly turns into hell on earth. After additional reports surface suggesting that Swann is unaccounted for, Julia tries desperately to get into New York City, where she’s convinced her husband — innocent of all the crimes being alleged against him — is wandering around as confused as she is. But Julia isn’t the only one trying to track down Michael. So too are the local authorities and the Department of Homeland Security, all of whom believe him to be guilty.

As Julia races to find her husband before the police do, she slowly begins to peel back the layers of her marriage, looking for anything that might point to Michael being capable of such a heinous act. . . hoping all the while that her husband has been framed, but still preparing herself for the unthinkable.

Bryan Reardon tells the story through alternating POVs, with the bulk of the plot centered around Julia and her quest to find the truth. Whereas so many stories and real-life tragedies tend to focus on the person at the epicenter of the event, and rightfully so, Reardon shifts the lens towards the family of the alleged bomber, analyzing the hell they walk through in the aftermath of their family name being etched into history for all the wrong reasons. 

Told with a relentless pacing that grabs readers early and refuses to let go, Bryan Reardon’s latest thriller is a gripping account of the consequences families face following a domestic terrorist attack. The Real Micach Swann is powerful, moving, and helplessly addictive. . . trust me, you be able to set this book down for a second.

Book Details

Author: Bryan Reardon
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1524742325
Publisher: Dutton
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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The pharoah keyThe Pharaoh Key by Preston & Child

Gideon Crew–brilliant scientist, master thief, intrepid adventurer–is shocked when his former employer, Eli Glinn, vanishes without a trace, and Glinn’s high-tech lab Effective Engineering Solutions shuts down seemingly overnight.

Fresh off a diagnosis that gives him only months to live, Crew is contacted by one of his former coworkers at EES, Manuel Garza, who has a bead on one final treasure hinted at in EES’s final case, the long-awaited translation of a centuries-old stone tablet of a previously undiscovered civilization: The Phaistos Disc.

What lies at the end of the trail will either save Gideon’s life–or bring it to a sudden, shocking close. Crew once again faces incredible odds–but as Gideon has proved again and again, there’s no such thing as too great a risk when you’re living on borrowed time.

Book Details

Author: Preston & Child
Series: Gideon Crew #5
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1455525820
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10

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The Moscow Deception.jpgThe Moscow Deception by Karen Robards

Clever, cunning and highly skilled—there’s only one Bianca St. Ives and don’t you dare forget it.

Bianca St. Ives was recently put through the wringer, but she came out the same way she always does—the way her father trained her to—hungry for a fight. Still navigating the fallout from a shocking revelation that’s left a network of assassins’ crosshairs trained on her, Bianca’s ready to take fate into her own hands. It’s kill or be killed, and she’s got her finger flush against the trigger.

But as Bianca races to outmaneuver her tireless pursuers, her father loops her in on a job that might just do the trick: recover King Priam’s Treasure, a collection of heavily guarded, priceless artifacts stolen by the Russians during World War II, and return it to Germany. Impossible? Maybe for some, but a high-risk heist is all in a day’s work for Bianca St. Ives, especially when there’s intel on the line—intel that could finally bring down the shadowy forces seeking to bury Bianca for good. Faced with threats that circle closer with every move she makes, she knows the stakes have never been higher, but when you’re already living on borrowed time, you have to hustle if you want to live to see tomorrow.

Book Details

Author: Karen Robards
Series: The Guardian #2
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0778330745
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10

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Jar of heartsJar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong―one of the most popular girls in school―disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser―now a detective with Seattle PD―finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it? Find out in Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts.

Book Details

Author: Jennifer Hillier
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250154197
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10

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Tuesday, June 19th

 

ProvidenceProvidence by Caroline Kepnes

Teenager Jon Bronson is in love with his classmate and best friend, Chloe Sayers. Sadly, Jon, who’s a bit of a loner beyond his friendship with Chloe, doesn’t have the guts to tell her how he really feels. One day, just as he’s mustering up the courage to come clean to Chloe about his feelings, Jon is kidnapped by his substitute middle school teacher and suddenly vanishes from his small New Hampshire town.

Four years later, Jon wakes up in a mysterious place with no memory of his kidnapping or his captor. No longer a boy, Jon is now a young man, much bigger and stronger. He discovers that he’s been in a medically-induced coma, and while his memory is blank, Jon can’t quit thinking about H.P. Lovecraft’s novel The Dunwich Horror, though he never read it in middle school. He even begins to identify with the book’s protagonist, Wilbur Whateley, though the initial reasons are unclear for both Jon and the reader. A letter from his captor, who is revealed very early on, explains that Jon now has a variety of special powers, but it’s not until he returns home and is surrounded by loved ones that the true nature of his powers rears its ugly head.

When a series of unfortunate medical events plague those around him, including Chloe — who, it turns out, never stopped looking for him — John realizes that much like Wilbur Whateley, he inadvertently puts those he cares about in danger. Again, he vanishes, but this time of his own doing, as Jon makes his way to Providence, Rhode Island in an attempt to protect everyone he cares about by entering a life of self-proposed exile.

As the story unfolds, Kepnes switches POVs between Jon (who longs for answers about his powers), Chloe (now a successful artist living in New York City), and a Rhode Island detective named Charles “Eggs” DeBenedictus, who is investigating multiple deaths surrounding otherwise healthy college students who all dropped dead of heart attacks. While separated, Kepnes does an impressive job of still making the characters feel very much connected, all the while asking readers two very simple questions: How far would you go for love. . . and how far would you go to protect those you love?

Caroline Kepnes’ last two books (You and Hidden Bodies) have followed an unlikely couple who is more obsessed with being in love than love itself. Now, through examining the lives of her new cast of characters, Kepnes offers up another intriguing and provocative storyline that continues to ask questions that’ll stay with readers long after finishing her novel.

Providence is a compelling mystery wrapped in a love story stuffed into a supernatural thriller. . . and Caroline Kepnes invokes a wide range of emotions with her strong prose and tantalizing descriptions.

Book Details

Author: Caroline Kepnes
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399591435
Publisher: Lenny
Release Date: June 19, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10

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FInd you in the dark.jpgFind you in the Dark by Nathan Ripley

In this chilling and disquieting debut thriller perfect for fans of Caroline Kepnes’s Hidden Bodies and Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, a family man with a habit of digging up the past catches the attention of a serial killer who wants anything but his secrets uncovered.

For years, unbeknownst to his wife and teenage daughter, Martin Reese has been illegally buying police files on serial killers and obsessively studying them, using them as guides to find the missing bodies of victims. He doesn’t take any souvenirs, just photos that he stores in an old laptop, and then he turns in the results anonymously. Martin sees his work as a public service, a righting of wrongs.

Detective Sandra Whittal sees the situation differently. On a meteoric rise in police ranks due to her case‑closing efficiency, Whittal is suspicious of the mysterious source she calls the Finder, especially since he keeps leading the police right to the bodies. Even if he isn’t the one leaving bodies behind, how can she be sure he won’t start soon?

On his latest dig, Martin searches for the first kill of Jason Shurn, the early 1990s murderer who may have been responsible for the disappearance of his wife’s sister. But when he arrives at the site, he finds more than just bones. There’s a freshly killed body—a young and missing Seattle woman—lying among remains that were left there decades ago. Someone else knew where Jason Shurn left the corpses of his victims…and that someone isn’t happy that Martin has been going around digging up his work. And when a crooked cop with a tenuous tie to Martin vanishes, Whittal begins to zero in on the Finder.

Hunted by a real killer and by Whittal, Martin realizes that in order to escape, he may have to go deeper into the killer’s dark world than he ever thought…

Book Details

Author: Nathan Ripley
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1501178202
Publisher: Atria
Release Date: June 19, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10

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Tuesday, June 26th

 

Scorpion Strike HardcoverScorpion Strike by John Gilstrap

Jonathan Grave is back for more action in John Gilstrap’s explosive new thriller, Scorpion Strike.

Following the events of Final Target (2017), Jonathan Grave, codenamed Scorpion, takes some time off to slip away with Gail Bonneville for some much-needed R&R. Together, the operators, who’ve recently become a couple, head to the Crystal Sands Resort where they’ve rented out a private, secluded bungalow. Sadly, their vacation is suddenly interrupted when Grave hears automatic gunfire in the middle of the night. 

Realizing the bursts of gunfire are getting closer to them, Grave is forced to slip out of bed and fumble in the darkness for his clothes. In the distance, more shots ring out as other guests from the high-end resort are rounded up and taken hostage. When the two gunmen finally enter Grave and Bonneville’s bungalow, Jonathan is able to dispatch both shooters with nothing more than a tactical knife. With little time to act, though, the duo — who is joined by another couple they rescued — is forced to flee into the jungle in order to put distance between themselves and the attackers. 

Armed with only the things they were able to steal from the downed gunmen, Grave and Bonneville lead the strangers into the dense jungle, where they run into Tyler Stratton, a spoiled rich kid whose stepfather owns the resort. Tyler claims the island has been overrun by terrorists, prompting Grave to call Venice Alexander, his eye-in-the-sky back at Security Solutions. After reading Venice into the situation, she gets to work coordinating things on her end back at HQ. The already bad situation is made worse when Venice informs Grave that Boxers, his best friend and partner-in-crime, is at best hours away from being able to meet up with Scorpion at his current location. 

Determined to save the hostages and take the resort back from the terrorists occupying it, Grave must find a way to use what weapons he does have to keep his three tagalongs safe while doing recon on the situation. Boxers, meanwhile, is busy putting a team together (which involves a carryover from Final Target) to go help Scorpion, even if it means disobeying orders. The story takes a major turn when Grave finally discovers what, exactly, the terrorists’ intentions are. . . raising the stakes considerably for the battle-tested operator and his team.

One wrong move could have major global ramifications, making Jonathan Grave’s latest operation the most dangerous of his brilliant career.

John Gilstrap is just terrific. Grave is well-developed and one of the thriller genre’s most underrated protagonists, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better sidekick than Boxers. Though it’s strange to see Big Guy away from Scorpion, that’s what makes the bulk of this book so fun, watching Grave have to navigate without his trusty battle buddy. And while he was never a boy scout, Jonathan is especially lethal in this book, which, by the way, opens with a really awesome action scene that showcases Scorpion’s knife skills. Gilstrap never takes his foot off the gas pedal from there, slowly ramping up the suspense as Grave goes to work on the bad guys. . .  and a few well-plotted twists and reveals really make this thriller hard to put down.

Grave, Boxers, and the rest of the gang are all back in Scorpion Strike, another action-packed thriller from John Gilstrap that’ll have readers on the edges of their seats.

Book Details

Author: John Gilstrap
Series: Jonathan Grave #10
Pages: 512 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1496718151
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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A steep price.jpgA Steep Price by Robert Dugoni

New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s thrilling series continues as Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite is plunged into a case of family secrets and murder…

Called in to consult after a young woman disappears, Tracy Crosswhite has the uneasy feeling that this is no ordinary missing-persons case. When the body turns up in an abandoned well, Tracy’s suspicions are confirmed. Estranged from her family, the victim had balked at an arranged marriage and had planned to attend graduate school. But someone cut her dreams short.

Solving the mystery behind the murder isn’t Tracy’s only challenge. The detective is keeping a secret of her own: she’s pregnant. And now her biggest fear seems to be coming true when a new detective arrives to replace her. Meanwhile, Tracy’s colleague Vic Fazzio is about to take a fall after his investigation into the murder of a local community activist turns violent and leaves an invaluable witness dead.

Two careers are on the line. And when more deadly secrets emerge, jobs might not be the only things at risk.

Book Details

Author: Robert Dugoni
Series: Tracy Crosswhite #6
Pages: 380 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1503954188
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: June 26, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“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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10 comments

  1. Will read The Word is Murder, Scorpion Strike, and Line of sight. Thanks, Ryan, for this great list!

  2. Will read The Word is Murder, Scorpion Strike, and Line of sight.
    Thanks, Ryan, for this great reading list!

  3. #RealBookSpyReadingChallenge From this months guide. I plan on reading: The President is Missing, Something in the Water, The Woman in the Woods, The Real Michael Swann, Jar of Hearts, and Find you in the Dark.

  4. above comment that it did not justify four star rating referred to “Threat warning“ By John Gilstrap

  5. Just finished “one killer force“ By Dalton Fury.His books are the best, and he will be missed but his books live on. Rated it five stars.

  6. Just finished “closer than you know“ by Brad Parks. It’s a good book but not as good as his first book. Rated it four stars.

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