When readers meet Mark Strain, he’s a happily married man with a beautiful wife who is pregnant with their first child. A powerful lobbyist in D.C., Mark is known for doing whatever is necessary for his clients, even if it means coloring a tad outside the lines. That practice, though, means he’s made his fair share of enemies along the way, and while that didn’t used to matter to him, now that Mike has a family, things have changed.
One night, while fast asleep next to his wife, a group of federal agents storm his home, arrest him, and then accuse him of treason. In a moment’s notice, Mark’s world is flipped upside down as he struggles to process what’s happening to him. With no hope of a trial or jury of his peers to clear his name, Mark’s flipped to Russia, and it’s not until he’s on a flight to Moscow that someone finally explains to him that he’s part of a prisoner exchange. With the hits coming one right after another, nobody cares to hear his cries of innocence, which he swears by. Instead, Mark realizes he’s being sold out by someone, for some reason, though he has no idea why.
Once in Russia, the pacing picks up a bit. Unwilling to go down without a fight, Mark hits back, escaping his captors and going on the run. Plenty of chase scenes and gunfights ensue as he zigs and zags his way through foreign lands in hopes of reuniting with his wife and their child. But to make it home, Mark will need to figure out who’s behind things, on top of surviving long enough to confront them. . . which is easier said than done.
Overall, Michael Moreci’s latest novel is an entertaining adventure that has shades of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity woven into it. It reads like a movie, which is both a positive and a negative. While the action scenes are well done, there isn’t a ton of depth to the universe Mark is forced to run around in. Also, it’s worth noting that parts of the plot require readers to really suspend their disbelief. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily bad, or even uncommon, but usually, writers tend to fill gaps that movies don’t, making the unlikely, or even the impossible, seem doable. That’s not quite the case here, though it’s likely that only picky readers will take issue with that. Others will hold on for dear life as Moreci drags them through his fast-moving plot and find themselves running for cover when the bullets start flying.
Another issue is that while Mark’s journey is compelling, the rest of the story around him lacks punch. Readers will figure out who the bad guy is before Moreci reveals them, which takes away from the reading experience. The story is also very similar, in many ways, to David Ricciardi’s acclaimed debut, Warning Light, which came out earlier this year. Both feature less-than-battle-tested heroes who must fight their way back home against insurmountable odds. While Ricciardi’s story is more complete and concise, featuring a robust cast of characters, Moreci scores points for being timely, as Russia is obviously very big in the news right now.
Author: Michael Moreci
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Release Date: June 19, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10
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.