The Real Book Spy’s October 2018 Reading Guide

Happy October, thriller fans! 

Following a great summer of action-packed thrillers, fall kicks off with a stacked lineup of new releases from some of the biggest authors on the planet, including John Grisham, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, and more. 

As always, we’ve chosen a few titles to highlight, and this month’s Featured Selections are November Road by Lou Berney, Wrecked by Joe Ide, The Fox by Frederick Forsyth, and Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly.  

Berney’s latest, which is an incredible thriller wrapped in a love story and set against the backdrop of the JFK assassination, is just brilliant. Likewise, Joe Ide, one of the very best new mystery writers to burst on the scene in the last decade, delivers yet another must-read IQ novel that might be my favorite book of the month. Last year, John le Carre, one of the greatest spy novelists of all time, surprised fans with a strong new release. This year, it’s another icon who delivers for readers, as Frederick Forsyth shows yet again why his name belongs on the Mount Rushmore of spy novelists. And finally, Michael Connelly, like Harry Bosch, just gets better with time. His latest teams Bosh up with Renae Ballard, star of last year’s The Late Show, forming a dynamic duo that readers will no doubt love seeing together. 

Those four books are just the tip of the iceberg, though, with so many others also set to come out in the coming weeks. Browse a full list of all the top October releases below, then leave us a comment and let us know which book you’re most excited to get your hands on. 

Happy reading! 


Tuesday, October 2nd

 

Under My Skin by Lisa Unger

“From New York Times bestselling author and master of suspense Lisa Unger comes an addictive psychological thriller about a woman on the hunt for her husband’s killer

What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?”

Book Details

Author: Lisa Unger
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9780778308409
Publisher: Park Row
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10

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Tuesday, October 9th

 

November Road by Lou Berney (Featured Selection)

As the country searches for answers following the assassination of JFK, two individuals searching for a new beginning cross paths and take an instant interest in one another. 

Frank Guidry learns the hard way that when it comes to the criminal underworld, everyone is expendable. After years of serving Carlos Marcello, a prominent New Orleans crime lord, Frank’s usefulness has finally run its course. Then again, so has everyone else’s, as those connected to the mob boss all begin turning up dead after America’s beloved president is publicly murdered.

After dumping a car that was supposed to play a role in the shooting in Dallas, Frank discovers that Paul Barone, a skilled hitman with a devastatingly lethal resumé, has been tasked with killing him before anyone uncovers the link between the assassination and Marcello. Forced to go on the run, Frank’s only chance at survival is to get all the way to Las Vegas and link up with one of Carlos Marcello’s rivals, who not only hates the New Orleans mob man enough to help Frank disappear, but has the resources to make sure nobody ever finds him. 

While Frank needs to disappear, Charlotte Roy, meanwhile, wants to disappear. After another Sunday dinner where Dooly, her drunk and useless husband, puts on a good show for his parents, Charlotte decides she’s had enough. Packing up essentials for herself and her two daughters, Joan and Rosemary, Charlotte loads everything up in the car, grabs her girls, and hits the road. With only nine hundred bucks and dreams of a better life to her name, Charlotte takes the first step towards creating a better future for her girls in California. Her poorly planned getaway takes a turn for the worse, though, after her car breaks down. 

Frank, still determined to get out of dodge, can’t help but stop to help the pretty mother stranded on the side of the road with her girls. So, pretending to be an insurance salesman on his way to Los Angeles to help his fictitious New York-based company “conquer the world,” Frank helps Charlotte out. Almost immediately, it hits him that the best way to camouflage his movement is to travel with Charlotte and her daughters.

Knowing that Barone is looking for a single man on the run, Guidry decides to use Charlotte and her girls, getting close to them over the following days in order to pose as a family journeying west together. What starts as a selfish charade quickly turns into something unexpected when Frank and Charlotte begin to show feelings for each other. They’re each attracted to the other’s qualities and outlook on life. But each also has closely guarded secrets, and as those begin to come out, the story takes one unexpected turn after another. Frank soon realizes he must decide if he’d rather keep running and disappear before Barone catches up with him. . . or take a chance on actually living alongside Charlotte and her girls. 

Using the backdrop of JFK’s assassination was a brilliant move by Berney, who then uses the uncertainty of the moment to merge two lives together in a way that’s oddly beautiful. Normally, readers might not find it easy to root for a guy who might have, kinda sorta, had a small hand in Kennedy’s murder. And yet, with Frank Guidry, Lou Berney delivers a masterful tale of redemption, running parallel to Charlotte’s inspiring message of hope. On their own, they’re entertaining, but together they’re incredibly uplifting. And by having a killer lurking in the shadows hot on their trail, threatening their newfound happiness, Berney keeps the suspense red-lining throughout.

Incredibly well-written and deftly plotted, Lou Berney’s November Road is one of the year’s best novels. . . and a story readers will be talking about for a very long time. 

Book Details

Author: Lou Berney
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062663844
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0/10

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Holy Ghost by John Sandford

Fresh off his last case (Deep Freeze, 2017), the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension sends Virgil Flowers to Pinion, Minnesota, to investigate a series of shootings. 

It all started when former Iraqi war vet turned mayor of Pinion, Wardell Holland, listened to John Jacob Skinner, his seventeen-year-old sidekick, pitch him a daring idea to line the city’s coffers with tourism dollars. Sitting in his mother’s trailer and armed with a pellet gun, Holland takes momentary breaks from blowing the wings off annoying flies to hear Skinner’s harmful idea of having his friend (with benefits), Janet Fischer, pretend to be the ghost of the Virgin Mary. At best, the ploy will increase tourism and put Pinion on the map. At worst, theorizes the near-alcoholic teenager, the sham doesn’t work and nobody is hurt in the process. 

But what first seemed like a nothing-to-lose idea quickly turns violent and deadly when strangers from across the country visit the tiny Minnesota town to witness the staged miracle. First, one visitor escapes sniper fire without serious injury. Sadly, the next victim isn’t as lucky, sustaining a major injury that prompts Virgil Flowers to leave his pregnant girlfriend and head south to investigate. 

Upon reaching Pinion, Flowers finds the tiny town underwhelming. After agreeing to pay far more than the dingy room that Mayor Holland secures for him is worth, Virgil goes out searching for clues. Instead, he finds a whole lot of nothing, including no motives, suspects, or bread crumbs to follow. The case is a bust until another body turns up, and Flowers realizes the new corpse is that of Glen Andorra, who runs a makeshift shooting range when he’s not farming his land. Using Glen as a new starting point, he’s able to compile a list of suspects, and when the killer strikes again, Flowers finally has a trail to follow. . . one that leads to the last place readers might expect. 

Sandford is so good at mixing humor into his mysteries, and that ability pays off greatly here. Whenever things take a dark turn, Flowers still manages to keep the plot light with his wit and humor. The story moves relatively fast, on par with his other novels, and the intriguing opening premise kicks things off with a bang. Those fearing this title might venture into Dan Brown-like waters need not worry, the initial setup involving the Virgin Mary doesn’t delve deep into religious text or beliefs. Instead, it serves as a tantalizing way to ramp things up, but the story does move away from that as Flowers chases a killer on the loose. Bottom line, it’s another very strong showing from Sandford. 

When a heavenly figure pops up, all hell breaks loose in Holy Ghost, another rip-roaring thriller from John Sandford, who continues to masterfully develop Virgil Flowers . . . who has been on another level since last year’s Deep Freeze.

Book Details

Author: John Sandford
Series: Virgil Flowers #11
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735217327
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10

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Wrecked by Joe Ide (Featured Selection)

Private Investigator Isaiah “IQ” Quintabe is back for another adventure in Joe Ide’s (Righteous, 2017) exceptional third novel. 

IQ’s Long Beach-based PI firm has officially taken off. However, while Quintabe’s popularity soars, his bank account apparently never gets the memo. While solving all the problems in his neighborhood has him well-liked by everyone in the area, IQ’s reputation for taking non-money forms of payment has gotten around. That’s great if you’re in need of a Christmas sweater, which one client offered to trade for his services, but it isn’t exactly paying the bills. 

To turn things around financially, Dodson, who is now a full-time business partner, has a vision of taking IQ’s services mainstream, even going as far as to set up a Facebook page and do a little advertising. More of a street hustler than his genius detective counterpart, Dodson adopts a new no-more-freebies policy. Things, though, don’t go according to plan when Grace Monarova enters IQ’s world and needs help. 

An up-and-coming artist, Grace approaches IQ and asks him to help her track down her mother, Sarah. In exchange, she offers him a painting, which he accepts . . .  more because he’s sweet on Grace, and less because he has a perfect spot on the wall all picked out to hang a new piece of art. As Quintabe goes to work, he learns rather quickly that Grace failed to tell him a few key details about her mother’s current situation. Like, for example, that she’s a prime murder witness and in possession of sensitive evidence that could be seriously bad news for a private security firm led by ex-commando Stan Walczak, who used questionable interrogation methods to question prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Unbeknownst to IQ, following Sarah’s trail puts him on a collision course with Walczak, though he’s hardly the only threat in Quintabe’s way. 

On a deeper level, Seb Habimana, the African-born Oxford grad, remains IQ’s true adversary. His presence is once again lurking in the background, and while Walczak poses a physical threat to Quintabe, Seb is more dangerous due to his ability to match IQ’s intellect. Playing Moriarty to IQ’s Sherlock Holmes, Seb is both ruthless and cunning, and the mind games between the two characters are perfectly written, providing the proverbial cherry on top to Ide’s delicious, high-powered plot. 

While the story works well as a standalone, newcomers would benefit from starting at the series’ beginning, as Ide’s body of work, albeit a small sample size, has been nothing short of incredible. There’s a lot of Sherlock Holmes knockoffs, but Ide, while offering some similarities, delivers a refreshing take on the often clichéd genius detective protagonist, re-inventing the character as a black, street-smart millennial from Long Beach. Isaiah Quintabe is brilliant, but it’s Ide’s writing that elevates the whole series, with his gritty prose proving to be a perfect fit with the series’ urban setting. While parts of the story are shown ahead of time, reducing some of the suspense, even the readers who do figure out or take a lucky stab at the story’s conclusion will enjoy the journey Ide takes them on, and will no doubt close this one counting down the days until the fourth installment hits bookstores next years. 

While Ide’s first novel (IQ) reads like a true mystery, his second book (Righteous) took on a psychological thriller-like feel. Continuing that trend,Wrecked has more action, wrapped around a smart plot, than both previous books combined — and his ability to change things up, while still finding ways to develop his characters and deliver compelling storylines, keeps the series fresh and unique. Bottom line, Joe Ide is one of the best writers to burst onto the mystery scene in a long time. . . if you’ve yet to discover his must-read IQ series, don’t wait another second.

Book Details

Author: Joe Ide
Series: IQ #3
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316509515
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.5 /10

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The Witch Elm by Tana French

Stepping away from the procedurals she’s become so known for, Tana French’s latest standalone asks a number of thought-provoking questions wrapped in a nail-biting plot. 

Toby Hennessy has it all. He’s good-looking, has a great job in an art gallery, people always seem to like him, and he has a wonderful girlfriend named Melissa. On the outside, he oozes confidence. On the inside, he’s smart, calm, and calculated. Great things seem to happen to him more than others, and for the most part, life comes easily to him. He excels at almost everything he does, and very few things present him a challenge. Privileged and well aware of that fact, Toby skates through life with very little effort until, without warning, everything suddenly changes. 

Upon returning from work one night, Toby stumbles into his apartment to find two men in his home. Interrupting their attempt to rob him, the burglars throw Toby a beating that nearly kills him. Though he survives, it’s made clear that the story’s protagonist is not the same following the brutal attack. As if his luck and good fortune finally had suddenly ran out, Toby’s left clinging to life, but the confidence he once has is dead. So too is his easy-going demeanor and fearless approach to living his life. What’s left is a changed man who struggles to cope with the person he’s suddenly become. 

For Toby, dealing with the physical pain is only half of the battle. Even more challenging is the mental toll he feels from suffering a newfound identity crisis. His changed appearance and pain are daunting to overcome at first, but the lingering paranoia and anxiety have turned him from a calm and confident man to a twenty-something-year-old who lives in a permanent state of unease and fear, and whose once sharp mind is suddenly plagued with gaps in his memory.

During his recovery, Toby learns that his Uncle Hugo has inoperable brain cancer. Realizing that he can still serve a purpose, Toby and Melissa move into Hugo’s home so that Toby can care for him in his final days, and things eventually begin to even out for him personally. The new sense of purpose does wonders for him, and the three bond, acting as a family unit, which Toby enjoys. However, just as things begin to look up, the story takes a wicked turn when a human skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the property’s garden, promoting a host of questions. 

As police begin their investigation, Toby starts to question what he thought he knew about his family, and even himself. While his search leads him in a familiar direction, prompting readers to believe they know where the story is headed, French reverses course and shatters all preconceived assumptions about the plot. The sudden about-face turns the story on its head, and while some of the ensuing twists fall a tad flat, others hit with thundering force, setting up a suspense-fueled final act that has a big payoff for those who stay patient as things develop. 

While the overall pacing is fairly slow, French does pick things up a bit as the story unfolds. That said, even with the intrigue early on, the opening pages feel a bit dull at times as the author takes her time developing the characters and setup. Once things are ready to roll, though, French delivers one shock after another, building the tension as the final act takes off, then goes out with a bang. 

Other than a slow start, which Tana French makes up for and then some, The Witch Elm twists and turns its way to a shocking ending that most readers will never see coming. 

 

Book Details

Author: Tana French
Pages: 528 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735224625
Publisher: Viking
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0 /10

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Crisis by Felix Francis

“New York Times–bestselling author Felix Francis returns with his newest edge-of-your-seat horseracing thriller in the Dick Francis tradition.

Harrison Foster, a crisis manager for a London firm, is summoned to Newmarket after a fire in the Chadwick Stables kills six very valuable horses, including the short-priced favorite for the Derby. There is far more to the “simple” fire than initially meets the eye…for a start, human remains are found among the equestrian ones in the burnt-out shell. All the stable staff are accounted for, so who is the mystery victim?

Harry knows very little about horses, indeed he positively dislikes them, but he is thrust unwillingly into the world of thoroughbred racing, where the standard of care of the equine stars is far higher than that of the humans who attend to them.

The Chadwick family is a dysfunctional racing dynasty. Resentment between the generations is rife and sibling rivalry bubbles away like volcanic magma beneath a thin crust of respectability.

Harry represents the Middle Eastern owner of the Derby favorite and, as he delves deeper into the unanswered questions surrounding the horse’s demise, he ignites a fuse that blows the volcano sky-high. Can Harry solve the riddle before he is bumped off by the fallout?”

Book Details

Author: Felix Francis 
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0525536760
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0 /10

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Face Off by David Hagberg

“New York Times bestselling author David Hagberg’s acclaimed Kirk McGarvey series continues with another compelling and timely thriller in Face Off.

Kirk McGarvey is lunching in the Eiffel Tower when terrorists attempt to bring the Paris icon down. He springs into action to stop the attack, only to find there’s a much larger plot at stake. One that aims to force the incompetent US President out by pitting him against Russia.

But Putin himself is eager to avoid World War III. When a Russian nuclear weapon goes missing and is found heading to the US, Putin enlists McGarvey’s help in stopping it.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the outcome couldn’t be more in doubt. Only McGarvey stands a chance of intervening before it’s too late, in a race against time across Paris, Istanbul, Moscow, and Washington, D.C.”

 

Book Details

Author: David Hagberg
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0765384914
Publisher: Forge
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 5.0 /10

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Tuesday, October 16th

 

Shell Game by Sara Paretsky

“Sara Paretsky follows her instant New York Times bestseller Fallout—her most widely read novel in years—with an extraordinary adventure that pits her acclaimed detective, V.I. Warshawski, against some of today’s most powerful figures.

Legendary sleuth V.I. Warshawski returns to the Windy City to save an old friend’s nephew from a murder arrest. The case involves a stolen artifact that could implicate a shadowy network of international criminals. As V.I. investigates, the detective soon finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, ISIS backers, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen art that stretches from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East. In Shell Game, nothing and no one are what they seem, except for the detective herself, who loses sleep, money, and blood, but remains indomitable in her quest for justice.”

 

Book Details

Author: Sara Paretsky
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0780062435866
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5 /10

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The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

“Spanning the icy streets of Reykjavik, the Icelandic highlands and cold, isolated fjords, The Darkness is an atmospheric thriller from Ragnar Jonasson, one of the most exciting names in Nordic Noir.

The body of a young Russian woman washes up on an Icelandic shore. After a cursory investigation, the death is declared a suicide and the case is quietly closed.

Over a year later Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir of the Reykjavík police is forced into early retirement at 64. She dreads the loneliness and the memories of her dark past that threatens to come back to haunt her. But before she leaves she is given two weeks to solve a single cold case of her choice. She knows which one: the Russian woman whose hope for asylum ended on the dark, cold shore of an unfamiliar country. Soon Hulda discovers that another young woman vanished at the same time and that no one is telling her the whole story. Even her colleagues in the police seem determined to put the brakes on her investigation. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.

Hulda will find the killer, even if it means putting her own life in danger.”

 

Book Details

Author: Ragnar Jonasson
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250171032
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.5 /10

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Residue by Michael McGarrity

“Former police chief Kevin Kerney returns―this time as the prime suspect in a brutal cold-case murder investigation.

Against the backdrop of the harsh desert and high mountain country of southwestern New Mexico, a high-octane quest for the truth untangles a complex history of dark family secrets, cold-blooded murders, rogue cops, a devastating plane crash, and the possibility of one family’s reconciliation.

A long-unsolved missing person case becomes a homicide investigation when the bones of Kim Ward are unearthed in Las Cruces, New Mexico, forty-five years after her disappearance. Compelling forensic and anecdotal evidence quickly shifts suspicion to Ward’s old college boyfriend: former Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney.

With damning evidence against him compiled by his own son, New Mexico State Police Lieutenant Clayton Istee, Kerney is arrested. He has no alibi and not a single witness to speak for him. Under intense media scrutiny and 24/7 police surveillance, Kerney must rely solely on the help of his wife, Sara, and a renowned criminal defense lawyer to discover if there are any remaining clues that can exonerate him or lead to the killer.

As the trio begin to reconstruct the events leading to Ward’s murder, Istee reexamines his suspicions about Kerney’s guilt and decides to risk everything to help prove his father’s innocence. Working together to identify one person who can clear Kerney’s name and expose the killer, the four soon discover that Ward’s murder isn’t the only crime to be solved.”

 

Book Details

Author: Michael McGarrity
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0393634353
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0 /10

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Deck The Hounds by David Rosenfelt

“This Christmas mystery, featuring criminal defense lawyer Andy Carpenter and his faithful golden retriever, Tara, showcases Rosenfelt’s trademark humor and larger-than-life characters.

Reluctant lawyer Andy Carpenter doesn’t usually stop to help others, but seeing a dog next to a homeless man inspires him to give the pair some money to help. It’s just Andy’s luck that things don’t end there. Soon after Andy’s encounter with them, man and dog are attacked in the middle of the night on the street. The dog defends its new owner, and the erstwhile attacker is bitten but escapes. But the dog is quarantined and the man, Don Carrigan, is heartbroken.

Andy’s wife Laurie can’t resist helping the duo after learning Andy has met them before… it’s the Christmas season after all. In a matter of days Don and his dog Zoey are living above Andy’s garage and become two new additions to the family. It’s not until Andy accidentally gives away his guest’s name during an interview that things go awry; turns out Don is wanted for a murder that happened two years ago. Don not only claims he’s innocent, but that he had no idea that he was wanted for a crime he has no knowledge of in the first place. It’s up to Andy to exonerate his new friend, if he doesn’t get pulled into the quagmire first.

David Rosenfelt’s signature wit, charm, and cleverness are back again in this most exciting installment yet.”

 

Book Details

 

Author: David Rosenfelt
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1250198488
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0 /10

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The Last Swordmaker by Brian Nelson

“A taut, fast-paced thriller about the coming high-tech arms race between the United States and China

In the high mountains of Tibet, rumors are spreading. People whisper of an outbreak, of thousands of dead, of bodies pushed into mass graves. It is some strange new disease a disease, they say, that can kill in minutes.

The Chinese government says the rumors aren’t true, but no one is allowed in or out of Tibet.

At the Pentagon, Admiral James Curtiss is called to an emergency meeting. Satellite images prove that a massive genocide is underway, and an American spy has made a startling discovery. This is no disease. It’s a weapon test. Chinese scientists have developed a way to kill based on a person’s genetic traits. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. The success of their new weapon proves that the Chinese are nearing ”Replication”– a revolutionary breakthrough that will tip the global balance of power and change the way wars are waged.

Now the US must scramble to catch up before it is too late. Admiral Curtiss gathers the nation’s top scientists, including a promising young graduate student named Eric Hill who just might hold the missing piece to the replication puzzle. Soon Hill and his colleague Jane Hunter are caught up in a deadly game of sabotage as the two nations strive to be the first to reach the coveted goal. But in their headlong race, they create something unexpected something the world has never seen and something more powerful than they had ever imagined.

The Last Sword Maker is an exciting globe-trotting thriller with unforgettable characters that depicts a haunting vision of the future of warfare.”

 

Book Details

Author: Brian Nelson
Pages: 400 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1538507668
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0 /10

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Tuesday, October 23rd

 

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth (Featured Selection)

With virtual crimes on the rise, a new breed of burglars has invaded cyberspace, replacing in-person, physical theft with the ability to siphon money from anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. But not all hackers steal money, opting to instead go after something much more valuable . . . secrets.

Iconic novelist Frederick Forsyth (The Kill List, 2013) opens his outstanding new thriller with Adrian Weston, the chief of the British Secret Intelligence, receiving a phone call in the middle of the night. On the other end of the call is the prime minister, who demands an audience with Weston at once, only to reveal a shocking development.

The impossible has happened. The Pentagon, the NSA, and the CIA have been hacked. On the surface, the three American agencies are supposed to be virtually impenetrable. Their firewalls are the best in the world, complete with an air-gabbed system that, until now, nobody has come close to cracking.

Interestingly, though the master hacker could have taken anything, including any number of sensitive information or classified documents, analysts back at Fort Meade confirmed that whoever breached their systems did so without stealing a thing. For unknown reasons, the hacker, who could have done an unprecedented amount of damage, simply didn’t. They destroyed nothing, sabotaged nothing, and are later described by Dr. Jeremey Hedricks, a renowned computer scientist on loan to British National Cyber Security Centre, as someone acting like a “curious child wandering through a toy store, satisfying their curiosity and then wandering back out again.” 

Three months after the initial hack took place, a team of black-clad Special Forces soldiers — comprised of British SRR, SAS, and SBS forces, along with two Navy SEALs — moved quietly through the night towards their target, a home identified by Dr. Hedricks as the origin of the security breach, expecting to encounter a serious physical threat from any number of enemy nations. Instead, they find an ordinary house occupying a quiet British suburb. The only trace of anyone having the ability to stage such a cyber assault is a makeshift computer room in the attic, which the family says is used by their oldest son, Luke Jennings, a quiet boy with Aspergers who keeps mostly to himself.  

Collectively, both the Americans and their MI5 counterparts are stunned to learn that “the Fox,” one of the greatest hackers the world has ever know, is an eighteen-year-old British kid with autism. Back in Washington, President Trump (who isn’t named directly, though his likeness is used, and even his own book, The Art of the Deal, is referenced) cuts a deal with the British, who fear the current commander-in-chief may go to war with anyone — including them — over such an offensive act. To stay on good terms with the United States, the prime minister agrees to the plan hatched in Washington to weaponize Jennings’ talents, using the cybergenius against their enemies.

However, in the process, Luke is suddenly thrust into the middle of a geopolitical nightmare, forced to play a high-stakes game he never wanted to partake in, going after Russia, North Korea, and Iran. . . while quickly becoming the most wanted person in the world, as those nations will stop at nothing to capture — or kill — the Fox. 

Frederick Forsyth does it again. For a story like this to work, the details have to be on point, and it’s clear that the author has done his homework as he breaks down how hackers work, often detailing their various methods and the different virtual traps they can set. Taking on the complexities of cybersecurity and putting things into layman’s terms isn’t easy. Whereas Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October left readers feeling like they could drive a submarine after the long, instruction manual-like descriptions, Forsyth finds a nice balance here (though readers may find themselves upgrading their virtual security and anti-virus protection after this one). The characters are developed nicely and the pacing is spot-on, ramping up in all the right places to create a nail-biting and satisfying final act that readers won’t soon forget.

While John le Carre dominated headlines with last year’s A Legacy of Spies, 2018 is all about the return of another all-time great. The Fox is just the kind of stunning, relevant, full-throttle story that thriller fans have been waiting for, and nobody delivers quite like Frederick Forsyth, one of the very best writers the genre has ever known. 

Book Details

Author: Frederick Forsyth
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 03525538429
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Son
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0 /10

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The Reckoning by John Grisham

“John Grisham’s The Reckoning is the master storyteller’s most powerful, surprising, and accomplished novel yet
 
October 1946, Clanton, Mississippi

Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, walked into the church, and calmly shot and killed his pastor and friend, the Reverend Dexter Bell. As if the murder weren’t shocking enough, it was even more baffling that Pete’s only statement about it—to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family—was: “I have nothing to say.” He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.

In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete’s defense attorney tries desperately to save him.

Reminiscent of the finest tradition of Southern Gothic storytelling, The Reckoning would not be complete without Grisham’s signature layers of legal suspense, and he delivers on every page.”

Book Details

Author: John Grisham
Pages: 432 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 03525538429
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10

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The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott

“From New York Times bestselling writer Jeff Abbott, a psychologically intense and emotionally gripping new suspense novel about a daughter’s desperate search for her missing mother-one that may lead her closer to home than she ever anticipated.

My mom would never leave me.
This has been Mariah Dunning’s motto. Her compass. Her belief. So when she glimpses her mother–who’s been missing for the past year–on the other side of a crowded food court, Mariah’s conviction becomes stronger than ever. Or is she losing her mind?

An unlikely coincidence?
When Beth Dunning disappeared without a trace, suspicion for her murder-despite the lack of a body or any physical evidence-immediately fell upon Mariah’s father. Until Mariah stumbles upon two other recent disappearances from Lakehaven. And all three women had the same name: Beth.

Or a sinister connection?
Mariah would give anything to find out what happened to her mother, and clear her father’s name. But the truth may be more devastating than she could have imagined…

Book Details

Author: Jeff Abbott
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1538728699
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0 /10

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Vendetta by Iris Johansen

“From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen comes a new explosive, compelling thriller.

With his dying breath, Carl Venable, head of the CIA task force on terrorism and Jude Brandon’s final link to terrorist ringleader Max Huber, gives Brandon a mandate: keep his daughter, Rachel, safe at any cost. But Rachel Venable has a shocking, twisted past of her own, one that comes rushing back after her medical clinic in Guyana is attacked by Huber―the same man who murdered her father and kept her imprisoned for months.
Brandon and Catherine Ling, Rachel’s longtime ally and fierce protector, are determined to keep Rachel out of danger, but she knows that it’s impossible to stay hidden when Max Huber wants you dead.”

Book Details

Author: Iris Johansen
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250075871
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 6.0 /10

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Tuesday, October 30th

 

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (Featured Selection)

We’ve seen it before with Mickey Haller, who was first introduced in his own novel and then, after a few more books of his own, eventually teamed up with Bosch. So when Michael Connelly introduced readers to Renee Ballard in last year’s The Late Show, it seemed inevitable that she would eventually cross paths with Harry Bosch, though fans might not have expected their worlds to collide quite this soon. 

Early on, it’s obvious that Connelly put the detectives together for a reason. They have undeniable chemistry. Though they’re far apart in age–Ballard’s the smart, young detective and Bosch is the seasoned veteran who’s seen it all–the two have a lot in common, most notably their desire for justice. Neither is the type to leave a case behind when their shift is done, which, in some ways, is exactly how they cross paths. 

After returning back from a scene containing a bloated, ripe, decomposing body on Hollywood Boulevard, Ballard, who is still working the late show (a shift she was assigned t0 after filing complaints against her former superior for making unwanted sexual advances, only to see them shot down when her then-partner refused to back up her story even though he knew it was true), begins writing up her report when she hears the familiar sound of metal clanking coming from somewhere in the detective bureau. Realizing that someone is opening and closing filing cabinets, she confronts the man, who turns out to be Bosch, though he leaves before she can question what he was doing. 

Following the strange encounter, Ballard flips through the file Bosch was looking at in an effort to figure out what he was up to. The file, it turns out, is a cold case detailing the still unsolved murder of a fifteen-year-old girl named Daisy Clayton. Ballard realized that the case was most recently assigned to Lucia Soto, Harry’s former partner, who is now working with the Hollywood Sexual Task Force.

With a link between Bosch and the case established, Ballard, who is empathetic towards the young girl’s story, begins poking around and asking questions of her own. 

Meanwhile, Bosch, who is still working cold cases as a reserve officer for the San Fernando Police Department, is looking into the death of Cristobal Vega, a fifty-two-year-old “shot-caller” for Varrio San Fer 13, who’d taken on a Godfather-like presence in San Fernando before someone put a bullet in his head while he was out walking his dog. Staying true to his “everybody matters or nobody matters” motto, Bosch digs into the case with the same intensity and open-minded approach he’s displayed over the course of thirty books. But in his downtime, Harry continues looking into the Daisy Clayton case, and it doesn’t take long for him and Ballard to cross paths again. 

Though their first encounter nearly resulted in Ballard pulling her Glock, she and Bosch eventually agree to team up, pursuing justice for Daisy Clayton as they search for a killer on the loose. At the same time, though, Harry’s other case catches the attention of Varrio San Fer 13, the vicious Mexican street gang, who doesn’t like where Bosch’s investigation is leading him . . . setting up the most dangerous pursuit of his storied career. 

While Bosch is still the main draw, Ballard is gaining on him fast. Through two novels now, Connelly has developed her brilliantly, fleshing out her background and motives and molding her into a bona fide new star of the genre. Like Bosch, she has an intensity about her and has rubbed plenty of people the wrong way, but her never-quit, follow-a-case-no-matter-where-it-leads attitude is something Bosch has embodied for three decades. In fact, Ballard does, in some ways, feel like she represents the next generation of LAPD detectives, adjusting to digital murder books and an ever-changing police department. That said, she’s not Bosch 2.0–Renee has her own quirks and she proves early on that she’s able to hold her own with Harry. 

Bosch, who now is pushing seventy, still has an undeniable presence on the page and seems to only get better with age. Several books back, Connelly began intertwining plotlines, a trend that’s added freshness to the series, and something he continues here. Both Bosch and Ballard are given plenty of screen time (the story is told through shifting POVs), and longtime fans will recognize a number of recurring characters who pop up throughout as Connelly unitizes his expanding universe, including a couple cameos from old favorites that fans of the Amazon-produced television show Bosch (starring Titus Welliver) will recognize. 

Michael Connelly does it again. Just when you think you know where the story’s going, Connelly shakes things up in a big way, ramping up the suspense before delivering one of his most shocking endings yet. . . Dark Sacred Night is another must-read thriller from one of the greatest crime writers of our time. 

Book Details

Author: Michael Connelly
Series: Ballard & Bosch  #1
Pages: 448 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0316484806
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company 
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 9.0 /10

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Dark Winter by A.J. Tata

When a sinister plot to start the next world war kicks off, it’s up to former Delta Force operator Jake Mahegan to save the day in the latest heart-thumping thriller from Anthony J. Tata. 

After the events of Direct Fire (2017), Jake is vacationing on a North Carolina island with his girlfriend, Cassie Bagwell, when the crap first hits the fan. The two are laying low, enjoying some much needed and well-earned R&R when they’re pulled back in and told of the mayhem erupting around the world. North Korea’s leader has been killed, the first of several steps that ultimately threatens to pull America into Europe, where Russia is assembling an impressive military presence. At the same time, North Korea responds by firing a nuke at Japan, and Iran begins invading Iraq.

And that is just the beginning. . . 

Punching the clock and rolling up their sleeves, Jake and Cassie get to work and quickly uncover that a group of dark hackers are behind the chaos. Led by Ian Gorham, a powerful media mogul who’s hellbent on taking over the world, the group has managed to sidestep the United States cybersecurity measures and infiltrate their military computers, compromising American missile and defense systems.

Scrambling to prevent further destruction, Jake and his team discover that the only way to stop Gorham’s plan is to physically locate the group’s headquarters and manually shut things down–using a little firepower and any other means necessary. The only problem is that Gorham’s Computer Optimized Warfare headquarters are broken down into three separate facilities, each of which are situated in dangerous locations smack-dab in the middle of all the conflicts and bloodshed. 

With time quickly running out before the next phase of destruction is set to begin, Jake and his team must attempt to do the impossible: split up, reach their targets at all costs, and shut things down before it’s too late. 

Since he kicked off his Mahegan series in 2015, few writers have been hotter than Anthony Tata, who continues to get better with each book as he develops his characters and constantly raises the stakes for Jake and the rest of the cast. Last year’s Direct Fire took the franchise to another level, and Dark Winter shows another significant leap in Tata’s ability to ramp up the tension and hold readers on the edge of their seats.

While he’s known for his action sequences, which are still front and center here, Tata displays an impressive touch with how he handles Jake’s development and his ability to plot out his stories. Some readers may be surprised by the amount of time given to Jake and Cassie’s relationship, but it’s actually refreshing, allowing readers to cleanse their pallets in between explosions and gunfights. Few writers have his tactical experience, which bleeds through each and every page, and there’s nobody better at coming up with out-of-the-box threat scenarios than Tata, who avoids genre clichés and keeps things fresh in a time when everyone else seems to be offering up similar storylines. 

Jake Mahegan has had his back up against the wall before, forced to lay it all on the line as he races to protect the country he loves, but he’s never faced a threat quite like this one . . . and this time, he might have finally bit off more than he can chew. 

With Dark Winter, Anthony Tata serves up a smart, fast-paced, and riveting plot that’s as good as anything else the genre currently has to offer. If you still haven’t tried this series, don’t put it off another second.

Book Details

Author: Anthony J. Tata
Series: Jake Mahegan #5
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1496717902
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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Elevation by Stephen King

“Set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine

The latest from legendary master storyteller Stephen King, a riveting, extraordinarily eerie, and moving story about a man whose mysterious affliction brings a small town together—a timely, upbeat tale about finding common ground despite deep-rooted differences.

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

From Stephen King, our ‘most precious renewable resource, like Shakespeare in the malleability of his work’ (The Guardian), Elevation is an antidote to our divisive culture, as gloriously joyful (with a twinge of deep sadness) as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.'”

Book Details

Author: Stephen King
Pages: 160 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1982102314
Publisher: Scribner
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0 /10

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Paperback

Deep Freeze by John Sandford

Look For Me by Lisa Gardner

Munich by Robert Harris

 

 

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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7 comments

  1. Great and very informative list. I just want to bring a novel that you may have overlooked. It’s LETHAL WHITE by Robert Galbraith |(J.K. Rowling). It features a P.I. by the name of Cormoran Strike and the first three novels have garnered a lot of fans (me included). It’s a hefty tome at 650 pages!! The previous three novels were very good mysteries.

  2. #RealBookSpyReadingChallenge From this months guide. I plan on reading: The Three Beths, The Fox, and Under My Skin.

  3. Just finished Red War.Good book, and I rated it four stars. Half of my rating was due to the creativity of the plot, and the other half was do to it’s development. I will continue to look forward to the authors work.

  4. Read a new author, Michael Kerr. Does a good job writing like Lee Child. His third book, absolution, is very good. I will continue reading his books because I like Logan,his main character

  5. Read three books: night shift, rated three stars; End game, by Chris Ryan, rated two stars;and signal, rated three stars. I really wouldn’t recommend any of them.

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