A Book Spy Review: ‘The Break Line’ by James Brabazon


The Break LineBritish filmmaker and author of My Friend the Mercenary (2011), James Brabazon makes his fiction debut, introducing readers to an exciting new character cut from the same cloth as Jason Bourne. 

To earn a license to kill, one must first be willing to kill on command, something Max McLean has never had an issue with when it comes to protecting his country. For the better part of two decades, McLean has served as an assassin, working for an off-the-books unit buried deep within the British government. 

Though he’s one of the coldest killers in the game, there’s another side to McLean too. Underneath the hard-boiled assassin is a man with an ever-growing conscience, fueling a desire to know for certain that the men his country tasks him with eliminating are, in fact, truly bad. That line of thinking leads to a botched mission in Caracas after Max fails to take out his target, prompting some to question his ability to follow orders in the field. Thankfully, his superiors give him a second chance, but McLean quickly learns that the new mission is anything but straight-forward. 

The new target is a white man located in northern Sierra Leone, who is said to be leading an army that has quickly grown out of control. Taking him out is a high priority, but getting deep enough into the African jungle undetected proves to be nearly impossible. Worse for Max is the fact that the last man sent to kill the evil leader–a man whom McLean knows and respects–literally lost his mind. Posing as a doctor, Max attempts to collect intel, only to have his cover blown and his plan torpedoed, forcing him to get creative with little to no outside resources. The more he discovers, though, the more McLean questions what he was sent to do, prompting him to search harder for answers he was never intended to find . . . and ones that just might get him killed.

James Brabazon, who has seen war up close and personal as a journalist, uses those experiences to inject a gritty authenticity to his plot. Utilizing a unique writing style, he does a tremendous job bringing the story’s settings to life. The opening in Venezuela is rich with vivid descriptions that’ll stimulate readers imaginations–including smells and sounds–transporting them there alongside McLean. Likewise, his characters are well developed (though there is some mystique around McLean), and the story is expertly plotted, designed to keep readers off balance and questioning everything.

There are a few moments where the pacing is slowed down, though that’s typical for any first book in a new series as it takes time to introduce readers to a new universe, and Brabazon makes up for it in spades down the road. 

James Brabazon makes a strong statement with his debut thriller . . . the genre might be flush with talented writers and fan-favorite heroes, but they’d better make room for one more. 

Book Details

Author:  James Brabazon
Series: Max McLean #1
Pages: 368 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0440001471
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10


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.

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