The Real Book Spy’s May 2019 Reading Guide

While last month was just stacked with a number of must-read thrillers, May is a bit quieter. Consider it the quiet before the storm, with June right around the corner—which means new thrillers from a whole bunch of heavyweights, including the latest Scot Harvath thriller from Brad Thor and the latest Jack Ryan Junior book from Mike Maden. 

May, though it lacks the overall depth of the past few months, does include one of my favorite thrillers of the year, Reaper: Threat Zero by Nicholas Irving and A.J. Tata, which is awesome. Owen Laukkenan, one of the most underrated novelists in the game, also has a new book out called Deception Cove, which is a must for fans of C.J. Box and William Kent Krueger. Those two books serve as this month’s Featured Selections—find out more about them, and all the other titles slated for release in the coming weeks, below. 


 

 

Tuesday, May 7th

 

The Kremlin StrikeThe Kremlin Strike by Dale Brown

In this exciting, visionary, and all-too-plausible next chapter in the legendary Dale Brown’s New York Times bestselling techno-warfare series, Brad McLanahan and the Iron Wolf Squadron must fight the Russians on a dangerous, untested battlefield: outer space.

The previous administration’s ineffective response to the growing Russian threat has left America vulnerable. Setting a bold course for America’s defense, the decisive and strong new president, John Dalton Farrell, intends to challenge Russian aggression head on. Brad and Patrick McLanahan and the formidable Iron Wolf Squadron—including the recently injured Nadia Roz, rested and back to fighting form thanks to a pair of state-of-the-art prosthetic legs—are ready and eager to join the battle.

But even with their combined forces, the Russian menace may prove too great for the Americans to overcome. Done with provocative skirmishes and playing for small stakes, the Russian president has set his sights on the ultimate prize: controlling the entire world. Expanding beyond earth’s bounds, the Russians have built a new high-tech space station and armed it with weaponry capable of destroying US satellites as well as powerful missiles pointed at strategic targets across earth.

Devising a cunning plan of attack, Brad, Nadia, and the Iron Wolf warriors will take to the skies in their advanced space planes to destroy the space station, check the Russians’ plan for dominance, and save the world. But is it already too late?

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Black MountainBlack Mountain by Laird Barron

Ex-mob enforcer Isaiah Coledrige has hung out a shingle as a private eye in New York’s Hudson Valley, and in his newest case, a seemingly simple murder investigation leads him to the most terrifying enemy he has ever faced

When a small-time criminal named Harold Lee turns up in the Ashokan reservoir–sans a heartbeat, head, or hands–the local Mafia capo hires Isaiah Coleridge to look into the matter. The Mob likes crime, but only the crime it controls…and as it turns out, Lee is the second independent contractor to meet a bad end on the business side of a serrated knife. One such death can be overlooked. Two makes a man wonder.

A guy in Harold Lee’s business would make his fair share of enemies, and it seems a likely case of pure revenge. But as Coledrige turns over more stones, he finds himself dragged into something deeper and more insidious than he could have imagined, in a labyrinthine case spanning decades. At the center are an heiress moonlighting as a cabaret dancer, a powerful corporation with high-placed connections, and a serial killer who may have been honing his skills since the Vietnam War…

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The Paris DiversionThe Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Expats. Kate Moore is back in a pulse-pounding thriller to discover that a massive terror attack across Paris is not what it seems – and that it involves her family

American expat Kate Moore drops her kids at the international school, makes her shopping rounds, and meets her husband Dexter at their regular café: a leisurely start to a normal day, St-Germain-des-Prés.
 
Across the Seine, tech CEO Hunter Forsyth stands on his balcony, perplexed that his police escort just departed, and frustrated that his cell service has cut out; Hunter has important calls to make, not all of them technically legal.
 
And on the nearby rue de Rivoli, Mahmoud Khalid climbs out of an electrician’s van, and elbows his way into the crowded courtyard of the world’s largest museum, in the epicenter of Western civilization. He sets down his metal briefcase, and removes his windbreaker.
 
That’s when people start to scream.
 
Everyone has big plans for the day. Dexter is going to make a small fortune, finally digging himself out of a deep financial hole, via an extremely risky investment. Hunter is going to make a huge fortune, with a major corporate acquisition that will send his company’s stock soaring. Kate has less ambitious plans: preparations for tonight’s dinner party—one of those homemaker obligations she still hasn’t embraced, even after a half-decade of this life—and an uneventful workday at the Paris Substation, the clandestine cadre of operatives that she’s been running, not entirely successfully, increasingly convinced that every day could be the last of her career. But every day is also a fresh chance to prove her own relevance, never more so than during today’s momentous events.
 
And Mahmoud? He is planning to die today. And he won’t be the only one.

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Theatre of Spies.jpgTheater of Spies by S.M. Stirling 

The second novel in an alternate history series where Teddy Roosevelt is president once more right before WWI breaks out, and on his side is the Black Chamber, a secret spy network watching America’s back. 

After foiling a German plot to devastate America’s coastal cities from Boston to Galveston, crack Black Chamber agent Luz O’Malley and budding technical genius Ciara Whelan go to California to recuperate. But their well-deserved rest is cut short by the discovery of a diabolical new weapon that could give the German Imperial Navy command of the North Sea. 

Luz and Ciara must go deep undercover and travel across a world at war, and live under false identities in Berlin itself to ferret out the project’s secrets. Close on their trail is the dangerous German agent codenamed Imperial Sword, who is determined to get his revenge, and a band of assault-rifle equipped stormtroopers, led by the murderously efficient killer Ernst Röhm.  From knife-and-pistol duels on airships to the horrors of the poison-gas factories to harrowing marine battles in the North Sea, the fight continues–with a world as the prize.

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Tuesday, May 14th

 

The Never GameThe Never Game by Jeffery Deaver 

From the bestselling and award-winning master of suspense, the first novel in a thrilling new series, introducing Colter Shaw.

“You have been abandoned.”

A young woman has gone missing in Silicon Valley and her father has hired Colter Shaw to find her. The son of a survivalist family, Shaw is an expert tracker. Now he makes a living as a “reward seeker,” traveling the country to help police solve crimes and private citizens locate missing persons. But what seems a simple investigation quickly thrusts him into the dark heart of America’s tech hub and the cutthroat billion-dollar video-gaming industry. 

“Escape if you can.”

When another victim is kidnapped, the clues point to one video game with a troubled past–The Whispering Man. In that game, the player has to survive after being abandoned in an inhospitable setting with five random objects. Is a madman bringing the game to life?

“Or die with dignity.”

Shaw finds himself caught in a cat-and-mouse game, risking his own life to save the victims even as he pursues the kidnapper across both Silicon Valley and the dark ‘net. Encountering eccentric game designers, trigger-happy gamers and ruthless tech titans, he soon learns that he isn’t the only one on the hunt: someone is on his trail and closing fast.

The Never Game proves once more why “Deaver is a genius when it comes to manipulation and deception” (Associated Press).

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If She wakesIf She Wakes by Michael Koryta 

Two women fight for their lives against an enigmatic killer in this electrifying novel from a New York Times bestselling author and “master” of thriller writing (Stephen King).

Tara Beckley is a senior at idyllic Hammel College in Maine. As she drives to deliver a visiting professor to a conference, a horrific car accident kills the professor and leaves Tara in a vegetative state. At least, so her doctors think. In fact, she’s a prisoner of locked-in syndrome: fully alert but unable to move a muscle. Trapped in her body, she learns that someone powerful wants her dead–but why? And what can she do, lying in a hospital bed, to stop them?

Abby Kaplan, an insurance investigator, is hired by the college to look into Tara’s case. A former stunt driver, Abby returned home after a disaster in Hollywood left an actor dead and her own reputation–and nerves–shattered. Despite the fog of trauma, she can tell that Tara’s car crash was no accident. When she starts asking questions, things quickly spin out of control, leaving Abby on the run and a mysterious young hitman named Dax Blackwell hard on her heels.

Full of pulse-pounding tension, If She Wakes is a searing, breakneck thriller from the genre’s “best of the best” (Michael Connelly).

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THe Night window SDThe Night Window by Dean Koontz

Jane Hawk’s one-woman war comes to an explosive climax as the rogue FBI agent gambles everything against a terrifying conspiracy, for vengeance, for justice, and for humanity’s freedom—from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Corner.
 
A visionary young filmmaker hunted for sport across a vast Colorado ranch by the celebrated billionaire at the heart of a monstrous cabal . . .
 
A brilliant computer hacker slipping through top-secret databases a whisper ahead of security trackers, gathering the facts to fight the all-powerful perpetrators of mass murder . . .
 
A pair of brutal operators, methodically shadowing their targets with every cutting-edge tool in the arsenal of today’s surveillance state . . .
 
A sequence of quiet heroes—everyday citizens—stepping up, stepping forward, intent on countering the advancing darkness . . .
 
A Vegas mob boss teamed with a homicidal sociopath, circling a beloved boy and his protectors, aiming to secure him as leverage against his fugitive mother . . .
 
And that fugitive mother herself, ex-agent Jane Hawk, closing in on the malevolent architects of ruin she has stalked as they stalk her, prepared to sacrifice herself to finally bring them down.
 
These are the people and circumstances of The Night Window, the thrilling new novel in Dean Koontz’s acclaimed Jane Hawk series. Replete—and then some—with the ingenious twists, the spellbinding action, the resonant themes, the sheer heart that have characterized Jane’s journey from the start, The Night Window follows its extraordinary heroine to her long-sought objective, in a stunning, unforgettable finale. 

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Tuesday, May 21st

 

Reaper Threat ZeroReaper: Threat Zero by Nicholas Irving and A.J. Tata (Featured Selection)

The next book in the explosive new thriller series by former special operations sniper and New York Times bestselling author of The Reaper

A convoy of cars carrying several family members of the President’s cabinet to Camp David for “Family Day” is ambushed, killing and wounding wives, husbands and children.

Immediately in the aftermath, Vick Harwood watches a Facebook live feed of his former ranger buddy Sammie Samuelson’s apparent suicide and confession in his Thurmont, Maryland apartment, just one mile from Camp David. Remnants of a firefight are in the background: sniper rifle, rocket launchers, and ammunition. Simultaneously, an intruder breaks into Harwood’s house.

Harwood arrives in Thurman to investigate the suicide and, with the help of attractive FBI agent Valerie Hinojosa, traces evidence left by Samuelson to a fiendish plot involving transnational terrorists and domestic political opponents.

Meanwhile, the president wants retribution, and will stop at nothing to get it. Harwood joins Team Valid, whose mission is to kill the family members of terrorists and eliminate their seed from the earth. Team Valid, consisting of Hinojosa, Harwood, a Navy SEAL sniper, and a Marine Force Recon sniper, travels to Crimea, Iran, and Azerbaijan before realizing the mission is not what it seems. Harwood struggles to balance his orders with his sense of right and wrong―without losing his life in the process. As Samuelson is implicated in the Camp David ambush, it is a race to protect his remaining family and uncover the sinister plot in the homeland.

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Deception CoveDeception Cove by Owen Laukkanen (Featured Selection)

For fans of CJ Box and Michael Koryta, an “intimate and cinematic” thriller* about an ex-Marine, and ex-convict, and a rescue dog caught in the crosshairs of a ruthless gang in remote Washington state.

Former US Marine Jess Winslow reenters civilian life a new widow, with little more to her name than a falling-down house, a medical discharge for PTSD, and a loyal dog named Lucy. The only thing she actually cares about is that dog, a black-and-white pit bull mix who helps her cope with the devastating memories of her time in Afghanistan.

After fifteen years — nearly half his life — in state prison, Mason Burke owns one set of clothes, a wallet, and a photo of Lucy, the service dog he trained while behind bars. Seeking a fresh start, he sets out for Deception Cove, Washington, where the dog now lives.

As soon as Mason knocks on Jess’s door, he finds himself in the middle of a standoff between the widow and the deputy county sheriff. When Jess’s late husband piloted his final “fishing” expedition, he stole and stashed a valuable package from his drug dealer associates. Now the package is gone, and the sheriff’s department has seized Jess’s dearest possession-her dog. Unless Jess turns over the missing goods, Lucy will be destroyed.

The last thing Mason wants is to be dragged back into the criminal world. The last thing Jess wants is to trust a stranger. But neither of them can leave a friend, the only good thing in either of their lives, in danger. To rescue Lucy, they’ll have to forge an uneasy alliance. And to avoid becoming collateral damage in someone else’s private war, they have to fight back — and find a way to conquer their doubts and fears.

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Dead Man's MistressDead Man’s Mistress by David Housewright

An investigation of missing property takes a darker turn near Lake Superior in Dead Man’s Mistress, the next mystery in David Housewright’s award-winning McKenzie series.

Louise Wykoff is arguably the most recognizable woman living in Minnesota, known for her presence in over one hundred paintings by the late and brilliant Randolph McInnis. Louise, known better as “That Wykoff Woman,” was just a young apprentice when her intimate representation and the fact of the McInnis’s marriage caused rumors to fly―and Louise to hide away for decades.

All of McInnis’s paintings are in museums or known private collections, until Louise confesses to having three more that no one has ever heard of―and now they’ve been stolen. Rushmore McKenzie, an occasional unlicensed private investigator, agrees to look into the theft. As he investigates, following clues that appear far too straightforward, he finds himself on the wrong side of the bars wondering if the trail might be deeper and darker than he’s been led to believe. Hours away from St. Paul, deep in the nature of Grand Marais, the truth seems murkier―and deadlier―than usual.

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The 45thThe 45th by D.W. Buffa

What if a political party in disarray turned to a man to lead them with no political background?

What if a country torn apart by ideology turned to a man whose charisma belied a complete lack of governing experience?

What if a country elected a President based not on qualifications, but on hope?
Would this man lead the country into a new era of fortune and prosperity? Or would he lead them into total and complete chaos?

D.W. Buffa has proven himself as one of the absolute best political writers working today, and in THE 45TH he creates a work of compelling fiction that’s as timely as this morning’s news. THE 45TH will leave you breathless, enraged, and unable to forget it once the last page is turned.

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Tuesday, May 28th

 

Keep You CloseKeep You Close by Karen Cleveland 

A woman must confront her sense of right and wrong when the one person she loves most is accused of an unimaginable crime. From the New York Times bestselling author of Need to Know. . . . 

A strange sensation runs through me, a feeling that I don’t know this person in front of me, even though he matters more to me than anyone ever has.
            
Stephanie Maddox works her dream job policing power and exposing corruption within the FBI. Getting here has taken her nearly two decades of hard work, laser focus, and personal sacrifices—the most important, she fears, being a close relationship with her teenage son, Zachary. A single parent, Steph’s missed a lot of school events, birthdays, and vacations with her boy—but the truth is, she would move heaven and earth for him, including protecting him from an explosive secret in her past. It just never occurred to her that Zachary would keep secrets of his own.

One day while straightening her son’s room, Steph is shaken to discover a gun hidden in his closet. A loaded gun. Then comes a knock at her front door—a colleague on the domestic terrorism squad, who utters three devastating words: “It’s about Zachary.”

So begins a compulsively readable thriller of deception and betrayal, as Stephanie fights to clear her son’s name, only to expose a shadowy conspiracy that threatens to destroy them both—and bring a country to its knees. Packed with shocking twists and intense family drama, Keep You Close is an electrifying exploration of the shattering consequences of the love that binds—and sometimes blinds—a mother and her child.

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Dark SiteDark Site by Patrick Lee

From the author of Runner, Sam Dryden comes under attack from unknown forces as an unremembered episode from his past threatens more than just his life.

On an otherwise normal morning, former Special Forces operative Sam Dryden is the target of an unsuccessful attempted abduction. Using his attacker’s cellphone, he learns that another person, a woman named Danica Ellis, is also being targeted. Dryden arrives just in time to save Danica from the assault team sent after her. But neither of them recognize the other, or have any idea why they are being targeted. The only clue is a heavily redacted, official-looking document given to Danica by her stepfather before he was killed.

Dryden immediately recognizes it as a “scrub file.” A scrub file is a record of what a subject knew before their memories were chemically destroyed. The redacted document refers to witnesses to a secret military site in Ashland, Iowa in 1989. Both Dryden and Danica Ellis lived in Ashland in 1989, when they were both twelve years old, though neither of them has any memory of the other.

Switching back and forth between the present day, when Dryden and Danica try to elude the forces that are after them, and the past in Ashland, Iowa, when both were twelve, making a discovery that forever changed their lives, this latest Sam Dryden novel proves yet again that Patrick Lee is one of the most original, compelling thriller writers today.

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Deep Cut by Nick Sullivan 

Sometimes, the brightest corners of the world can hold the darkest shadows.

Rising steeply from the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the Dutch island of Saba is a sleepy paradise, the mountainous slopes dotted with little red-and-white cottages and the seas teeming with life. But this little oasis has a less tranquil history, many of its inhabitants having descended from smugglers and pirates.

Boone Fischer and Emily Durand are eager to explore their new home, but their peaceful lives are about to be shattered, as one of history’s most powerful hurricanes begins to form—and, as if that weren’t enough, a savage evil has made its way ashore. In this sequel to the Best Seller Deep Shadow, Nick Sullivan brings the readers to another fascinating corner of the world and sends them into a swirl of action and adventure.

“With his three-dimensional action scenes, vivid characters, and his remarkably clever, page-gripping plots, Nick Sullivan might well be the best new Caribbean adventure writer since Wayne Stinnett.” Michael Reisig – Best-selling author of The Road To Key West series.

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Sting of the WaspTom Clancy’s Op-Center: Sting of the Wasp by Jeff Rovin

After an intelligence failure at Op-Center results in a major terrorist attack, director Chase Williams radically transforms the agency into a ground-breaking new mobile strike force.

It’s a beautiful day in Manhattan as excited tourists board the floating Air and Space Museum on the USS Intrepid—until a horrible explosion rips across the flight deck, showering the body parts of innocent people everywhere. The perpetrator is none other than Captain Ahmed Salehi, an Iranian mastermind whose last terrorism plot was foiled at the last minute by Op-Center.

Back in Washington, the White House orders Op-Center disbanded—or so it seems. Unbeknownst to America’s enemies, director Chase Williams has been put in charge of a brand-new, top-secret covert attack team known only as BLACK WASP. Its members, each chosen for their unique set of specialized black-ops skills—martial arts expert Lieutenant Grace Lee, sharpshooter Lance Corporal Jaz Rivette, and JAG attorney and criminologist Major Hamilton Breen—have been assigned to seek out Salehi and finally bring him to justice.

But Salehi is part of an even more frightening conspiracy, led by a renegade Iranian tycoon determined to establish a new Islamic State that will dwarf the horrors of ISIS. From the heart of Manhattan, to the swamps of Trinidad, to the sunbaked mud villages of Yemen, this new Op-Center is America’s only line of defense against a bloody Middle Eastern tyrant.

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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). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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5 comments

    • Hi Ryan,just finished The Never Game.Jeffery Dealer’s best novel for years with a intriguing new character.

  1. Just finished “the eighth sister”. Good but some parts very long and complicated. I rated it Four stars.

  2. “Redemption” was much more complicated than I thought it would be.Gave it four stars because I’ll liked the development of the characters, and story.

  3. Just finished “the poachers son”, by Paul Doiron. The Author was highlyrecommended by a friend, and I rated it five stars because the book exceeded my highest expectations. I will look forward to reading the other books of the author.

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