The Real Book Spy’s June 2019 Reading Guide

If you’re a diehard fan of thrillers . . . this is the season for you.

June and July are so full of quality thrillers this year that it’s almost unreal. Whereas July is all about Daniel Silva and his next Gabriel Allon novel, June is Brad Thor time—and this month, Scot Harvath returns in Backlash

Last year, after finishing Thor’s Spymaster, readers—after they picked their jaws up off the floor—were left with one burning question: What the heck happens next? (Don’t worry, no spoilers here, but Spymaster featured the year’s most wicked cliffhanger.)

Here’s the good news, fans won’t have to wait long for Thor to start answering those questions this time out, and Harvath . . .  well, let’s just say that it’s safe to say you’ve never ever seen him quite like this. Brad Thor has had a brilliant career, ranking right up there with Robert Ludlum and Vince Flynn, and for my money, there is no question, Backlash is the best thing he’s ever written. In the same way that Consent to Kill and The Bourne Identity are so synonymous with Flynn and Ludlum, this is the book that Brad Thor will be remembered for. 

This month’s other featured selections, along with Backlash, are Mike Maden’s phenomenal new Jack Ryan Junior thriller Tom Clancy Enemy Contact and The Oracle, the latest Fargo Adventures novel from Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell.

Read more about those titles, along with everything else hitting bookstores this month, down below. 

 


Tuesday, June 4th 

 

Rogue Strike FCO.inddRogue Strike by David Ricciardi

Jake Keller finds himself in a familiar position—on the run for his life and desperate to find the shadowy figures behind a global conspiracy.

CIA agent Jake Keller and his partner, Curt Roach, are in Yemen on an important mission. They’ve been tipped off to a secret meeting of top al Qaeda leaders. The plan is to interrupt the meeting with a few unexpected visitors—a pair of Hellfire missiles from an orbiting drone. But the drone stops responding to their signals and soon disappears over the horizon. When next seen, the drone is attacking innocent pilgrims in Mecca.

Jake and Curt are staggered. The U.S. government is desperate to disavow this atrocity. Who better to blame than a couple of rogue CIA agents? With all the governments of the Middle East looking for them and no help from their own side, they are in a desperate race to stay ahead of the mob and find out who’s actually behind the crime.

Why you should be excited about it: Not since the early days of Tom Clancy has an author taken a young, inexperienced CIA analyst and dropped them into the field with such page-turning results. Warning Light was pretty special, but Ricciardi kicks it up a notch here. 

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Your Life is MineYour Life is Mine by Nathan Ripley

Instant national bestseller Nathan Ripley follows up the success of Find You in the Dark with another suspenseful page-turnerthis time about a woman whose notorious father died when she was a child, but whose legacy comes back to haunt her.

Blanche Potter never expected to face her past again—but she can’t escape it.

Blanche, an up-and-coming filmmaker, has distanced herself in every way she can from her father, the notorious killer and cult leader, Chuck Varner. In 1996, when she was a small child, he went on a shooting spree before turning the gun on himself.

Now, Blanche learns that her mother has been murdered. She returns to her childhood home, where she soon discovers there’s more to the death than police are willing to reveal. The officer who’s handling the case is holding information back, and a journalist who’s nosing around the investigation is taking an unusual interest in Blanche’s family.

Blanche begins to suspect that Chuck Varner’s cult has found a new life and that her mother’s murder was just the beginning of the cult’s next chapter.

Then another killing occurs.

Why you should be excited about itFind You in the Dark, Ripley’s 2018 thriller, was as good as it gets. This one’s different, so it’s hard to say which one is better, but fans of nail-biting suspense will get their fill here. 

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Tuesday, June 11th

 

The OracleThe Oracle by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell (Featured Selection)

The husband-and-wife treasure-hunting team of Sam and Remi Fargo return in a new adventure as they search for an ancient scroll–which carries a deadly curse–in this thrilling addition to Clive Cussler’s bestselling series.

In 533 A.D., the last Vandal ruler in North Africa consults an oracle on how to defeat the invading Byzantine army. The oracle tells the king that a high priestess cast a curse upon the Vandal Kingdom after a sacred scroll was stolen. In order to lift the curse, the scroll must be returned to its rightful home. But the kingdom falls before the scroll is found, leaving its location a great mystery. . . until a current day archeological dig, funded by Sam and Remi Fargo, uncovers some vital clues.

The search for the ancient scroll is put on hold when the Fargos learn that a shipment of supplies intended for their charitable foundation’s school has been stolen, and they travel to Nigeria to deliver new supplies themselves. But their mission becomes infinitely more complicated when they run afoul of a band of robbers. The group takes Remi and several students hostage, and there are signs that the kidnapping is related to the missing scroll. The Fargos need all their skills to save the lives of the young girls at the school before they uncover the hidden treasure. . . and lift the deadly curse.

Why you should be excited about it: Cussler works with plenty of very talented authors, but none more so than Robin Burcell, who remains his top co-writer by a wide margin. Burcell gets stronger each time out, which means so does Sam and Remi Fargo, who are arguably Cussler’s best heroes going right now. 

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The First MistakeThe First Mistake by Sandie Jones

From Sandie Jones, the author of the Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick and USA Today Bestseller The Other Woman, comes an addictively readable new domestic suspense about a wife, her husband, and the woman who is supposedly her best friend.


THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: When Alice met Beth, her best friend, it was the icing on the cake. A friend without judgment, to celebrate with, commiserate with, Beth is the most trustworthy and loyal person that Alice knows. So when Nathan starts disappearing for stretches of time, Alice turns to Beth. But soon, she begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced…

Why you should be excited about it: Sandie Jones left readers stunned after landing one of the best twists of the year in 2018 with her page-turning debut thriller, The Other Woman. That one was excellent, but this one’s better. I read the whole thing in one sitting and absolutely loved it.

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Tom Clancy Enemy ContactTom Clancy Enemy Contact by Mike Maden (Featured Selection

The final wish of a dying friend leads Jack Ryan, Jr., to the jungles of South America, where an unexpected confrontation will have shocking international repercussions in this latest entry in theNew York Times-bestselling series.

Jack Ryan, Jr., has faced death before, but sitting at the bedside of a college friend who is wasting away from cancer is almost more than he can endure. When the man asks Jack to scatter his ashes on a beloved hillside in Chile, of course Jack’s answer is yes.

The first hint of trouble comes when an expat, former U.S. Army Ranger tries to warn Jack off. Then a group of thugs break into his room, beat him, and tell him to leave. They don’t know Jack. He won’t be intimidated, and he’s never turned his back on trouble. But just how much can one man do against an army?

Old enemies and new reveal themselves everywhere, from the jungle to the halls of Congress. Only a ruthless hunter can take down these predators. Jack will need every skill he has to survive.

Why you should be excited about it: In 2017, Mike Maden breathed life back into the Jack Ryan Junior franchise with Tom Clancy Point of Contact, which, at the time, was the best book in the series. Then he topped himself with Tom Clancy Line of Sight last year. This time around (without giving anything away) the author takes some big chances, which have a huge payoff towards the end of the story. Maden remains criminally underrated, and his work in Clancy’s Ryanverse has been nothing short of brilliant since taking over. 

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Tuesday, June 18th

 

False HorizonFalse Horizon by Joseph Reid

The Amazon Charts bestselling series continues as ruthless ecoterrorists, heavily armed miners, and cold-blooded drug smugglers clash in the Appalachians, where air marshal Seth Walker is investigating a mysterious plane crash.

A commuter flight has fallen from clear skies over West Virginia, its wing sheared off at twenty thousand feet. Air marshal Seth Walker is called to the mountains of Appalachia to investigate. But what he stumbles into is a ground war as unpredictable and combustible as a mason jar full of nitroglycerin.

Before he can even start searching for what might have downed the plane, Walker finds himself caught in the confounding—and deadly—crossfire between drone-deploying ecoterrorists, unstable frackers, ruthless drug smugglers, and armed miners pushed to the breaking point.

The escalating mystery takes a personal turn as Seth gets closer to the truth about the money, power, and politics motivating everyone involved—including those Seth believed he could trust. Can he dodge the danger lurking in every hill and holler long enough to discover what may be the biggest threat of all?

Why you should be excited about it: Joseph Reid’s debut, Takeoff (2018), was a strong start to a noteworthy new series that fans of action thrillers should keep an eye on. For my money, this one’s a touch better.

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The Perfect PLanThe Perfect Plan by Bryan Reardon

From New York Times bestselling author Bryan Reardon comes a tense, twisting story about two brothers locked together in a dangerous game—and an unforgettable tale of a family’s dark secrets.

Liam Brennan teeters on the edge. Early one morning, he snaps, kidnapping a young woman who works for Drew Brennan, Liam’s older brother and the upstart candidate in a heated election. This sudden, vicious attack appears to be the beginning of an unthinkable spiral. But when it comes to the Brennan brothers, nothing is what it seems.

To the rest of the world, Liam is the troubled problem child who grew up to be his brother’s enforcer, while Drew has always been the perfect son and a charismatic leader who has his sights set on the governor’s mansion with his charming and beautiful wife, Patsy, by his side.

Now, as Liam tries to stay one step ahead of the authorities and his brother, every passing minute provides a deeper glimpse into the brothers’ past, long hidden behind a picture-perfect suburban veneer. With the threat of the truth surfacing, Liam and Drew are driven toward one final, desperate act.

Why you should be excited about itThe Real Michael Swann was one of the more surprising hit domestic thrillers of 2018. Packed with tons of suspense and nonstop twists and turns, Reardon showed readers what he can do. The better question is, can he top himself? We’ll find out this summer.

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Tuesday, June 25th 

 

BacklashBacklash by Brad Thor (Featured Selection)

Scot Harvath returns in the newest thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor.

#1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and #1Publishers Weekly bestselling author Brad Thor is back with his most gripping thriller yet!

In ancient texts, there are stories about men who struck from the shadows, seemingly beyond the reach of death itself. These men were considered part angel, part demon. Their loyalty was to their families, their friends, and their kings. You crossed these men at your peril. And once crossed, there was no crossing back.

They were fearless; men of honor who have been known throughout history by different names: Spartan, Viking, Samurai.

Today, men like these still strike from the shadows. They are highly prized intelligence agents, military operatives, and assassins.

One man is all three.

Two days ago, that man was crossed—badly.

Now, far from home and surrounded by his enemy, Scot Harvath must battle his way out.

With no support, no cavalry coming, and no one even aware of where he is, it will take everything he has ever learned to survive.

But survival isn’t enough. Harvath wants revenge.

In the most explosive novel Brad Thor has ever written, page after captivating page of action, intrigue, loyalty, and betrayal will keep you hooked until the very last sentence and a revelation that will take your breath away.

Why you should be excited about it: Brad Thor is the best political thriller novelist alive today, and he’s showing absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, whereas most authors start to flame out eighteen books into their respective series, Thor has been better than ever his last few times out. Scot Harvath is still just as lethal as ever, and Spymaster featured the most jaw-dropping cliffhanger of Thor’s career, giving readers every reason to call in sick and crank through Backlash the second it’s released at 12:01 am. (Read my review here!)

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Total Mayhem HDTotal Mayhem by John Gilstrap

In bestselling author John Gilstrap’s ticking time bomb of a thriller, freelance operative Jonathan Grave penetrates a terrorist cell to stop the detonation of total mayhem on home ground . . .

America is under fire. One by one, simultaneous terror attacks have left the country reeling. The perpetrators are former Special Forces operatives working for ISIS. Jonathan Grave and his team are called to go undercover and eliminate the traitors. No need to collect intel. No need for arrest. Wipe them out—and get out.

The assaults are rehearsals for extreme disaster. A plot codenamed Retribution. One terrorist is willing to talk—for a price. Grave’s only resort is to slip into a dark web where everything can be exposed. Where the rules of engagement do not hold. The bombs have been set and Grave is the one being hunted. Unless he can save himself first, a terrorist plot of unimaginable scope will become history’s deadliest disaster . . .

Why you should be excited about it:  John Gilstrap has been on a roll the past few years, delivering action-packed thrillers that stand out for a number of reasons. Gilstrap seems to zig when everyone else zags. While other writers are focusing on beating headlines and having their series protagonists face off with Russia and/or North Korea, Gilstrap has kept his storylines fresh and unique. This year, it looks like Grave will mix it up with ISIS in Total Mayhem, setting up for another explosive entry in Gilstrap’s bestselling series.

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Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

Iconoclastic detective Jackson Brodie returns in a triumphant new novel about secrets, sex, and lies

Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son and an aging Labrador, both at the discretion of his ex-partner Julia. It’s picturesque, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes.

Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, is fairly standard-issue, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network-and back across the path of his old friend Reggie. Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking novel by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today.

Why you should be excited about it: Jackson Brodie is an interesting character and fine detective. Likewise, Atkinson knows how to pull readers in and keep them guessing . . . a skill she puts on full display here.

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A Matter of Will by Adam Mitzner

Success becomes dangerously seductive for this Wall Street broker in a dizzying thriller by the author of the Amazon Charts bestseller Dead Certain.

Will Matthews came to Wall Street with hopes and dreams of hitting it big. But things have not been going as expected. He’s on the verge of being fired when he meets the devilishly mysterious and fabulously wealthy Sam Abaddon.

Winning Sam’s business answers Will’s prayers, catapulting the young stockbroker into the privileged world of money and luxury. Not only that, but Will also has met his dream girl, ambitious attorney Gwen Lipton.

All at once, it seems as if Will’s life couldn’t get any better.

And it doesn’t.

When Will witnesses a shocking act of violence, his charmed new existence is revealed to be a waking nightmare as the truth about his benefactor—and his own complicity in criminal conduct—becomes devastatingly clear. As the noose draws tighter, Will faces an impossible choice: feast upon the poisonous fruit of his bloody business or defy his patron and face dire consequences.

Then again, maybe there’s a third option…

Why you should be excited about it: Think John Grisham’s The Firm meets Wall Street. . . this one has a little something for everyone, and I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it.

New York Minute by Bob Mayer

First Blood meets Breaking Bad, but this time the bad protects the innocent.

The last time former Green Beret Will Kane was involved in killing someone it made the cover of LIFE Magazine. Eight years later he’s getting pushed to the edge of that precipice he vowed never to go over again.

New York City, summer 1977. The Bronx is burning. The twin towers of the new World Trade Center loom over the skyline. Son of Sam. Star Wars. Studio 54. The Five Families. The city faces bankruptcy and unrest seethes.

On the dark streets of a city the rest of the country believes is going down the toilet, Vietnam vet Kane’s life mirrors his hometown.
Carrying a past cratered with death and tragedy, Kane has been working as a ‘fixer’ for a high-priced lawyer since returning to New York in disgrace. But is he really fixing anything?

It begins when he takes a compromising picture as part of the job. As the long hot summer boils, so does Kane as the mob, the CIA, the IRA and other forces are brought to bear on him. What they all seem to have forgotten, and Kane wishes he could, is that he is a highly trained and experienced warrior. A skilled killer.

What should a good man do when faced with evil that the law can’t touch?

Kane faces threats, betrayal and shadows from his past, and then, on 13 July 1977, the Blackout occurs and Kane explodes.
For fans of the Green Beret series of books, this book is a prelude to the entire series and introduces a new character in his own series. Dave Riley is here as Will Kane’s 17-year-old younger cousin.

Publishers Weekly reference The Line: “Mayer has crafted a thriller in the tradition of John Grisham’s The Firm.”

Why you should be excited about it: Mayer is an extremely underrated author who is at his very best here. Solid character development meets an authentic representation of New York City circa 1977, and Mayer knows how to keep readers on the edge of their seats. If you’re looking for a gritty crime thriller to devour on the beach this summer, here it is. 

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Rules of EngagementRules of Engagement by David Bruns and J.R. Olson

“In Rules of Engagement, David Bruns and J. R. Olson deliver a captivating and utterly authentic portrayal of modern day combat that compares with the best of the timeless classics by Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, and Stephen Coonts. This one must not be missed!” ―Mark Greaney #1 New York Times bestselling author of Mission Critical

A terrorist breach of the computer systems of the three most powerful navies is about to set them on a collision course for World War III.

Rafiq Roshed is one of the most wanted men in the world. A terrorist with a virulent grudge against the West, he’s disappeared into North Korea where he quietly launches cyber sneak attacks in service of Kim Jong-un. But now he’s about to unleash his virtual masterpiece―a computer virus that, once inserted into the command systems of a military, not only takes over, but also learns the art of war. First penetrating the Chinese, he has their war machine launch a series of attacks on the U.S. Pacific forces.

Don Riley, head of U.S. Cyber Command, discovers that not only have the Chinese lost control of their military, but the same virus has infected the American network. It’s only a matter of time before the U.S. loses control of its own military. His secret weapon in this war is a trio of supremely talented midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy, who uncover the infiltration, and are working to track down the elusive terrorist.

But time is running out. China and Japan have lost control of their military and the U.S. is in danger of doing the same. The weapons are hot and the result is an ever-larger real-world conflict where casualties continue to mount. The only remaining hope is to find and stop the attack at its source―before time runs out.

Why you should be excited about it: I had the chance to read this novel last summer and absolutely loved it. It reads a bit like recent thrillers from Larry Bond, Rick Cambell, and David Poyer in that it’s a complex naval thriller with a lot of moving parts. Bruns and Olsen are a talented writing duo who have a natural feel for pacing, and while some readers will compare their novel to early works from Tom Clancy, Rules of Engagement is much tighter and quicker than those first Jack Ryan books.

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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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2 comments

  1. Just finished “the Russian“ by Ben Coes.Rated it five stars. It has the “wow“ factor, and my only problem was not being able to turn the pages fast enough. It’s going to be a great new series, and I look forward to his next book.

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