The Real Book Spy’s October 2019 Reading Guide

Welcome to October, thriller fans! 

As always, while gearing up for another huge month of thrillers, we’ve selected several standout titles. This month’s Featured Selections are Michael Connelly’s Night Fire, Double Crossfire by Anothony J. Tata, and Agent Running in the Field by iconic spy novelist John le Carre.

Read more about those titles, and others—including new offerings from John Grisham, Lee Child, John Connolly, and other—below!

Tuesday, October 1st


Bloody Genius

Bloody Genius by John Sandford

Virgil Flowers will have to watch his back–and his mouth–as he investigates a college culture war turned deadly in another one of Sandford’s “madly entertaining Virgil Flowers mysteries” (New York Times Book Review).

At the local state university, two feuding departments have faced off on the battleground of science and medicine. Each carries their views to extremes that may seem absurd, but highly educated people of sound mind and good intentions can reasonably disagree, right?

Then a renowned and confrontational scholar winds up dead, and Virgil Flowers is brought in to investigate . . . and as he probes the recent ideological unrest, he soon comes to realize he’s dealing with people who, on this one particular issue, are functionally crazy. Among this group of wildly impassioned, diametrically opposed zealots lurks a killer, and it will be up to Virgil to sort the murderer from the mere maniacs.

Why you should be excited about it: Now twelve books into his Lucas Davenport spinoff series, readers know exactly what they’re getting with one of Sandford’s Virgil Flowers book. Expect a great mystery, top-notch writing, a vivid setting, and, of course, some solid one-liners.




Quantum by Patricia Cornwell

International bestselling author Patricia Cornwell delivers pulse-pounding thrills in a series featuring a brilliant and unusual new heroine, cutting-edge cyber technology, and stakes that are astronomically high.

On the eve of a top-secret space mission, Captain Calli Chase detects a tripped alarm in the tunnels deep below a NASA research center. A NASA pilot, quantum physicist, and cybercrime investigator, Calli knows that a looming blizzard and government shutdown could provide the perfect cover for sabotage, with deadly consequences.

As it turns out, the danger is worse than she thought. A spatter of dried blood, a missing security badge, a suspicious suicide—a series of disturbing clues point to Calli’s twin sister, Carme, who’s been MIA for days.

Desperate to halt the countdown to disaster and to clear her sister’s name, Captain Chase digs deep into her vast cybersecurity knowledge and her painful past, probing for answers to her twin’s erratic conduct. As time is running out, she realizes that failure means catastrophe—not just for the space program but for the safety of the whole nation.

Why you should be excited about it: Truth is, the reviews and responses to Cornwell’s first book in a new series have been, well, brutal. There is simply no denying that. Currently, it averaging—averaging—2.2 out of a possible five stats on Amazon. And that’s with almost 1,300 reviews. So, yeah, people aren’t responding to this book. However, I actually think there are things worth getting excited about here, and Cornwell is far too good of a writer to see her series continue to slide like this. Book two has already been announced, and I fully expect her to have worked the kinks out by then. 



The Shape of the night

The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen

A woman trying to outrun her past is drawn to a coastal village in Maine—and to a string of unsolved murders—in this novel of romance and psychological suspense from New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen.

“Suspenseful, sexy, and soulful.”—J. R. Ward, bestselling author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series

After an unspeakable tragedy in Boston, Ava Collette flees to a remote village in Maine, where she rents an old house named Brodie’s Watch.

In that isolated seaside mansion, Ava finally feels at peace . . . until she glimpses the long-dead sea captain who still resides there.

Rumor has it that Captain Jeremiah Brodie has haunted the house for more than a century. One night, Ava confronts the apparition, who feels all too real, and who welcomes her into his world—and into his arms. Even as Ava questions her own sanity, she eagerly looks forward to the captain’s ghostly visits. But she soon learns that the house she loves comes with a terrible secret, a secret that those in the village don’t want to reveal: Every woman who has ever lived in Brodie’s Watch has also died there. Is the ghost of Captain Brodie responsible, or is a flesh-and-blood killer at work? A killer who is even now circling closer to Ava?

Why you should be excited about it: Gerritsen turns in an exciting supernatural thriller here, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner calls a “spine-tingling tale of a lone woman, an old house, and all the secrets everyone tries to hide.”



Empire of Lies

Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury

Empire of Lies is a sweeping thriller in the tradition of The Man in the High CastleFatherland, and Underground Airlines from New York Times bestselling author Raymond Khoury.

“The best what-if thriller for a long, long time―makes you think, makes you sweat, and makes you choose, between what is and what might have been.”―Lee Child

Istanbul, 1683: Mehmed IV, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, is preparing to lay siege to Vienna, capital of the Holy Roman Empire, when a mysterious visitor arrives in his bedroom―naked, covered in strange tattoos―to deliver a dangerous, world-changing message.

Paris, 2017: Ottoman flags have been flying over the great city for three hundred years, ever since its fall―along with all of Europe―to the empire’s all-conquering army. Notre Dame has been renamed the Fatih Mosque. Public spaces are segregated by gender. And Kamal Arslan Agha, a feted officer in the sultan’s secret police, is starting to question his orders.

Rumors of an impending war with the Christian Republic of America, attacks by violent extremists, and economic collapse have heightened surveillance and arrests across the empire. Tasked with surveying potential threats, Kamal has a heavy caseload―and conscience.

When a mysterious stranger―naked, covered in strange tattoos―appears on the banks of the Seine, Kamal is called in to investigate. But what he discovers is a secret buried in the empire’s past, a secret the Sultan will do anything to silence.

With the mysterious Z Protectorate one step behind, Kamal, together with Nisreen―a fierce human rights lawyer―is caught up in a race across the empire and time itself―a race that could change their world, or destroy it.

Empire of Lies is being published as “The Ottoman Secret” in the UK.

Why you should be excited about it: Check out this blurb from Jack Reacher’s creator, Lee Child: “The best what-if thriller for a long, long time―makes you think, makes you sweat, and makes you choose, between what is and what might have been.” If that ain’t enough, Khoury is a phenomenal writer who never takes a book off. Fans of Steve Berry will especially want to check this one out.



Tuesday, October 8th 


A bitter Feast

A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie

New York Times bestselling author Deborah Crombie returns with a mesmerizing entry in her “excellent” (Miami Herald) series, in which Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are pulled into a dangerous web of secrets, lies, and murder that simmers beneath the surface of a tranquil Cotswolds village.

Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, have been invited for a relaxing weekend in the Cotswolds, one of Britain’s most enchanting regions, famous for its rolling hills, golden cottages, and picturesque villages.

Duncan, Gemma, and their children are guests at Beck House, the family estate of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s detective sergeant. The Talbot family is wealthy, prominent, and powerful—Melody’s father is the publisher of one of London’s largest and most influential newspapers. The centerpiece of this glorious fall getaway is a posh charity harvest luncheon catered by up-and-coming chef Viv Holland. After fifteen years in London’s cut-throat food scene, Viv has returned to the Gloucestershire valleys of her childhood and quickly made a name for herself with her innovative meals based on traditional cuisine but using fresh local ingredients. Attended by the local well-to-do as well as national press food bloggers and restaurant critics, the event could make Viv a star.

But a tragic car accident and a series of mysterious deaths rock the estate and pull Duncan and Gemma into the investigation. It soon becomes clear that the killer has a connection with Viv’s pub—or, perhaps, with Beck House itself.

Does the truth lie in the past? Or is it closer to home, tied up in the tangled relationships and bitter resentments between the staff at Beck House and Viv’s new pub? Or is it more personal, entwined with secrets hidden by Viv and those closest to her?

Why you should be excited about it: Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are back in Crombie’s follow-up to her 2017 novel, The Garden of Lamentations. After more than a year between books, fans of this series will surely be ready to jump back into the thick of it with Crombie’s characters as they investigate a series of untimely deaths that just might be connected.



The Nugget

The Nugget by P.T. Deutermann

A novice naval aviator grows into a hero in this gripping and authentic World War II adventure by master storyteller P. T. Deutermann

Lieutenant Bobby Steele, USN, is a fresh-faced and eager naval aviator: a “Nugget,” who needs to learn the ropes and complex procedures of taking off and returning safely to his aircraft carrier. A blurry night of drinking lands him in an unfamiliar bed aboard the USS Oklahoma; later that day, the Japanese destroy Pearl Harbor. After cheating death and losing his friend in this act of war, the formerly naive Steele vows to avenge the attack.

Flying sea battle after battle, Steele survives the most dangerous air combat in World War II, including Midway, is shot down twice, rescued twice, and eventually leads a daring mission to free prisoners from a secluded Japanese POW camp. Packed with authentic military action on land and at sea in the Pacific Theatre of WWII and featuring a memorable protagonist based on a true-life hero, The Nugget is a first-class adventure by a former commander whose family served in the Pacific.

Why you should be excited about it: Deutermann’s latest is one of the better World War II-era thrillers to hit stores over the last several years. Though he’s been one of the more underrated writers in the game for a while, readers are starting to realize that Deutermann can bring it—which he certainly does here.



Tuesday, October 15th


The Guardians

The Guardians by John Grisham

The newest legal thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author John Grisham.  This masterfully plotted, perfectly paced novel confirms that Grisham remains America’s favorite storyteller.

In the small north Florida town of Seabrook, a young lawyer named Keith Russo was shot dead at his desk as he worked late one night. The killer left no clues behind. There were no witnesses, no real suspects, no one with a motive. The police soon settled on Quincy Miller, a young black man who was once a client of Russo’s.

Quincy was framed, convicted, and sent to prison for life. For twenty-two years he languished in prison with no lawyer, no advocate on the outside. Then he wrote a letter to Guardian Ministries, a small innocence group founded by a lawyer/minister named Cullen Post.

Guardian handles only a few innocence cases at a time, and Post is its only investigator. He travels the South fighting wrongful convictions and taking cases no one else will touch. With Quincy Miller, though, he gets far more than he bargained for. Powerful, ruthless people murdered Keith Russo, and they do not want Quincy exonerated.

They killed one lawyer twenty-two years ago, and they will kill another one without a second thought.

Why you should be excited about it: It’s a new John Grisham book . . . that kind of says it all. Not enough? Okay, I thought The Rooster Bar was barely average, which was right on the heels of the truly disastrous Rogue Lawyer, which, let’s be honest, was a short story collection and not a true novel. That said, Grisham righted the ship in a big way with The Reckoning, and he certainly had other hits—The WhistlerCamino IslandGray Mountain, to name a few—sprinkled in over the last few years. There’s no question that Grisham is the greatest master of the legal thriller the genre has ever seen, and while he had a few misses over the years, the word is that he hit his mark with this one.



A Book of Bones

A Book of Bones by John Connolly

Private Investigator Charlie Parker returns in this heart-pounding thriller as he seeks revenge against the darkest forces in the world, from the internationally bestselling author of the acclaimed The Woman in the Woods.

He is our best hope.

He is our last hope.

On a lonely moor in northern England, the body of a young woman is discovered. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.

Each is a sacrifice, a summons. And something in the darkness has heard the call.

Charlie Parker has also heard it and from the forests of Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border, from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London, he will track those who would cast the world into darkness.

Parker fears no evil—but evil fears him.

With John Connolly’s signature “blend of crime and supernatural horror” (Crime Reads), A Book of Bones is a terrifying and suspenseful thrill ride that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Why you should be excited about it: Charlie Parker is a great character who anchors a strong, deep, and versatile cast that Connolly has developed over the course of sixteen previous books. Lately, his series has embraced supernatural elements more so than in earlier books, but Connolly does it so well that fans of straight procedurals and mysteries shouldn’t have any issues diving into this one.



Tuesday, October 22


The Night Fire

The Night Fire by Michael Connelly (Featured Selection)

Harry Bosch and LAPD Detective Renée Ballard come together again on the murder case that obsessed Bosch’s mentor, the man who trained him—new from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly

Back when Harry Bosch was just a rookie homicide detective, he had an inspiring mentor who taught him to take the work personally and light the fire of relentlessness for every case. Now that mentor, John Jack Thompson, is dead, but after his funeral, his widow gives Bosch a murder book that Thompson took with him when he left the LAPD 20 years before — the unsolved killing of a troubled young man in an alley used for drug deals.

Bosch brings the murder book to Renée Ballard and asks her to help him find what about the case lit Thompson’s fire all those years ago. That will be their starting point.

The bond between Bosch and Ballard tightens as they become a formidable investigative team. And they soon arrive at a worrying question: Did Thompson steal the murder book to work the case in retirement, or to make sure it never got solved?

Why you should be excited about it: Nobody is hotter than Michael Connelly right now, who continues his red-hot streak by teaming Harry Bosch back up with newcomer Renee Ballard, an LAPD detective who first appeared as the lead in The Night Show. An instant fan-favorite, Renne has taken on the role of co-protagionist with Bosch, who thanks to the Amazon-produced show starring Titus Welliver (isn’t he brilliant at bringing Harry to life on the screen?), has never been more popular.



The Deserter

The Deserter by Nelson DeMille

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille, writing with his son, screenwriter Alex DeMille, delivers a blistering new thriller featuring a brilliant and unorthodox Army investigator, his troubling new partner, and their hunt for the Army’s most notorious—and dangerous—deserter.

When Captain Kyle Mercer of the Army’s elite Delta Force disappeared from his post in Afghanistan, a video released by his Taliban captors made international headlines. But circumstances were murky: Did Mercer desert before he was captured? Then a second video sent to Mercer’s Army commanders leaves no doubt: the trained assassin and keeper of classified Army intelligence has willfully disappeared.

When, a year later, Mercer is spotted in Caracas, Venezuela by an old army buddy, top military brass task Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor of the Criminal Investigation Division fly to Venezuela and bring Mercer back to America—preferably alive. Brodie knows this is a difficult mission, made more difficult by his new partner’s inexperience, by their undeniable chemistry, and by Brodie’s suspicion that Maggie is reporting to the CIA.

With ripped-from-the-headlines appeal, an exotic and dangerous locale, and the hairpin twists and inimitable humor that are signature DeMille, The Deserter is the first in a timely and thrilling new series from an unbeatable team of true masters: the #1 New York Times bestseller Nelson DeMille and his son, award-winning screenwriter Alex DeMille.

Why you should be excited about it: Look, can we all just agree that the world is a better place with one of DeMille’s smartass characters cracking sarcastic one-liners? I know a lot of fans, after DeMille’s The Cuban Affair, really hoped that his next book would bring back the cocky, smart-mouthed John Cory. Instead, we’re getting another standalone with the potential to become a new series. DeMille—who lost his wife to cancer last September—has had a hard year. I think it’s awesome to see him collaborating with his son, an award-winning screenwriter in his own right, and there’s no question that The Deserter is one of the most anticipated books set to come out this fall.



A Cruel Deception

A Cruel Deception by Charles Todd

In the aftermath of World War I, nurse Bess Crawford attempts to save a troubled former soldier from a mysterious killer in this eleventh book in the beloved Bess Crawford mystery series from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd.

The Armistice of November 1918 ended the fighting, but the Great War will not be over until a Peace Treaty is drawn up and signed by all parties. Representatives from the Allies are gathering in Paris, and already ominous signs of disagreement have appeared.

Sister Bess Crawford, who has been working with the severely wounded in England in the war’s wake, is asked to carry out a personal mission in Paris for a Matron at the London headquarters of The Queen Alexandra’s.

Bess is facing decisions about her own future, even as she searches for the man she is charged with helping.  When she does locate Lawrence Minton, she finds a bitter and disturbed officer who has walked away from his duties at the Peace Conference and is well on his way toward an addiction to opiates. When she confronts him with the dangers of using laudanum, he tells her that he doesn’t care if he lives or dies, as long as he can find oblivion. But what has changed him? What is it that haunts him? He can’t confide in Bess—because the truth is so deeply buried in his mind that he can only relive it in nightmares. The officers who had shared a house with him in Paris profess to know nothing—still, Bess is reluctant to trust them even when they offer her their help. But where to begin on her own?

What is driving this man to a despair so profound it can only end with death? The war? Something that happened in Paris? To prevent a tragedy, she must get at the truth as quickly as possible—which means putting herself between Lieutenant Minton and whatever is destroying him. Or is it whoever?

Why you should be excited about it: While most might pick Inspector Rutledge as Todds’ best series protagionist—and for good reason, as the Scotland Yard detective is a great character—I’ve always been drawn to Bess Crawford. Truth is, we’ve seen a lot of investigators, detectives, and so on and so forth, but tell me another franchise built around a nurse set just after World War I. Beth is unique, and she’s been developed really well over ten previous books. This time around, she’ll be trying to save a troubled soldier . . . and my money says she’ll come up aces.



Agent running in the field

Agent Running in the Fieldby John le Carre (Featured Selection)

A new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author John le Carré

Nat, a 47 year-old veteran of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him. Nat is to take over The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is young Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie.

Nat is not only a spy, he is a passionate badminton player. His regular Monday evening opponent is half his age: the introspective and solitary Ed. Ed hates Brexit, hates Trump and hates his job at some soulless media agency. And it is Ed, of all unlikely people, who will take Prue, Florence and Nat himself down the path of political anger that will ensnare them all. Agent Running in the Field is a chilling portrait of our time, now heartbreaking, now darkly humorous, told to us with unflagging tension by the greatest chronicler of our age.

Why you should be excited about it: “[Le Carré’s] novels are so brilliant because they’re emotionally and psychologically absolutely true, but of course they’re novels.” —New York Times Book Review. That’s a pretty good line, and Times’ Book Review is spot on with this one. While I’d argue that Daniel Silva is the best right now, le Carre is the greatest spy novelist ever. There’s little doubt about that, but if we’re honest, he hasn’t replicated the success he saw earlier in his career back when he was dazzling readers with The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Yeah, A Legacy of Spies was terrific, but part of that was the nostalgia factor kicking in due to the return of beloved characters. You won’t find George Smiley or Peter Guillam here. Instead, the nearly 88-year-old le Carre is introducing a new hero to tackle a number of current real-world issues. That’s both daring and exciting, and it’ll be fun to see how readers take to the new lead character.



Tuesday, October 29th


Blue Moon promo

Blue Moon by Lee Child

In the next highly anticipated installment of Lee Child’s acclaimed suspense series, Jack Reacher comes to the aid of an elderly couple . . . and confronts his most dangerous opponents yet.
“Jack Reacher is today’s James Bond, a thriller hero we can’t get enough of.”—Ken Follett

“This is a random universe,” Reacher says. “Once in a blue moon things turn out just right.”

This isn’t one of those times.

Reacher is on a Greyhound bus, minding his own business, with no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there. Then he steps off the bus to help an old man who is obviously just a victim waiting to happen. But you know what they say about good deeds. Now Reacher wants to make it right.

An elderly couple have made a few well-meaning mistakes, and now they owe big money to some very bad people. One brazen move leads to another, and suddenly Reacher finds himself a wanted man in the middle of a brutal turf war between rival Ukrainian and Albanian gangs.

Reacher has to stay one step ahead of the loan sharks, the thugs, and the assassins. He teams up with a fed-up waitress who knows a little more than she’s letting on, and sets out to take down the powerful and make the greedy pay. It’s a long shot. The odds are against him. But Reacher believes in a certain kind of justice . . . the kind that comes along once in a blue moon.

Why you should be excited about it: Part of the lure to Child’s series is that this hulking drifter can make his way around the country, never stopping in the same place twice. That opens the door for a new setting each time out, and theoretically, creates a freshness with each book. But, over time, Child has fallen into a bit of a formulaic approach. Don’t get me wrong, that formula works (and most every mega-bestselling author is guilty of the same thing), but we’ve seen Reacher stroll into town, grab a cup of coffee, then inadvertently find all kinds of trouble. It’s exciting, and readers love seeing Reacher Jack-up small-town bad guys, sure. But what makes this book awesome is that Child finally delivers a worthy opponent for Reacher to unleash on, and the end result does not disappoint.



Double Crossfire by Anthony J. Tata (Featured Selection)

Tata takes you inside a brilliantly conceived, brutally executed plot to overthrow our government—from within . . .

“How do you overturn an election?” It’s a question that has obsessed presidential candidate Jamie Carter ever since her loss to businessman and political neophyte President Jack Smart. In spite of the election results, she’s determined to take what she sees as her rightful place in the White House—through any means possible. First, she establishes residency in North Carolina. Then, when the state’s Pro Tem of the US Senate is found dead, she is appointed to his position by her friend, the governor. Now, there are only three people who stand in her way: the Speaker of the House, the Vice President, and the President himself . . .

The countdown begins. The assassins are ready. But when one of them tries to kill the CIA Director under Jake Mahegan’s watch, the plan is momentarily disrupted. Jake is able to prevent one murder—but the conspiracy is too big, and too insidious, to stop now. Senator Jamie Carter is the mastermind behind one of the bloodiest coups ever conceived. Her highly trained killers are closing in on all the president’s men. And the course of American history will be changed forever—on Assassination Day . . .

Why you should be excited about it: Tata is by far, without a doubt, the most underrated thriller novelist working today . . . and it’s not close. He’s been putting out world-class thrillers for years now, and his latest is some of his finest writing to date. If you enjoy Mark Greaney, Brad Thor, or Jack Carr—you have to check out Tata’s stuff.



Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck 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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