A Book Spy Review: ‘Sleeping Bear’ by Connor Sullivan


When a young woman goes missing in Alaska, one father will stop at nothing to find her before it’s too late.

For Army veteran Cassie Gale, a quick trip to Alaska was supposed to serve as a time to heal. Following the untimely death of her husband, Cassie heads to the great outdoors in search of peace, quiet, and solitude before she’s supposed to start a new job.

Instead, she vanishes.

Jim Gale, Cassie’s father, is determined to find his daughter. But while most everyone else assumes that Cassie’s disappearance is related to natural causes—there are, after all, a thousand ways one could die or go missing in the Alaskan outdoors—Jim isn’t so sure.

As the search party he organizes comes up empty, Jim, a former intelligence officer, suspects there’s more to the story. Doing his own research, Jim learns that Cassie’s case isn’t exactly unique. In fact, many have gone missing without a trace across Alaska’s vast wilderness, and it doesn’t take long for him to put together a theory involving a Russian kidnapping scheme. But the more he digs, the more Jim realizes that whatever’s actually going on is much bigger than anyone thought . . . and the closer he gets to uncovering answers, the more he realizes just how in over his head he really is.

As unique a debut as I have ever covered, Sullivan’s first book opens with the feel of a Paul Doiron novel before morphing into a full-fledged action thriller on par with Don Bentley and Mark Greaney. Without giving anything away, the Russian thread—which involves makeshift prisoner camps set up in an abandoned missile silo—is as terrifying as it is original. And while the missing person plot has been done time and time again, what makes Sullivan’s take work so well is the high-concept conspiracy behind the scenes, mixed with terrific character development and even better pacing.

Think Taken set in Alaska, but with even more twists and turns. Sullivan’s genre-bending debut is a thriller mullet of sorts—William Kent Krueger in the front, and Jack Carr in the back, and fans of those authors are sure to enjoy Sleeping Bear, one of the hottest debut novels of 2021.

Book Details

Author: Connor Sullivan
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 1982166398
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: July 6, 2021
Real Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10



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. Additionally, he co-hosts ThrillerTalk, a new podcast with K.J. Howe. 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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