Who doesn’t love a good list, right?
2022 was a big year for thrillers going mainstream on streaming services, with both The Terminal List (starring Chris Pratt) and The Gray Man (starring Ryan Gosling) turning heads on Amazon Prime and Netflix, respectively. And if you enjoyed those, you might be looking for a book series or two that’s similar. If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered.
Below is a list of 10 must-read thriller series to read if you enjoyed The Terminal List or The Gray Man.
Strap in tight.
1.) Jack Carr’s James Reece Series
This one is obvious, but if you liked the TV show, then you have to check out the books. It’s crazy to think that Carr’s first novel only came out five years ago, but in that very short amount of time, he’s managed to take the thriller genre by storm on his way to becoming a #1 New York Times bestselling author. A former Navy SEAL, Carr knows the world that Reece operates in intimately, and it’s that raw authenticity that bleeds onto every page, making his books so hard to put down. Season 2 of The Terminal List will follow the second book in the series, True Believer, which takes Reece to Africa before he’s tasked with helping the CIA—following a string of attacks on the Western world—track a number of terrorists around the globe. Short on time, Reece must unravel the conspiracy before it’s too late, and in exchange, he’s offered a Presidential pardon for his actions in The Terminal List.
First Book: The Terminal List
2023 Title: Only The Dead
2.) Mark Greaney’s Gray Man Series
Here’s another pretty obvious pick. If you enjoyed The Gray Man on Netflix, then you’re likely to enjoy Mark Greaney’s books as well. While diehard fans of the books may have taken issue with the movie’s script and how far the story deviated from the source material, the film did manage to capture just how lethal Courtland Gentry, aka the Gray Man, is. Fact is, while the movie is no doubt a good, fun action flick, Greaney’s books are indeed better. One of the best writers the genre has to offer, Greaney packs his books with action, but there’s so much more to his work than just gunfights and explosions. Few writers are able to develop characters the way he’s brought along not only Gentry but other series regulars as well. Moreover, Greaney is unmatched in his plotting, and that, combined with an expert sense of geopolitics, usually leads to his books often featuring timely and relevant plots. By tending to alternate between CIA-driven missions and Gray Man missions with each book, Greaney keeps things fresh and new, which each title really standing on its own, allowing readers to pick up and start anywhere they’d like.
First Book: The Gray Man
2023 Title: Burner
3.) Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series
Previously brought to life on the big screen by actor Dylan O’Brien in American Assassin, CIA operative Mitch Rapp is perhaps the most badass character in print today. Having spent his entire adult life chasing and killing bad guys, Rapp has stood on the front lines of the war on terror for two decades and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Originally, Vince Flynn made a name for himself by pivoting (after his bold debut, Term Limits) to middle eastern terrorism while most authors at that time—including Tom Clancy—still had their sights set on Russia. Extremely smart and armed with an unmatched ability to create characters readers love or love to hate, Flynn delivered hit after hit. Sadly, he passed away in 2013, and since then, fellow bestselling author Kyle Mills has stepped in to take over the franchise, continuing Flynn’s streak of bestsellers with eight more of his own (the ninth, Code Red, is due out later this year). Often, Jack Carr is compared to Vince Flynn (in fact, the two share an editor and publisher), so if you’re a big fan of James Reece, Mitch Rapp should be next up on your reading list.
First Book: American Assassin (Chronologically), Transfer of Power (Order in which they were published)
2023 Title: Code Red
4.) Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath series
Scot (with one T) Harvath, callsign Norseman, is another can’t-miss character if you’re into badass operators who know their way around a gunfight. This series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Brad Thor mixes pulse-pounding action with smart, timely plotlines that echo what’s happening in the world today. In fact, over the course of his career, Thor has proven himself to be one of the best headline-beaters in the genre, with his stories often playing out in real life well after his fictional works land on store shelves. So, if you’re curious about what next year’s headlines might look like, chances are you’ll find some clues in Thor’s books. Aside from Harvath, a former Navy SEAL turned elite counterterrorism operative, Thor has a number of other beloved characters, including one named “the Troll,” and he’s constantly fleshing them out with each new offering—make his cast feel real. A true patriot who will stop at nothing to keep his fellow countrymen safe, I once wrote years back that nobody delivers a star-spangled-ass kicking quite like Harvath, and that remains true today.
First Book: The Lions of Lucerne
2023 Title: Dead Fall
5.) Daniel Silva’s Gabrial Allon Series
When it comes to spy thrillers, nobody has ever done it better than Daniel Silva. For a long while, John le Carre was considered the gold standard, but for my money, Silva is the greatest of all time, and you need not look any further than his now 23-book-long Gabriel Allon series for proof. Allon, the once wayward son of Israeli intelligence, has since come back to his roots to run the Office (the Mossad), but that hardly limits him to only being involved in Israeli affairs. Over the course of the series, Gabriel, one of the finest art restorers in the world, uses his talents as the perfect cover to travel around the world for his other job—where he’s known to be one of the greatest spies alive. There’s action, and plenty of it, but what Silva does better than anyone working today, is developing his stories around twists and turns you’ll never see coming. A brilliant writer, Silva’s books are beautifully and eloquently written, with an acute attention to detail that makes every setting come to life. Bottom line: this series is one you have to check out if you’re not already reading it.
First Book: The Kill Artist
2023 Title: The Collector
6.) Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan Series
Not only does Pike Logan have one of the best names in fiction, but he’s also one of the best heroes the genre has to offer right now. Pike, who was in Delta Force before he joined an elite, off-the-books unit known only as the Taskforce, now serves in a different capacity. Gone are the limitations and beauracratic red tape that can, at times, slow down the military from doing what needs to be done. Now, Pike and his team answer directly to the president. When diplomacy fails, and a military strike isn’t possible, POTUS sends Pike and the Taskforce to handle the most dangerous and sensitive missions. Think of a more realistic Mission Impossible, but with more action and plotlines that aren’t only smarter but better fleshed out. Unlike Ethan Hunt, Pike Logan doesn’t go for cheesy stunts, he’s lethal in a number of ways but carries himself with the confidence of someone who knows they’re an apex predator but is reserved enough only to use that skillset when absolutely necessary. And when he does, buckle up. Taylor, a twenty-one-year veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces, including eight years with Delta Force, isn’t like most other veterans turned authors. He’s a 17-time New York Times bestseller who just so happens to have also been in the military. And yet, that experience pops on every page, giving his works the kind of been-there-done-than authenticity that nobody else can match.
First Book: One Rough Man
2023 Title: The Devil’s Ransom
7. ) Joel C. Rosenberg’s Marcus Ryker Series
For many years, Rosenberg, who has over 5 million books in print today, has been known as one of the premier headline-beating writers in the business. He’s so accurate, in fact, that he was once nicknamed a “modern-day Nostradamus.” It’s almost as if media outlets don’t know what headlines to run until Rosenberg’s books come to life, which, for being fiction, tends to happen at a rather alarming rate. Prior to creating Marcus Ryker, Rosenberg’s longest series was five books. He’s also written a couple of trilogies. But Ryker changed things for Rosenberg, giving him a legitimate tough-guy operator who can compete with the Jason Bournes and Jack Ryans of the genre. Few authors today understand geopolitics and America’s biggest threats like Rosenberg. In fact, true story: Back when ISIS was being referred to as the “J.V. Team” by the then president, Rosenberg made them the antagonists of his book, The Third Target. Nobody had heard of the now notorious terror group, and as they began dominating headlines (for all the worst reasons), Rosenberg’s publisher actually had to move up the publication of that book. For years, every thriller writer (including everyone on this list) ended up writing about ISIS in some way, but Rosenberg was the first one.
First Book: The Kremlin Conspiracy
2023 Title: The Beiruit Protocol
8.) Andrews & Wilson’s Tier One Series
These days, Brian Andrews and Jeff Wilson are known as the best writing duo in the thriller world. They’ve even been picked to succeed Marc Cameron in taking over the late Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. But before they were household names, back in 2016, Andrews & Wilson were just releasing the first book in a new series called Tier One. That book, starring John Dempsey, a former Navy SEAL who agrees to fake his death and leave his old life—and everyone in it—behind so that he can enter the shadows and fight the bad guys on their home turf, launched a now seven-book franchise that remains among the very best in print right now. The latest, Dempsey, is probably their best work so far. If you aren’t reading their work, you’re missing out. Both Andrews & Wilson served in the military, and their takes on various threat scenarios have helped to freshen up a stale military thriller genre that badly needed a hit series to go alongside Brad Taylor’s. Not only has Tier One and Dempsey done just that, but Andrews & Wilson have already written spinoffs too, expanding on their universe.
First Book: Tier One
2023 Title: Dempsey
9.) Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X Series
Think Jason Bourne with Alex Hawke’s money and a cooler hideout than either of them. Evan Smoak, who was once part of a top-secret government program that plucked children out of orphanages around the country before training them to be killers, has since left the band and took his solo act on the road. Now, Evan lives out of a sweet penthouse—fitted with a secret command center—and spends his days working as a vigilante known only as the Nowhere Man. When innocent people are in life-or-death situations, they can dial a number, and Evan, who has both a lethal set of skills and the smarts to problem-solve on the fly, answers the call in more ways than one. Still living by the commandments his handler/father figure instilled in him, Evan is very selective about what he will and won’t get involved in. One thing he can’t choose to stay out of, though, is a fight against the people behind the Orphan Program who turned him into what he is today. They’re not fans of him quitting the program, and that complicates matters considerably, and usually at the worst possible times.
First Book: Orphan X
2023 Title: The last Orphan
10.) Tom Wood’s Victor the Assassin
There are a lot of big names on this list, but Victor is the coldest killer of them all. A true anti-hero, Wood’s books aren’t quite like anything else on this list. An assassins assassin, Victor is known for being someone who does not mess around, and those who push him tend to stop breathing real fast. The guy has no history whatsoever, no last name, and no facial ID (after surgeries to change his appearance). He lives alone, works alone, and trusts no one. Of everyone on this list, Victor is probably the last character you’d want coming after you. He’s a less flashy John Wick but with a similar body count. Wood’s books are pure adrenaline, so if that’s your thing, look no further.
First Book: The Killer
2023 Title: Blood Debt
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 is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. And to take part in free, exclusive BOOK CLUBS each month, join The Real Book Spy on Discord.