Not only is 2023 a great year for thrillers, with stalwarts such as Brad Thor, Jack Carr, Daniel Silva, and others delivering the kind of up-all-night reading experiences we’ve come to expect from them, but ’23 also stands out for its promising rookie class of debut authors.
With a new book for every type of thriller reader, this might be the deepest, most promising group of debuts that I’ve covered since launching The Real Book Spy in 2014. Below are the five most notable debuts hitting stores this year, a group anchored by a former Spy, a former Navy SEAL with a New York Times bestselling memoir already on his resume, a former Top Gun Pilot, a former tactical medic with the Ontario Provincial Police, and a man who is widely considered to be one of the best hunters on the planet.
With this infusion of new blood, the state of the thriller genre sure looks promising.
Check out all five titles below, then let us know which one’s your most excited to get your hands on.
Release Date: May 30th
During the Arab Spring, an American spy’s final mission goes dangerously awry in this explosive and “remarkable debut” (Joseph Kanon, New York Times bestselling author) from a former CIA officer that is perfect for fans of John LeCarre, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Alan Furst.
Shane Collins, a world-weary CIA spy, is ready to come in from the cold. Stationed in Bahrain off the coast of Saudi Arabia for his final tour, he’s anxious to dispense with his mission—uncovering Iranian support for the insurgency against the monarchy. But then he meets Almaisa, a beautiful and enigmatic artist, and his eyes are opened to a side of Bahrain most expats never experience, to questions he never thought to ask.
When his trusted informant becomes embroiled in a murder, Collins finds himself drawn deep into the conflict and his growing romance with Almaisa upended. In an instant, he’s caught in the crosshairs of a revolution. Drawing on all his skills as a spymaster, he must navigate a bloody uprising, win Almaisa’s love, and uncover the murky border where Bahrain’s secrets end and America’s begin.
“A breathless tour-de-force, the perfect spy tale” (Ian Caldwell, author of The Fifth Gospel) and dripping with authenticity, The Peacock and the Sparrow is a timely story of the elusiveness of truth, the power of love and belief, and the universal desire to be part of a cause greater than oneself.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT IT: Written by someone with the insider knowledge to capture even the smallest of details about the life of a spy, Berry’s debut is more Jason Matthews than Jack Carr, more le Carre than Vince Flynn. It’s not your typical bang, bang thriller, but then again, it’s not meant to be. This is very much a slow burb with a twisting, turning plot that’ll have you questioning everything as you race to see how it ends. Other critics have praised Berry for her authenticity, and I echo those comments. Fascinating and real-feeling, this one is perfect for diehard spy fans.
Release Date: July 25hth
From actor, memoirist, and former Navy SEAL Remi Adeleke comes the first installment in the electrifying, pulse-pounding Black Box Ops Thriller series, featuring Nigerian-born Kali Kent and the top-secret Black Box program–perfect for readers of Jack Carr, Mark Greaney, and Brad Taylor.
When a mysterious former South African commando begins taking wealthy hostages all over the world, it appears at first to be a typical ransom gambit. However, it soon becomes clear that Lucas Van Groot is not only making a fortune with his “Hostage Inc.” venture, but also manipulating worldwide stock markets and causing panic on Wall Street and at the Federal Reserve.
Enter Black Box, the CIA’s most secret special operations branch–so surreptitious that not even the Director of CIA is fully privy to the unit’s activities. Black Box is comprised of secret agents with incredible skills: Chameleons who can transform into myriads of characters, Ghosts who are specialists in stealth and surveillance, Wind operatives who are transportation experts, and Aberration spies whose specialty is deep cover for years.
Kali Kent, a Nigerian born and Bronxite super star in the Black Box program, leads the hunt for Van Groot and his conspiracy of international criminals. However, he soon discovers that the South African mastermind is after a much larger prize.
Kali Kent and Black Box must stop Van Groot before he can execute a worldwide tragedy. But along the way, Kali will have to face the demons from his childhood and reflect on his emotional path that made him the Chameleon that he has become today.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT IT: From the author who wrote the bestselling nonfiction memoir Transformed comes an exciting new thriller about a team of operators who are trained to fit in anywhere and overcome the odds, no matter how stacked they are against them. Remi Adeleke knows his stuff, and this book, which kicks off a new series from him, connects right on the chin—delivering a knockout blow. Fans of Thor, Carr, and Greaney will want to grab this one right away.
Release Date: October 17th
“Astoundingly original, relentlessly paced, and purely authentic.” —Jack Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author
An elite secret society of killers has controlled the world’s treasures for hundreds of years…until one member tears himself free to salvage his soul and protect his daughter’s life in this electrifying and thrilling debut.
The single greatest work of art in the world is not in the Louvre or The Met, or in any private collection. In fact, its whereabouts are unknown.
Once in a long while, a child is born possessing the rarest of gifts, the innate ability to feel impossible beauty, to recognize priceless works of art. When such a child is discovered, a 250-year-old secret organization called Our World trains them to acquire the greatest works of art through theft, bribery, forgery, and even murder. Once found, the masterpiece will disappear again without anyone ever knowing it surfaced and sold for billions of dollars of profit at a secret auction attended by only the wealthiest of the art world’s patrons.
One of Our World’s rare geniuses is Zhivago. He is also a psychopathic killer. On his trail is Hunter, a man who will stop at nothing to destroy the organization and save his daughter from suffering the same fate her mother did at its hands.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT IT: An authentic, riveting thriller that stands out for its unique storylines, Call Me Hunter reads like a cross between something from Dan Brown and Brad Thor. Shockey, who is known for his TV show, among other things, is considered one of the world’s greatest hunters, and he puts his vast knowledge of that subject on full display here. Well-written and infused with informative, expert details from a true master of his craft, Call Me Hunter has all the makings of a hit.
Release Date:November 14th
Aformer Army sniper must fall back on her Special Ops skills when a friend’s death uncovers a global nuclear threat, in Steve Urszenyi’s Perfect Shot, the first in an electrifying new series featuring Special Agent Alexandra Martel.
Special Agent Alexandra Martel has put her days on the battlefield behind her. Charming and disarming, relentless and lethal, she earned a reputation as one of the most renowned and decorated Army snipers in the service before stepping away. But when Alex, now an FBI special agent on loan to Interpol, learns that an old friend, an MI5 officer, has been killed under mysterious circumstances, she’s pulled back into the dangerous world she left behind: a world where some people fear her, some want to recruit her, and everyone seems to want her dead.
Following a trail of clues left behind by the dead woman, Alex pieces together a terrifying conspiracy that only escalates when a nuclear warhead goes missing. Dodging death at every turn, she reluctantly joins forces with a CIA officer, but he has plans of his own for her―and will stop at nothing to achieve them.
Chasing the truth through the streets of London and bustling Turkish markets to the underbelly of Paris, Alex is unrelenting in her pursuit of justice. But as the clock ticks down and the world edges closer to doom, she must fall back on her Special Ops skills to stop the unthinkable. She thought her life as a sniper was over―but with stakes this high, she must use whatever means necessary to render the world safe.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT IT: In a genre dominated by tough guys, get ready to meet Alex Martel, a badass in her own right who is proficient up close and with the long gun and who won’t stop until she’s checked off every objective and settled every score. Written with the kind of commanding prose normally seen from veteran authors, Steve
Release Date: November 21st
After a Navy pilot inexplicably loses control of his stealth fighter, he stumbles upon a global conspiracy, and embarks on a thrilling chase filled with espionage and betrayal.
TOP GUN instructor Colt Bancroft has just catapulted off the USS Abraham Lincoln, his F-35C Joint Strike Fighter trailing blue and yellow flame as he climbs into the night sky off the California coast.
When he is sent to investigate a series of mysterious lights floating dangerously close to his aircraft carrier, disaster strikes. His jet becomes unresponsive as it rolls inverted and enters a nosedive aimed right at the aircraft carrier’s unsuspecting escort cruiser.
What follows is a tale of heroism and betrayal, spycraft and suspense, and aerial combat against an unexpected adversary.
To clear his name and unmask a traitor, Colt must survive a dangerous game of spy-vs-spy, where trusting the wrong person could cost him his life. To stop the enemy from hitting their ultimate target, Colt must use every ounce of his skill and training to uncover the identity of the UNKNOWN RIDER.
From author Jack Stewart, a former US Navy Top Gun instructor pilot, comes an exhilarating military thriller that’s packed with high-octane action and puts the reader behind the controls of a modern jet fighter. Perfect for fans of Tom Clancy and Dale Brown.
WHY WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT IT: Jack Stewart is a name you won’t soon forget after reading his lights-out, full-throttle thriller, Unknown Rider. A pilot by day, Stewart brings a wealth of knowledge about flying, but his greatest strength is understanding how to hold the reader’s attention, constructing a debut thriller that reads fast and soars above the rest. With an accelerated release schedule planned for future sequels, trust me—don’t wait to check this one out.
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. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, comes out on August 8th. 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.