Featured Review: ‘Unknown Rider’ by Jack Stewart


Former Navy FA-18 fighter pilot and Top Gun instructor Jack Stewart blasts onto the thriller scene with his high-flying debut novel, Unknown Rider, an epic, twisting, action-packed adventure that’s unlike anything else in print today.

Off the coast of California, Top Gun instructor Colt Bancroft, tasked with checking out a set of mysterious lights in the night sky close to the aircraft carrier, catapults off the USS Abraham Lincoln in his F-35C Joint Strike Fighter. At first, everything appears normal, but a moment later, danger strikes, and soon, the lights aren’t the only mystery Colt needs answers to.

First, Colt’s jet goes unresponsive, a confusing development with potentially dangerous implications. But things go from bad to worse when his F-35C suddenly inverts and enters a nosedive that sends him screaming right toward the aircraft carrier’s escort cruiser. At the last second, he narrowly avoids disaster, but the incident is far from over. Once grounded, Colt is both frustrated and mystified when the flight data contradicts his claims of losing control. Though he has no idea what, exactly, happened to cause him to almost crash, he’s desperate to clear his name—and that means getting some help from an NCIS special agent who is already investigating another shocking incident that could shed light on Colt’s situation if they’re somehow connected. But the more they dig into things, the more they unearth a massive conspiracy, one that reaches higher and further than they ever could have imagined.

To clear his name and save the day, Colt Bancroft must connect the dots, unmask a traitor, and stay one step ahead of an invisible enemy before their daring plan is carried out.

From the moment this one lifts off, it’s clear that Jack Stewart has a wealth of intimate knowledge about ariel fighting, current cutting-edge technology, and all things fighter jets, but surprisingly, those details act only as the salt that flavors the main dish: a well-conceived conspiracy that shines a light on other ways America, specifically, may be vulnerable to attacks that most readers have likely never considered. And while it’s easy to get caught up in the jets and action taking place in the sky—there’s indeed plenty of that stuff (yes, you will hear “Danger Zone” in your head as you read along), and Stewart does it far better than anyone working in the genre today—there’s even more spy tradecraft and suspense as he masterfully rolls out his plot and characters, setting the stage for future books and what should be a successful franchise moving forward.

Think Top Gun: Maverick meets Stealth, Unknown Rider, a can’t-miss debut from an author who flashes major breakout potential, mixes a brilliantly fleshed-out cast with a global conspiracy that places readers squarely in the cockpit of an F-35C, where they’ll experience the kind of disembarkment syndrome-inducing force and turbulence the thriller genre has never seen before. With a plot that moves at Mach 1.6, Jack Stewart will have you checking for bogies as he goes full firewall, and once it’s weapons hot . . . there’s no putting this one down.


Book Details

Author: Jack Stewart
Series: Battle Born #1
Pages: 338 (Paperback)
ISBN: 164875483X
Publisher: Severn River Publishing
Release Date: November 21, 2023
Real Book Spy Rating: 8.5/10



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 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.


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