Set just after the events of Tom Clancy Flash Point (2023), which saw much of the Campus wiped out, Jack Ryan Junior is thinking about anything but the top-secret intelligence group he now leads when he suddenly becomes a witness to a car accident that threatens to wake the small Texas town he’s passing through. The crash goes down in front of Junior after he attended a Texas A&M football game, and to the untrained eye, it might have looked just like that—an accident. But to Jack Ryan Junior, whose “eye” is very much trained, the whole thing looks more like a professional hit. But why?
That’s the question that haunts Jack, who feels a sense of duty to get to the bottom of things. He had no warning that the hit might go down in front of him and no way to stop it, but getting answers, well, that’s what Jack does, so before the dust has settled on the crime scene, he gets to work. Unfortunately, all Jack has to go on is a meeting the victim was heading to attend. So, he takes their place, charging head-first into the unknown, and ends up uncovering more cover-ups and conspiracies than he bargained for.
While Junior is knee-deep in sorting out small-town corruption and working to make sense of things in Texas, his father, President Jack Ryan Sr., has his own problems to attend to. New intelligence reports indicate that Iran is set to go nuclear, having come dangerously close to obtaining their own warhead that, if left unchecked, could put America and the rest of the world in grave danger. As options are laid out for POTUS, it becomes clear that their best option is also their most risky: an unmanned superplane that wields incredible power but remains largely untested in active scenarios. There’s also another subplot that involves a Las Vegas group of mercenaries, and Bentley certainly has a few surprises planted along the way, but as things start to come together and those plotlines begin to merge together, the tension heats up, and once it does, Weapons Grade becomes impossible to set down.
If this is really the last Clancy book from Don Bentley (who is set to take Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series, replacing Kyle Mills), then the author should certainly take a bow for his many achievements and contributions to the Ryanverse. After four books, Bentley’s left his mark in a big way. Jack Junior, who recently became engaged, came into his own under Bentley, taking on more of a leadership role with the Campus and really stepping out of the large and daunting shadow cast by his father—who remains one of the greatest characters the thriller genre has ever produced—while becoming the type of protagionist capable of carrying his own series, as opposed to being second billing to Jack Sr. That is no small feat, and it could be argued that no writer has done more to advance Junior’s development than Bentley, who someone managed that without ever sacrificing story or pacing.
Since taking the reins of the Ryanverse, Don Bentley has shown to be a masterful storyteller, adept at crafting intricate plots that intertwine global politics, cutting-edge technology, and heart-stopping action. But what makes Weapons Grade work so well, is that while he again manages to introduce cutting-edge technology, he incorporates it without it overshadowing the story itself. Instead, next-gen tech serves as an enhancer, making the narrative feel even more relevant in our ever-evolving technological age, but the human element is always present too, and Bentley’s knack for understanding the nuances of the human spirit, providing depth and layers to his characters is once again on full display.
Bottom Line . . . Tom Clancy Weapons Grade is a worthy addition to the Ryanverse and a fitting end to the Don Bentley era.
Author: Don Bentley
Series: Jack Ryan Junior # 11
Pages: 512 (Hardcover)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: September 5, 2023
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 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.