Note From TRBS: For obvious reasons, I couldn’t review Redd Christmas (for those who weren’t aware, aside from being The Real Book Spy, I’m also the author of two books and counting, including last year’s Fields of Fire and this year’s Lethal Range). That would definitely be a conflict of interest. However, I do feel like, being a fan of thrillers myself and knowing my audience, that my books are just the kind of thing that Book Spy readers might enjoy. And since there’s no other one-stop shop for all things thriller, I wanted to find a way to cover it objectively, of course. So, I reached out to the very talented Steve Urszenyi—whose FANTASTIC debut thriller, Perfect Shot, hits bookstores on November 14th—and asked if he would be willing to give Redd Christmas a read. You can read his thoughts below.
This Christmas, The Real Book Spy, Ryan Steck, delivers an exciting novella that goes back in time to show how Matthew Redd became the hardened, battle-tested operator that readers have come to love and admire.
Before the young man became a Marine and the Marine Raider became a legend, ahead of the events in Fields of Fire and Lethal Range, an eighteen-year-old Matthew (Matty) Redd made a promise to his dad, Jim Bob Thompson. “How ’bout this,” he told J.B. “I’ll always call you on Christmas Eve. I promise.”
Then, in a first-person POV reflection, Matty says, “I remember that promise to J.B. like it was yesterday ….” With that, Steck takes us on a journey into the heart of the story.
We rejoin Redd years later, in Northern Iraq, deployed to a remote combat outpost—or COP—far from the forward operating base near Mosul and even farther from his and J.B.’s home in Montana. It’s Christmas Eve, and the cell phone he had procured in-country for the sole purpose of keeping his promise to his dad has spotty reception at best. He could climb on top of the COP’s perimeter Hesko to improve it, but he’s not about to do that and present a tasty silhouette for enemy snipers to target in on. Heading to the chow hall instead, his thoughts are interrupted by his platoon sergeant, who directs him to head straight to the TOC for a briefing in three minutes. Seconds later, Redd’s squadron is called to assist when a nearby Special Forces team comes under enemy fire.
The Marines’ mission is to secure the scene and evacuate the wounded, but soon after their arrival, they realize the initial attack was only the first wave. Before long, Redd and his team are outmanned and outgunned. With the clock ticking down, he begins to wonder if this is the year he’ll have to break his promise … or if he’ll even make it out alive.
Steck goes on to weave a story of honor, duty, and service, where twenty-one-year-old Redd, faced with an insurgent force of IS fighters and overwhelming odds against his platoon, seizes the mantle of leadership that fate has thrust upon him. Encouraged and inspired by one of the Special Forces soldiers he has rescued, Redd’s innate skills help him rise above his uncertainty to take control of his squad and lead them against an unrelenting and overwhelming adversary force. And, as he makes another promise on the battlefield to the man who gently nudged him toward his true vocation, Redd seals his own destiny.
But as great a danger as the enemy force is, the challenge he faces within his platoon may be even greater. Gripped by fear, inexperience, and a sense of hopelessness, his fellow Marines don’t know they possess the right stuff to survive until Redd can draw it out of them. And not just to survive but to emerge victorious as the hellish night ensues. But can he? Is he the savior to emerge on this Christmas Eve?
What makes one man rise above his peers to achieve greatness where others fail? Where does the inspiration for selfless acts of courage emanate? Is it God’s grace? Divine intervention? A razor-sharp sense of duty?
The British-Canadian poet Robert Service wrote, “Now a promise made is a debt unpaid.” Maybe it’s as simple as that. Matty Redd is that rare breed of human who feels commitment deeply. Who, having suffered tragic loss in his young life already, is determined to stay true to himself, the principles he’s been taught, and to the man who took him in and became his only family.
You will have to read Redd Christmas to discover what happens next, or how—or even if—things are resolved on Christmas Eve, but in doing so, you will come away with a greater understanding of what forged the man we later meet in Fields of Fire, Lethal Range, and soon in Out for Blood. Matthew Redd is an eminently capable, believable, and good man. I think J.B would be proud. At once an action-focused and intensely intimate origin story, we learn so much more about the man at the core of the series as Steck peels away layers to reveal the soul of his character. In doing so, Matthew Redd becomes even more deeply ingrained into his readers’ consciousness, who will forevermore see the Marine Raider within the character and the character of the man.
Steck has earned a reputation throughout the publishing world as someone who possesses a deep clarity when it comes to the elements that comprise a good thriller. He is a trusted sounding board for new and veteran authors alike. But more importantly, in the novella Redd Christmas, Steck delivers a heart-pounding and emotionally satisfying prequel to his Matthew Redd series that cements his name among the greats in the thriller sphere.
A former 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.
“A hair-raising international thriller debut that catapults the author into the ranks of Jack Carr and Mark Greaney.” —BookTrib
“Urszenyi brings his background as a police tactical medic to this boldly authentic debut, introducing an impressive female warrior in the first of an anticipated series.” –Booklist
“Alex launches a whirlwind chase for the nuke, which leads to several rip-roaring action set pieces, including a well-choreographed air attack and a sweat-inducing pursuit of the bomb and its handler in the Paris catacombs…Urszenyi is a writer to watch.” –Publishers Weekly
“Perfect Shot is my pick for the best debut of 2023. Steve Urszenyi is wildly talented, and his kickass new hero, Alex Martel, is sure to be a hit with fans of Mark Greaney, Jack Carr, and Stephen Hunter.” –Ryan Steck, The Real Book Spy
“Action-packed with an amazing plot. Steve Urszenyi is the next great thriller writer.” –Fred Burton, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent
“Gripping and on target, Perfect Shot hits with maximum impact. Steve Urszenyi’s debut thriller never lets up from the first page to the last. Read it today!” –Jack Carr, New York Times bestselling author of The Terminal List
“A stunning debut heralding an extraordinary new character and series. Alex Martel is a kick-ass special agent in an action-packed, on-the-edge-of-your-seat espionage thriller with a jaw-dropping finish.” ― Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author of the Charles Jenkins Espionage series
“Perfect Shot is a cracker-jack debut novel! A compelling plot and richly drawn characters pull readers in from the very first paragraph and keep the pages flying by.” ―Marc Cameron, New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy: Shadow of the Dragon
“Steve Urszenyi’s powerful debut starts fast and finishes faster. Full of high-octane thrills and intricate details that bristle with authenticity.” –Mark Greaney, #1 NYT bestselling author of Burner: A Gray Man Novel
“A gripping, high velocity thriller with a groundbreaking protagonist.” –Jeff Rovin, New York Times bestselling author of the Tom Clancy: Op-Center series
“Opening this book is like trying to jump onto a fast-moving train. Urszenyi is the real deal.” –Linwood Barclay, New York Times bestselling author of Take Your Breath Away