RaveThe Real Book SpyWith multiple storylines playing out in riveting fashion, David Poyer’s latest offering will leave readers desperately flipping pages as the story unfolds, racing to see how things end. While he’s long been a solid storyteller and underrated contributor to the naval thriller genre, Poyer ups his game with this one, elevating his writing to match the bold, high-stakes scenarios found here, all told with authentic details and stunning realism ... Not since Tom Clancy was in his heyday has there been a thriller with this many moving parts, this deep a cast of characters, this smart of a concept, and this much action. David Poyer has never been better ... an absolute knockout and a must-read for fans of Clancy, Larry Bond, and Rick Campbell.
PositiveThe Real Book SpyBryan Gruley is a terrific writer, and his wordplay and scenic descriptions make up for a few minor missteps here. While not his fastest-paced thriller to date, early portions of Bleak Harbor read as if the characters are slightly underdeveloped. In reality, that may have more to do with Gruley disguising their pasts and current situations to hide their true motives, allowing for some misdirection and suspense later on. The other issue is that not every reader will buy the story’s twist, which is jarring but also walks the line of implausible. Still, there’s a lot to like here, and as a Michigan native born and raised, Gruley definitely nails the setting and brings Bleak Harbor right to life on the page. With nonstop twists and suspense throughout, Bleak Harbor is another solid offering from Bryan Gruley, who knows how to surprise readers and keep them on the edge of their seats.
RaveThe Real Book Spy\"Few writers have shown the kind of versatility that Jeff Abbott has displayed in recent years, seamlessly transitioning between Brad Thor-like action-thrillers to psychological and suspense thrillers. It’s hard to say that The Three Beths tops last year’s Blame, but it’s certainly right up there, and Abbott’s turning, nail-biting plot will surely please even the pickiest of readers. Two years, two earth-shattering twist endings, and Abbott has knocked them both out of the park. If you thought the ending to Blame was shocking, prepare to be blown away with the conclusion to The Three Beths, the latest must-read thriller from Jeff Abbott, who remains at the very top of his game.
RaveThe Real Book SpyEverything about Lupica’s work feels familiar, and his ability to mimic Parker’s voice is truly remarkable. Between Lupica, Coleman, and Atkins, Mike Lupica Clearly does the best job of staying true to Parker’s style. Everything from sentence structure to word choice, how he sets a scene to how he develops the characters, is spot-on and reads as if it were written by Robert B. Parker himself, something his diehard fans will almost certainly appreciate. Beyond that, the story is deftly plotted and moves fast, leading up to a memorable ending that’ll have fans begging for more ... Replacing an icon can’t be easy, but you wouldn’t know it by reading Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud. Mike Lupica mixes a heavy dose of suspense with a shot of nostalgia, effortlessly delivering a relentless thriller that might just be the best book in the series so far.
RaveThe Real Book SpyThough the Campus members provide some sizzle, Cameron relies more on his deftly plotted, high-stakes scenarios — while further developing Tom Clancy’s beloved characters — to keep readers interested ... Cameron utilizes the deep cast of characters at his disposal brilliantly. Longtime fans will be happy to know that under Cameron, \'the leader of the free world’s still got it\' (in more ways than one) ... Marc Cameron dazzled Clancy loyalists with Power and Empire, but now he’s kicking it up a notch for his next book . . . and Tom Clancy’s Oath of Office is going to blow readers away.
RaveThe Real Book SpyTaking on one of fiction’s all-time greatest heroes is no easy task, but Anthony Horowitz has proven to be the man for the job. Seeing this inexperienced side to Bond is refreshing and finally provides the true origin story that was always missing ... Horowitz has crafted an authentic, action-packed Bond novel that even the Fleming faithful will devour.
RaveThe Real Book SpyThere’s no question that this is Rapp’s most dangerous assignment yet, and Mills dials up the suspense while packing in more action than ever before, creating a relentless, heart-thumping plot that moves at breakneck speeds. While a lot of political thrillers have similar plots and players this year (the U.S. vs. Russia), Mills sets himself apart by putting a heavy emphasis on why the bad guys are doing what they’re doing, showing readers both sides of the conflict ... Kyle Mills continues his impressive run of must-read thrillers with Red War, a timely, explosive novel that shows yet again why Mitch Rapp is the best hero the thriller genre has to offer. . . and why Mills is the only writer capable of filling the enormous void left by Vince Flynn.
RaveThe Real Book Spy\"Frank Guidry learns the hard way that when it comes to the criminal underworld, everyone is expendable. After years of serving Carlos Marcello, a prominent New Orleans crime lord, Frank’s usefulness has finally run its course ... After dumping a car that was supposed to play a role in the shooting in Dallas, Frank discovers that Paul Barone, a skilled hitman with a devastatingly lethal resumé, has been tasked with killing him before anyone uncovers the link between the assassination and Marcello. Forced to go on the run, Frank’s only chance at survival is to get all the way to Las Vegas and link up with one of Carlos Marcello’s rivals, who not only hates the New Orleans mob man enough to help Frank disappear, but has the resources to make sure nobody ever finds him ... Incredibly well-written and deftly plotted, Lou Berney’s November Road is one of the year’s best novels. . . and a story readers will be talking about for a very long time.
RaveThe Real Book SpyAndrew Gross has quickly established himself as one of the best historical fiction writers in the game today ... Gross’ latest work is smaller in scope, which allows for more character development. Without the backdrop of a horrendous world war, Gross was able to take his time building Morris, who has to fight and battle for his world, making him both compelling and relatable ... Overall, it’s some of Gross’ best writing.
Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison
PositiveThe Real Book SpyWhile the plot is pretty linear, it does move along at a nice clip, and Oregon, Cabrillo’s next-gen ship, is still pretty awesome. That said, out of all Cussler’s series, the characters in this one are the most under-developed, which may simply be because the emphasis is so on the action that the authors opted not to spend much time fleshing out Juan and the crew. However, even the villains have little background ... the best character might honestly be the Oregon, which Cussler has given as much soul and personality as one could possibly give to a ship. Those expecting a fun, straightforward, fast-moving plot will enjoy the latest collaborative effort from Cussler and Morrison ... Shadow Tyrants is precisely what readers have come to expect from this franchise and is right in line with last year’s well-received Typhoon Fury.
RaveThe Real Book SpyWhile his last book was big on misdirection and mystery, Johnson shows off his versatility by switching gears and cramming in tons of action and suspense this time around. Part of the plot takes place during the Day of the Dead celebration, which proves to be quite fitting and offers a great setting ... As the story unfolds, things finally reach a boiling point, setting up an epic showdown between Walt and Bidarte that fans will no doubt be talking about long after turning the final page ... one of his most riveting and explosive novels to date.
RaveThe Real Book SpyMindy Mejia knows how to build suspense, and has timed every twist and turn perfectly, constantly raising the stakes for her characters. Maya and Lucas are both mysterious and well-developed, and their chemistry is palpable ... Mindy Mejia kicks things up a notch, delivering another nail-biting page-turner that grabs you early and never lets go ... Leave No Trace is her best thriller yet.
RaveThe Real Book SpyCatherine Coulter remains one of the very best at what she does, and Paradox is some of her very finest work yet. While the story takes a little more time to get going than her fans may be used to, it’s all worth it in the end ... Coulter builds layers of suspense that’ll keep readers guessing as the story unfolds. Along the way, she unleashes a brilliant twist or two ... More than a few readers will find themselves sleeping with one eye open after finishing this one ... Eerie, unsettling, and breathlessly terrifying, Paradox is another gripping read from Catherine Coulter, who, at twenty-two books into her bestselling series and counting, shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down anytime soon.
RaveThe Real Book SpyHer background and experience as an attorney bleed onto every page, blending perfectly with her natural storytelling ability. Longtime fans will enjoy seeing a bit more of Mary DiNunzio in this one ... as good as anything else you’ll find in bookstores this summer ... Nobody delivers as consistently as Lisa Scottoline, who has outdone herself with Feared, one of her strongest novels yet and an absolute must-read for all fans of legal thrillers.
William Kent Krueger
RaveThe Real Book SpyWilliam Kent Krueger’s 17th O’Connor novel packs the same punch of suspense that his readers have come to expect, but also takes a slight supernatural turn ... The plot features a few well-written twists and turns, and Krueger knows how to keep readers off-balance as the plot unfolds. Likewise, the story is visually stunning, capturing the setting in a way that allows readers to feel like they’re trekking across the Iron Lake Reservation. William Kent Krueger brings the vast Minnesota landscape to life the way C.J. Box does with Wyoming, allowing the setting itself to become a character in the story. Just when you think you know what’s going on, Krueger darts in another direction, pulling readers helplessly along the twisting ride through the haunting wild ... Desolation Mountain is as spooky as it is suspenseful, an addictive recipe that William Kent Krueger serves up as good as anyone in the business.
MixedThe Real Book SpyAt first glance, Dalcher’s novel seems so laughably far-fetched that it’s almost hard to open up ... Ultimately, Christina Dalcher, who like her story’s protagonist is also a linguist, is a good writer. Her message and the points she raises are incredibly important, but the execution falls a bit short ... Much of the story is entertaining and thought-provoking ... overall it falls a bit flat, struggling to execute and to entertain at times.
PositiveThe Real Book Spy\"Sandford is so good at mixing humor into his mysteries, and that ability pays off greatly here. Whenever things take a dark turn, Flowers still manages to keep the plot light with his wit and humor. The story moves relatively fast, on par with his other novels, and the intriguing opening premise kicks things off with a bang. Those fearing this title might venture into Dan Brown-like waters need not worry, the initial setup involving the Virgin Mary doesn’t delve deep into religious text or beliefs. Instead, it serves as a tantalizing way to ramp things up, but the story does move away from that as Flowers chases a killer on the loose. Bottom line, it’s another very strong showing from Sandford.\
MixedThe Real Book SpyWhile the overall pacing is fairly slow, French does pick things up a bit as the story unfolds. That said, even with the intrigue early on, the opening pages feel a bit dull at times as the author takes her time developing the characters and setup. Once things are ready to roll, though, French delivers one shock after another, building the tension as the final act takes off, then goes out with a bang. Other than a slow start, which Tana French makes up for and then some, The Witch Elm twists and turns its way to a shocking ending that most readers will never see coming.
Jussi Adler-Olsen, Trans. by Steve Schein
MixedThe Real Book SpyStepping away from his Department Q series to deliver this politically-charged standalone novel, Jussi Adler-Olsen’s timely new thriller offers a terrifying glimpse at what could happen under the right circumstances should the president ever lose his mind and begin acting out of control to serve his personal agenda instead of serving the American people. Overall, The Washington Decree has a great setup for a conspiracy thriller, but the execution, while not bad, isn’t great, either ... it...never really lives up to the hype ... In the end, there is a somewhat valuable message for readers, and the timely plot threads will no doubt resonate with some Americans, while, quite frankly, others (depending on their political leanings) will absolutely hate it.
MixedThe Real Book SpyOlsen takes a small step backward with her sophomore novel, if only because it doesn’t deliver the same pulse-pounding suspense that she flashed before. Julia isn’t nearly as fleshed out as her last protagonist, and the story develops slower ... the plot is a touch shallow, and readers may struggle to relate to and embrace Julia, which makes the hell she goes through less impactful overall ... the final act ramps things up and shows what Olsen can do, making her a name to watch moving forward ... Rena Olsen’s With You Always packs a meaningful, important message.
RaveThe Real Book SpyWhen it comes to peaceful protests versus acts of domestic terrorism, where does one draw the line? That’s one of the fundamental questions asked early on in Steinhauer’s thought-provoking story ... Not only is Steinhauer’s story current, full of themes playing out across the country today, but in a rather unprecedented move, he covers the entire plot from all angles. Readers get to view the conflict through the eyes of an FBI agent, an undercover operative, a convert to the organization, and a writer closely following the story as it unfolds. Each character is expertly developed and provides a raw, unvarnished perspective that makes it challenging, at times, for readers to know who the bad guys really are ... smart, well-written ... you’d be hard pressed to find a better standalone thriller hitting bookstores in 2018.
MixedThe Real Book SpyOverall, Michael Moreci’s latest novel is an entertaining adventure that has shades of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Identity woven into it. It reads like a movie, which is both a positive and a negative. While the action scenes are well done, there isn’t a ton of depth to the universe Mark is forced to run around in. Also, it’s worth noting that parts of the plot require readers to really suspend their disbelief ... while Mark’s journey is compelling, the rest of the story around him lacks punch. Readers will figure out who the bad guy is before Moreci reveals them, which takes away from the reading experience.
RaveThe Real Book SpyWhile a lot of authors have written timely thrillers over the years, nobody has been more consistently right on the money than Thor, who has the uncanny ability to predict what the world will look like in the near future and craft his stories accordingly. That’s certainly the case with Spymaster, which feels ripped straight from tomorrow’s headlines, offering readers a terrifying glimpse at how the conflict between America and Russia could eventually play out ... Timely, raw, and filled with enough action for two books, Spymaster is this summer’s must-read thriller and the most gripping novel of Brad Thor’s iconic career.
RaveThe Real Book SpyAce Atkins has built a following of diehard readers who can’t get enough of his particular brand of southern fried homicide, and The Sinners makes it easy to see why. Few authors are able to capture the south the way Atkins does, and his usage of the third-person close point of view is perfect for this type of dark and gritty story that sucks readers in and doesn’t let go ... Between his work on Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series and his own Quinn Colson franchise, Ace Atkins has quickly become one of the genre’s top must-read, can’t-miss authors, and The Sinners is the obvious frontrunner for best southern crime novel of the year.
RaveThe Real Book Spy\"It’s spy versus spy in Daniel Silva’s latest heart-pounding thriller, which is perhaps his most enthralling novel to date ... Silva, one of the finest writers working today, remains capable of creating the kind of conundrum where readers are dying to know what happens but don’t want the story to end. From Vienna to Washington D.C. to one of the most shocking conclusions of his career, The Other Woman is Daniel Silva at his very best ... Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy meets The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in The Other Woman, an instant classic from Daniel Silva, whose latest masterpiece puts him firmly alongside le Carré and Forsyth as one of the greatest spy novelists of all time.\
RaveThe Real Book Spy\"As the story unfolds, Riley Sager takes readers on a dark, twisted, and thrilling ride, surging towards a shocking conclusion that’s so stunning it’ll leave readers gasping for air ... If you liked Final Girls, you will love Sager’s latest novel, which is a touch better and nearly impossible to put down. Not only is Sager a terrific writer, but, other than a semi-slow opening, the structure of this book combined with the pacing makes for an incredibly fast read that splits time between the present day and the events fifteen years prior. Readers will quickly blow through the three hundred and seventy pages in no time, racing to see what Emma uncovers. Even veteran readers of psychological suspense will be blindsided by the jarring conclusion.\
RaveThe Real Book SpyWhile it’s being billed as a financial thriller, Alger does a fine job of making sure her plot can appeal to anyone. Even those who don’t know much about banking and the financial world can follow along without any issues, while those deep in the world of money and wealth should be able to pick up on a number of key points thrown in just for them. A fascinating plot meets fine writing in Cristina Alger’s The Banker’s Wife, which should find its way onto plenty of reading lists this summer.
S M Stirling
PositiveThe Real Book SpyWhile the story, overall, is solid, Stirling’s pacing is very uneven. There are parts, especially in the first hundred or so pages, that move very quickly and are full of intrigue. Other parts are bogged down by seemingly endless descriptions and Stirling’s over-explaining of things that most readers are smart enough to pick up on. Moreover, the emphasis on details feels out of place, as other historical aspects and realities are barely touched on. In the end, if you don’t already have a deep understanding of WWI to begin with, the constant stream of information can feel overwhelming and may leave readers lost ... S. M. Stirling kicks off his new series with a bang. Fans of Robert Harris and Tony Schumacher will enjoy Black Chamber and appreciate Stirling’s attention to detail.
PositiveThe Real Book Spy[A Steep Price is] another finely-written mystery that slowly but steadily builds suspense around a number of plausible suspects, before wrapping things up with a satisfying conclusion ... Robert Dugoni’s latest whodunit is another solid entry in his popular Tracy Crosswhite series, and the author continues to develop his compelling lead character.
RaveThe Real Book SpyHopefully, this won’t be the end of Gunther ... But if this is the final book in the series, Kerr gives readers one last unputdownable ride. Greeks Bearing Gifts is masterfully written and full of suspense, and the amount of details that Kerr packed into his latest novel is incredible. . . readers will feel like they’re back in 1957 with Bernie Gunther, and more than a few fans will find themselves savoring every page while hoping the story never comes to an end.
PositiveThe Real Book SpyWhile it starts off as a bit of a slow-burn, Nathan Ripley does ramp up the pacing and suspense as the story unfolds, though readers will need to suspend their disbelief at times to thoroughly enjoy the less-than-plausible plot. Martin is fairly well fleshed out as a character, but some of the secondary cast members are not ... I thought the overall feel of the story and Ripley’s style was more in step with early works from Paul Cleave, though there is a hint of a Hannibal Lecter-like presence lurking behind the scenes, which is disturbing (in a good way), to say the least ... Well planned and executed, Nathan Ripley brings a unique and fresh voice to the crime thriller genre.
PositiveThe Real Book SpyWhile separated, Kepnes does an impressive job of still making the characters feel very much connected, all the while asking readers two very simple questions: How far would you go for love. . . and how far would you go to protect those you love? ... Now, through examining the lives of her new cast of characters, Kepnes offers up another intriguing and provocative storyline that continues to ask questions that’ll stay with readers long after finishing her novel ... Caroline Kepnes invokes a wide range of emotions with her strong prose and tantalizing descriptions.
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
PositiveThe Real Book SpyWithout question, this is Preston & Child’s best Gideon Crew novel (it’s not even close) ... While the story has all the makings of a last hurrah — Preston & Child hold nothing back ... Fast-paced, well-written, and loads of fun, The Pharaoh Key reads like a mashup between National Treasure, Indiana Jones, and MacGyver. . . if this is the end of Gideon Crew, Preston & Child have saved their very best for last.
PositiveA Book SpyMike Maden shows once again why he was such a brilliant choice to continue this franchise ... full of technical details and executed exactly the way Ryan’s creator would have written it, to the heart-pounding final act, Maden puts on one heck of a show. longtime Clancy fans will appreciate Maden’s efforts to stay true to the universe and characters Tom Clancy created, while also putting his own stamp on the series.
PositiveA Book SpyA bestseller in China, this is the first of Zhou Haohui’s crime novels to be translated into English, and while the story holds up well, some of the writing itself leaves more to be desired... every once in a while, a phrase here and there just feels off. That’s likely due to the translation and, while noticeable, doesn’t distract too much from the overall suspense of the story... [but] there is plenty to keep [the readers] guessing throughout.
RaveA Book SpyCatherine Steadman bursts onto the thriller scene with this exceptional debut psychological thriller, written in the vein of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn... Deftly plotted and told with lightning-quick pacing... Something in the Water is psychological suspense at its absolute finest, and Steadman has all the makings of a writer poised to shoot straight to the top of the genre.
PositiveThe Toronto StarIn her first novel Peng Shepherd stays on what is mostly familiar ground, telling a story reminiscent of books like Stephen King’s The Stand, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and Michael Tolkin’s NK3. It’s a testament to her talent, however, that she keeps the journey interesting, makes us care about her characters, and invites us to think about how we are all the stuff of dreams.
C. J. Box
RaveThe Real Book Spy\"Like a magician, C.J. Box waves one hand to grab readers’ attention, and then, when they least expect it, uses the other hand to land a perfectly-timed twist that’ll knock readers right off their feet. It’s something he’s repeatedly done over the course of seventeen previous novels and continues to thrive at. Likewise, Box continues to masterfully develop his brilliant cast of characters ... A smart and compelling plot, razor-sharp writing, and nonstop suspense make this Box’s best novel to date. The standard has been set. . . The Disappeared is the book to beat in 2018.\
RaveThe Real Book SpyMeltzer has a gift for turning average Joes into unlikely heroes. He’s done it throughout his career, most notably with his Beecher White series (which by the way, seems to be set in the same universe as Zig and Nola–Meltzer’s fans will recognize a cameo from a certain president) and 2016’s The House of Secrets. There’s also nobody better when it comes to mixing in historical facts with nail-biting fiction ... Meltzer hasn’t ever written anything quite like his latest book. The Escape Artist is thrilling, yet full of soul. It’ll entertain you, and teach you. It’ll have you cheering, but it’ll also grip you emotionally. When you’re on the brink of tears, Meltzer makes you laugh. Toss in nonstop suspense, blind-siding twists and turns, a fascinating conspiracy, plenty of action. . . and you’ve got a story unlike anything else currently sitting on bookstore shelves, and a story that only Brad Meltzer could tell.
RaveThe Real Book SpyHarper’s writing style is hypnotic, and if there was ever any doubt as to whether or not she’d be able to carry on the success of her critically-acclaimed debut novel, she silences doubters in a big way with this book ... Force of Nature is beautifully written, and features a hair-raising plot that’ll have readers questioning how well they really know those around them. Harper’s character development continues to be her strength, but her well-rounded skill set is on full display throughout.
RaveThe Real Book SpyMatthews holds nothing back. Newcomers to this series should be aware of the sometimes graphic sexual content, as Dominika’s job is, quite literally, to get targets into bed. While there’s less of that in this book than the previous two, the story does open with a pretty descriptive, hard-R sequence that’ll make more than a few readers blush … Chilling, timely, and emotionally-charged from beginning to end, The Kremlin’s Candidate is another masterpiece from Jason Matthews, and a sure bet to leave readers absolutely stunned. . . this trilogy is the new gold standard for espionage thrillers moving forward, and a top contender for best spy book of the year.
Douglas Preston and Lee Child
MixedThe Real Book SpyTasked with helping out on a brutal New York City murder case in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Agent Aloysius Pendergast begins searching for Grace Ozmian’s killer when he realizes there may be more than one madman on the loose … In what feels like an effort to allow newcomers to jump into this book without having to start back at the beginning of the series, Preston and Child provide little to no background on Pendergast … While the pacing is a tad slower than what Preston and Child’s readers are used to, diehard fans will enjoy hanging with Pendergast and seeing D’Agosta operate on his home turf.
RaveThe Real Book SpyLisa Gardner’s Look For Me is a fast-paced, compelling crime thriller that twists and turns its way to a nail-biting ending. The opening chapter is intense, shocking, and heartbreaking. . . and certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. D.D. Warren might be the series protagonist, but Gardner has another star on her hands in Flora Dane, who steals the spotlight and makes this already gripping story even better.
James Lee Burke
RaveThe Real Book SpyBurke’s latest effort is an emotional ride, especially for longtime fans of his bestselling series. With the action dialed down, Robicheaux works thanks to the powerful impact created by the internal conflict waging war inside of Burke’s beloved characters. In many ways, they’re the same people fans have come to know over the course of twenty previous novels … [Robicheaux] is written in a way that allows readers to feel the pain Robicheaux is battling–creating a raw, gripping experience that’ll stay with you long after the story ends.
A. J. Finn
RaveThe Real Book SpyThe story moves slowly in the beginning as Finn develops his plot, setting things up several moves ahead much in the same way that Anna attacks the chessboard. Things kick into another gear when a new family moves in across the street … Finn knows what it takes to put out a sure-fire hit, and he delivered just that. The story itself, after settling into a groove that takes more than a hundred pages to dig out, is actually fairly predictable. Seasoned readers won’t be blindsided by any hard-hitting reveals or ‘gotcha’ moments. But they’re not needed, as Finn beautifully crafts his story, opting to rely more on character development than never-see-it-coming twists and turns.
MixedThe Real Book SpyGrisham, the undisputed king of legal thrillers, does a fine job presenting an entertaining plot here. Likewise, he manages to shed light on diploma mills and the student debt crisis, both of which deserve and, frankly, need more attention. However, his characters do lack development and, worse than that, they’re downright unlikable at times. Their saving grace is that readers will likely give them a pass for some of their actions due to understanding their predicament, but even so, there’s little depth to them, which makes rooting for them a real challenge at times.