RaveThe Real Book Spy... the duo takes on two cases that’ll keep readers reading well into the night ... Connelly weaves in a number of twists and turns to go with his signature nail-biting suspense ... Michael Connelly might be the only author on the planet who can touch on a number of timely, hot-button issues...without offending, angering, or losing a single reader, regardless of their personal political beliefs. His fact-based approach, rather than touching on his own opinions, will no doubt be a welcomed sight to readers who’ve been turned off by other writers who’ve taken to injecting their own views into their fictional stories. That, of course, is not to say that Connelly turns a blind eye to such topics ... Connelly stays clear of obvious clichés, focusing instead on creative new ways to continue fleshing out his co-protagonists while giving them tougher cases to crack. In the end, he’s managed to churn out yet another page-turning, suspense-filled story that, while rooted in reality, should entertain a diverse body of readers ... yet another reminder that we’re witnessing one of the all-time greats . . . who’s shown absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
William Kent Krueger
RaveThe Real Book SpyLightning Strike is a brilliantly plotted, deeply emotional mystery that opens strong, building more intensity with each passing page. This is William Kent Krueger at his best, and the perfect spot for new readers to enter the series.
RaveThe Real Book SpyNobody writing today has more range than Michael Connelly, who is in top form here, delivering not only the best legal thriller of the year, but perhaps the best legal thriller to hit bookstores in the last decade. Far better than anything Grisham and Turow—two godfathers of the genre—have written in quite some time, Connelly treats readers to a deliciously suspenseful, twisting, unputdownable thriller that begs to be read in a single sitting ... Few authors have the ability to write with such authority on matters of which they haven’t actually accumulated any first-hand experience, and yet he makes it look almost effortless ... Masterfully plotted and impossible to put down, Law of Innocence is everything readers have come to expect from Michael Connelly, a once-in-a-lifetime talent who continues to show why he’s one of the greatest writers the genre has ever known.
RaveThe Real Book SpyThe hero you know, now rebooted for a new generation ... The Bourne Evolution offers both the familiarity of an iconic character, while simultaneously introducing an exciting, updated, rebooted model that better fits today’s publishing world. It’s been a while since Jason Bourne sat atop the thriller genre, but with Brian Freeman at the helm, he retakes his seat among the best in the business. Bottom line: Jason Bourne is back and better than ever. Do not miss this book.
RaveThe Real Book SpyHannah continues her fabulous run of tightly-wound mysteries with yet another compelling adventure starring the world’s most beloved detective, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot ... Nothing is quite what it seems in this brilliant novel from Hannah ... it’s clear Hannah has settled into the role of keeping Christie’s famed detective alive and well. Writing with authority here, she weaves a stunning plot that feels very much comparable to such iconic titles as Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile. Make no mistake about it, this is the same Hercule Poirot fans know and love, but Hannah deserves all the recognition in the world and then some for modernizing the way in which the story’s told just enough that the pacing is noticeably quicker, making it that much harder to put it down ... Moreover, the incredible job Hannah’s done staying true to Christie’s characters, while also developing a mystery worthy of dropping them into, is just as impressive. There certainly was a time when it was hard to imagine anyone else writing Hercule Poirot, but Hannah’s emergence as one of the finest writers on the scene today has helped usher in a new era of old school mysteries—and just like before, Poirot is once again leading the way ... A masterfully plotted, mind-bending crime thriller that harkens back to the days when Agatha Christie ruled the genre, The Killings at Kingfisher Hill is hands down the best mystery novel of 2020 so far.
RaveThe Real Book SpyDiehard fans of Robert B. Parker’s beloved characters should thank the thriller gods that Mike Lupica stepped up and took over this series. More so than any of the other estate writers (Ace Atkins, Reed Farrell Coleman, etc.) Lupica has managed to capture Parker’s voice and the distinct voice of his characters ... In his careful hands, Sunny is the tough, wise-cracking, smart-ass fans have come to know and love. Likewise, Lupica’s plotting is absolutely outstanding. Misdirection, suspense, tension, and plenty of twists and turns fill the pages, and a crossover with one of Parker’s other characters proves to be the proverbial cherry on top. If Mike Lupica hasn’t yet taken a bow, he should. Grudge Match is one of the strongest books set in Parker’s universe since his passing, and as long as Lipica’s at the helm, fans should expect plenty more must-read adventures.
RaveThe Real Book Spy... a white-knuckle reading experience that almost hits a little too close to home for comfort. The plot, more timely than most Americans will care to admit, moves at the speed of a runaway freight train, and Hauty’s hero, Hayley Chill, displays the kind presence that’s rarely seen in a debut novel. Perhaps most impressively, though, is the author’s uncanny ability to tell his story from both sides of the aisle without ever offering his own political commentary, making Deep State an enjoyable read for both conservatives and liberals—an increasingly rare feat in today’s world. With his super-charged plot and a perfectly-timed, mind-bending twist, Chris Hauty becomes the latest writer to take the thriller world by storm . . . Deep State will compete for best debut novel of 2020 and have readers dying for the anticipated follow-up.
RaveThe Real Book SpyAs always, Baldacci does a fantastic job plotting thigs out and revealing just enough as the pages turn to keep readers engaged and on the edge of their seats. Without giving anything away, there are more twists and turns here than in last year’s book, and just when you think you have everything figured out—Baldacci throws a final surprise that’ll leave fans begging for more ... Readers can debate who his best lead character is at the moment, but one thing’s for sure, Atlee Pine is certainly in the discussion—and A Minute to Midnight is as good as anything he’s written over the last several years.
RaveThe Real Book SpyThe introduction of Renee Ballard has certainly freshened up Bosch’s world, but while lots of things have changed, one thing remains the same: Connelly continues to deliver winner after winner, year in and year out. Harry is still the star, but Ballard continues to hold her own, and perhaps the best compliment of all is that her chapters...are just as riveting as when the camera stays tight on Bosch. There’s never a feeling or desire to rush through Renee’s pages to get back to Bosch, and as a team, Ballard is definitely in the running for Harry’s best partner ... Connelly continues to cement his legacy as one of the greatest crime writers of all time, and reading one of his books is an experience unlike anything else the genre has to offer. Look for The Night Fire to make everyone’s \'Best of\' lists at the end of the year . . . right where it belongs.
RaveThe Real Book Spy...much more of a traditional mystery than an action-packed tale of revenge ...along with 2017’s The Western Star, I think it’s Johnson’s best work in over a decade. Not only is the writing sharp and the dialogue witty, but the plotting is on point and, though there are a few slow points, it’s nice to see all the fan-favorite characters return in meaningful ways ... Sheriff Walt Longmore might be beaten up, exhausted, and getting up there in age, but he’s still one of the best characters in the genre . . . and Craig Johnson knows how to spin a mystery better than just about anyone.
Howard Michael Gould
PositiveThe Real Book SpyWhile his quirks are slightly over the top, probably, Gould still manages to make his protagionist likable. The better word might be memorable ... Howard Michael Gould has shown to be one of the freshest voices on the crime thriller scene in years, and his latest, Below the Line, is a fun, twisting read that proves his series has a long, bright future ahead of it.
RaveThe Real Book Spy[Jones] takes her game to another level here, delivering a novel so addicting and hypnotic that it begs to be read in one sitting. The less readers know about this one the better, as The First Mistake isn’t your average, typical domestic thriller. Jones sets the table with her engaging, compelling characters—including Alice, who also serves as the story’s narrator—then ramps things up by combining blind-siding twists with nail-biting suspense, never taking her foot off the gas pedal for a second. Even those who do guess where the plot is heading before it gets there will enjoy the hell out of the journey Jones takes them, and her characters, on as the plot unfolds. The Other Woman was a special debut, but with her latest, Sandie Jones proves that she’s one of the best writers the genre has to offer . . . and The First Mistake is a must-read for fans of Gillian Flynn, Greer Hendricks, and Shari Lapena.
RaveThe Real Book SpyCarr gives readers time to bond with his hero, in what ultimately proves to be the calm before the storm. And once the bullets start flying, you better hold on tight, because the action never lets up for a second—with Carr delivering the kind of adrenaline-inducing action sequences you’d expect from someone who knows that life intimately. Beyond that, the plotting is tight with plenty of surprises along the way, the pacing is relentless, and Carr even finds time for a decent amount of character development, on top of mixing in a few laugh-out-loud one-liners ... True Believer...is one of this year’s hottest thrillers, and a perfect fit for fans of Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and Daniel Silva.
RaveThe Real Book SpySet in the near future, Rob Hart paints a grim, but thoroughly and helplessly entertaining, picture of what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business . . . and what the world we’re currently building might look like if we’re not careful ... Alarming as it is, at its core, The Warehouse is more than just a cautionary tale, it’s a thriller, and when you toss in the heart-pounding corporate espionage elements and the nightmarish situation both characters quickly find themselves in, it’s a damn fine one at that. Moreover, Hart touches on a number of other timely issues, skillfully weaving them into the story in a way that’s relatable and, at times, emotionally jarring. The character development is flawless, the pacing is smooth and steady, and the structure is on point, allowing Hart to brilliantly lay out his story, which is by far his best work to date. A serious contender for best book of the year, Rob Hart’s The Warehouse is a powerful, game-changing thriller that’s both thought-provoking and entertaining . . . and is sure to stay with readers for quite some time.
RaveThe Real Book Spy... another riveting, twisting tale of espionage that further cements [Silva\'s] legacy as one of the greatest novelists the genre has ever known ... Frankly, it’s hard to fathom that Silva could ever top himself after last year’s The Other Woman, but he’s done just that. The New Girl is one of his fastest-moving thrillers yet (after a slower opening that sets the foundation for what’s to come) and features a number of perfectly-timed twists that constantly raise the stakes, forcing Allon, who is under steady duress, to adjust on the fly with only several days to connect all the dots and take action before it’s too late. Without giving away the meat of the plot, it’s one of Silva’s most timely, ripped-from-the-headlines stories to date—and, as his work is prone to do, at times it even reads a bit too close for comfort ... He’s one of the all-time greats for a reason, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon . . . Reading Daniel Silva’s expertly crafted novels is to witness a master at work, and The New Girl is as close to perfect as you could ever hope for a thriller to be.
RaveThe Real Book SpyAt first glance, it almost seems like Atkins may have tried to mix too many storylines this time around—several of which weren’t yet touched on—but he somehow manages to thread them all together in a way that not only makes sense but adds a sense of urgency to the plot. Without a single dull page to be found and zero \'fluff,\' Atkins’ latest moves at a steady clip, touching on a number of timely issues ... Through it all, Atkins continues to develop his series protagonist, along with his growing family, and never fails to capture the Mississippi setting in a way that only he and fellow bestselling author Gregg Iles seem to be able to pull off. Bottom line: If Ace Atkins isn’t already on your summer reading list, put him there . . . The Shameless is some of his best work yet, and a must-read for fans of C.J. Box, Gregg Iles, and Craig Johnson.
RaveThe Real Book Spy... another stunning, must-read thriller following one the genre’s best heroines ... The Bitterroots has plenty of twists and turns, as Box again shows his ability to keep readers guessing right up until the very end ... Box’s pacing is on point and, as always, he manages to make the setting—in this case, Montana—come to life in an intricate way that makes Bozeman feel more like a supporting character than just the story’s location ... Expertly plotted and filled with nonstop suspense, The Bitterroots is another stunner from C.J. Box, and a clear favorite for top crime thriller of the year.
RaveThe Real Book SpyWhile the scenario sounds far-fetched at first, McKinty presents his brilliantly horrific story in a way that’s almost too real for comfort. Readers will feel every ounce of panic, desperation, fear, hopelessness, and anger that plagues Rachel as she faces a moral conundrum unlike anything else ... McKinty’s ability to navigate that fine line makes for a riveting reading experience unlike anything else currently sitting on bookstore shelves ... nail-biting ... will absolutely rock your world.
RaveThe Real Book Spy...Ricciardi has further developed his protagonist into a hardened, ass-kicking machine more in step with other genre darlings such as Mark Greaney’s Gray Man and Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath ... Over-the-top action, a deadly conspiracy, and several well-timed twists make Rogue Strike another winner from David Ricciardi, who delivers two back-to-back fun, hard-hitting thrillers out of the gate.
PositiveThe Real Book SpyI found Cleveland’s sophomore effort to be another solid offering full of twists, well-timed action sequences, and a strong hook that’ll suck the bulk of her readers in right away. The story reads quickly, though there is an over usage of flashback that makes the timeline a bit confusing, and Cleveland certainly knows how to pull readers along, segueing nicely between chapters ... Cleveland’s latest doesn’t have the same urgency that made her first book so nerve-wracking and unputdownable. What it does have is a more emotionally-driven protagonist, who sometimes lets her feelings dictate her responses and actions, which comes off as genuine and relatable for the most part. On the other hand, it makes her look undisciplined and not very smart, which doesn’t fit her background as an FBI official. Still, Cleveland excels at stripping down characters in high-stakes government careers and putting their backs against the wall while their worlds come crashing down around them, which is certainly the case here. And just when you think you know where the story’s going, she pivots hard, zipping readers in a different direction fueled by conspiracies and secrets, leading to an explosive final act ... Karen Cleveland proves she’s more than a one-hit wonder with Keep You Close, another fast-paced thriller that twists and turns its way to an exciting conclusion.
MixedThe Real Book SpyCompared to his other works, Suarez’s latest is a little lighter on the actual science ... his latest offers only enough information to make the story plausible enough, before ramping up the entertainment and suspense. Tighe is a solid protagionist, though readers won’t learn most of his past until a little ways into the book (the same is true for the other characters as well), and the pacing is fast enough to keep readers engaged ... That said, the plot suffers a tad from obvious twits, and while some of the suspense hinges on loyalties and truth-seeking, veteran readers will likely see the end game coming a mile away. That doesn’t mean it won’t still be an enjoyable read, Suarez is a fine writer, but even so, the mystery element does lack some punch. Overall, Suarez manages to build a fun universe with a diverse cast of characters that sci-fi and technothriller fans will enjoy, even if they know where the story is going before it gets there.
PositiveThe Real Book SpyAs always, Baldacci’s writing is smooth, and his commitment to fleshing out his cast of characters continues to pay off in this one. The story is solid, with a couple of strong twists, and while some readers might see the ending coming, Baldacci still provides a fun, entertaining journey getting there. David Baldacci keeps finding new ways to raise the stakes for Amos Decker, who continues to stand out in an overcrowded genre, and Redemption is one of his better books in the series so far.
RaveThe Real Book SPyAfter a steady buildup that covers the first quarter of the book, things take off with a bang ... Land’s latest is one of his most imaginative, original stories yet, involving a number of surprise players and memorable characters ... All in all, Jon Land turns in another fun, action-packed story featuring one of the best female protagonists in the business.
MixedThe Real Book Spy\"... while the setup is both juicy and compelling, Margolin strays far away from the central case presented early on involving the DNA legal conundrum, as the story suddenly becomes a murder mystery involving other characters and scenarios not related to Lockwood or her client, or the case at hand. It’s a miscalculation by Margolin, who would have been better off utilizing Lockwood’s star power and keeping his story more in line with a traditional legal thriller than a wandering whodunit ... While there are plenty of good scenes and intrigue early on in The Perfect Alibi, the story eventually loses its way and never fully recovers. Still, Margolin’s fans will likely appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with Lockwood, though many will wish she had a bigger role.\
RaveThe Real Book SpyMark Greaney...reignites the Cold War in his latest must-read thriller ... While Greaney obviously has a deep understanding of geopolitics, he also has a natural feel for developing characters and certainly knows his way around an action scene. His action sequences are some of the best in print right now, and there’s plenty of firefights, car chases, and explosions in this one. Likewise, it’s impressive to see how far Gentry has come over the course of eight books. He still has the same attitude and plenty of smartass one-liners, but Greaney’s adding new things too, like a potential love interest. It’s all part of the Gray Man’s continued development, and just when you think Greaney’s going to zig, he zags–setting up his next trick. Mark Greaney continues his dominant run with Mission Critical, his most impressive novel yet and the clear-cut early favorite for best thriller of the year.
PositiveThe Real Book SpyCutter...is a unique and compelling character whom Cameron develops nicely as the story unfolds. Though he’s different than Jericho Quinn [of the other book franchise Cameron authors] in a number of ways, the two are similar enough that fans of that series will surely enjoy following Arliss too, though the overall feel in this book is a tad darker, falling more in line with a traditional crime thriller as opposed to the political/action thrillers Quinn stars in. Set in the vast Alaskan landscape where a small village attempts to keep its dark secrets hidden, Marc Cameron’s Open Carry reads like a cross between Lee Child’s The Killing Floor and C.J. Box’s Blood Trail . . . and is perfect for fans of both those series.
PositiveThe Real Book SpyNow nearly twenty books in, Lescroart has tried new ways to refresh his series over the past few years. He finally accomplished that here by giving Hardy a worthy adversary in the new DA ... That adds a new element to the story, which works nicely and provides the kind of suspense that longtime fans look for with this series. Likewise, Lescroart hits on timely themes, as immigration and sanctuary cities remain a controversial topic in today’s world of 24-hour news coverage. That said, while much of the undocumented immigration plot thread feels taken from the headlines, the story itself, which focuses plenty on the game between Hardy and Jameson, lends itself nicely to those on both sides of the political spectrum. So no matter which side you lean towards, Lescroart offers enough right down the middle to satisfy anyone looking for fast-paced thrills.
Jonathan De Shalit
PositiveThe Real Book SpyWhile some of the plot threads feel like recycled storylines from several more recent Daniel Silva novels, Jonathan de Shalit does a fine job developing his heroine, who grows into a strong protagonist by the book’s end. Readers will likely hope to see more of Ya’ara Stein and her team of operators, though it’s unclear if the author intends to build a franchise around her. That said, the overall feel and pacing of the story does make this a bit of an acquired taste. Those looking for a shoot ’em style of thriller will be disappointed, as de Shalit’s style is much more slow-burn coupled with a thinking man’s storyline that doesn’t bring much action. Still, for spy enthusiasts, including diehard le Carre fans, it’s a no-brainer.
PositiveThe Real Book Spy\"Joseph Finder is always a lock for an entertaining, rip-roaring thriller of suspense, and that is certainly the case here. That said, Judgment does require readers to suspend their disbelief a tad more than normal ... Once all the players are revealed, Finder puts the gas pedal to the floor and never lets up for a second, delivering a nail-biting final act that’s everything his fans expect and more. Touching on a Russian conspiracy and the #MeToo movement, Judgment is as relevant as it is thrilling, and Joseph Finder shows once again that he knows how to keep readers off balance and guessing until the very end.\
PositiveThe Real Book Spy\"There’s not a ton of backstory in House Witness... so newcomers to the franchise may struggle to pick up what, exactly, DeMarco does and why he does it. Once they figure it out, though, it’s a fun ride full of action and suspense. There’s also a pretty solid twist towards the end that most won’t see coming, and readers will likely enjoy watching the case play out alongside the chess match between Joe and Fields, who is one of Lawson’s better antagonists to date.\
PositiveThe Real Book SpyOverall, No Exit is a strong thriller by Adams...but while the story moves fast enough to read in one sitting, there are a few minor flaws worth pointing out. For one thing, Jay, who is said to be nine years old, acts mature beyond her years, and not necessarily in an endearing, street-smart kind of way. That’s easy to overlook, though, with the bigger issue being that one of the story’s first twists is super predictable. Even casual readers will see it coming a mile away. That said, there’s far more to like than dislike, and Adams certainly earns points for originality and his ability to hook a reader early and hold their attention until the very end.
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.