Upcoming: RED RIGHT HAND by Chris Holm (Mulholland)

HolmC-2-RedRightHandUSThe sequel to The Killing Kind (a novel that has escaped the top of my TBR mountain so far, but is rapidly speeding to the top), Chris Holm‘s Red Right Hand is due out in September 2016. It’ll be published by Mulholland Books. Here’s the synopsis:

If the good guys can’t save you, call a bad guy.

When viral video of a terrorist attack in San Francisco reveals that a Federal witness long thought dead is still alive, the organization he’d agreed to testify against will stop at nothing to put him in the ground.

Special Agent Charlie Thompson is determined to protect him, but her hands are tied; the FBI’s sole priority is catching the terrorists before they strike again. So Charlie calls the only person on the planet who can keep her witness safe: Michael Hendricks.

Once a covert operative for the US military, Hendricks makes his living hitting hitmen… or he did, until the very organization hunting Charlie’s witness — the Council — caught wind and targeted the people he loves. Now Hendricks is determined to take the Council down, even if that means wading into the center of a terror plot whose perpetrators are not what they seem.

For more, be sure to check out the author’s website, and follow him on Twitter and Goodreads.

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“Created: The Destroyer” by Warren Murphy & Richard Sapir (Sphere)

MurphyW-D01-CreatedTheDestroyerUKLong-running, mega-selling pulp thriller series makes it over to the UK

One legendary hero. One epic series.Sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, ex-cop Remo Williams is rescued from the electric chair at the eleventh hour and recruited by a secret government organisation named CURE. From this moment, he ceases to officially exist.From now on, he will be an assassin, targeting criminals who are beyond the law. Remo’s trainer is a grouchy old Korean named Chiun, whose mastery of the terrifyingly powerful martial art of Sinanju makes him the deadliest man alive.Together Remo and Chiun set forth on their epic, impossible mission to vanquish every enemy of democracy – every bad guy who thinks they can escape justice.This is a new era in man’s fight against the forces of evil.This is the time of the Destroyer.

According to the press release, this series (which clocks in at 50 books!) has sold more than 50 million copies. That’s pretty impressive. First published in 1971, Created: The Destroyer is an interesting first book in an early government assassin thriller series. A literary ancestor of Vince Flynn et al, the novel was interesting and, sadly, disappointing. Continue reading

Quick Reviews: BULLSEYE, THE INNOCENT, and THE HIT by David Baldacci (Macmillan/Grand Central)

Baldacci-WR-0to2UK

Two novels and a short story introducing a new hero from one of the modern masters of thriller fiction…

I really enjoyed all three of these stories. I also read them quite a while ago, in preparation for the release of The Target. I’m not sure why I didn’t get around to posting reviews of them sooner, but I wanted to mention them here. Because they’re excellent. I’ll keep things short, though… Continue reading

“Shovel Ready” by Adam Sternbergh (Headline)

SternberghA-ShovelReadyThe start to an interesting new dystopian series…

“I don’t want to know your reasons. I don’t care. Think of me as a bullet. Just point.”

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, before New York became a burnt-out shell. Now the wealthy spend their days tapped into virtual reality; the rest have to fend for themselves in the streets. Now there’s nothing but garbage.

So he became a hit man. He doesn’t ask questions, he works quickly, and he’s handy with a box-cutter.

When he’s hired to kill the daughter of a high-profile evangelist, Spademan’s life is upended. He will have to navigate two worlds – both the slick fantasy and the wasteland reality – to finish the job, clear his conscience, and make sure he’s not the one who winds up in the ground.

In the final few months of 2013, there was quite a bit of buzz around the genre sites related to this book. It has received a slew of great blurbs from respected and excellent authors. It was with great anticipation, therefore, that I dove into it when I received an ARC (quite a while ago, so I’ve been sitting on this review for some time). I enjoyed the novel, and Sternbergh offers up a rather convincing dystopian future, but one that at the same time felt slightly half-baked. The author has written a tightly-plotted novel that is certainly immediate and gripping. It left me wanting more, but not always in a good way.

Right off the bat, I should mention that this is another novel that dispenses with “proper” punctuation – specifically, there are no speech marks to indicate dialogue. This seems to be a style that is becoming popular again – before this, my latest read to take this path was Lavie Tidhar’s excellent The Violent Century. Unlike Tidhar’s latest offering, however, the lack of “normal” dialogue punctuation was confusing more often than I would like: the lack of differentiation between characters speaking would sometimes clash or merge less-than-seamlessly with Spademan’s internal monologue.

The main character, Spademan, is a “different kind of psycho”. He is quietly sociopathic, a product of an uncaring and dehumanizing New York city. Devastated by a dirty bomb, New Yorkers have either fled the city wholesale, barricaded themselves into their homes, or retreated to the outer boroughs. Wealthy and not alike have also retreated to a new, online reality – something akin to a steroidal, higher-tech Second Life – where ‘normal’ life can continue. This is where the bulk of international trade takes place, and the world of financial transactions in particular has retreated from the real world entirely, it seems. Interestingly, and related to the story contained herein, mega-churches have gleefully adopted the new technology as well. [That is all I shall say on that matter…]

The story moves at a breakneck pace, and we’re introduced to a number of interesting and varied, as well as believable, characters from a number of New York neighbourhoods and walks of life. His target and new job turns out to be not at all what he expected.

“Truth is, I have no idea what the next step should be. I’ve had jobs get out of hand, but not like this. I was hired to kill her, not adopt her.”

As someone who was having an extended moment of frustration with what felt like ever-increasingly-long Big Book Fantasies, its slim length was certainly welcome. I enjoyed the pace, but there was a sacrifice: world-building. Not only is the world beyond New York fleshed out at all, really (save the quotation, below), it also meant the world’s logic failed – I ended up not buying that so many people would remain in New York City. Suspending that frustration, though (and there were times when that was difficult), I did rather enjoy the novel.

“As for the rest of it, in in-between part, I hear it’s relatively clean and still open for business, like a plucky dollar store. No longer the land of milk and honey, maybe, but at least you can still get high-grade pharmaceuticals on every street corner on the cheap… Really, it’s just New York that got nuked, cordoned off, shut down, shunned. Capital of the world, cut loose to drift into the sea. The country’s soul, on a funeral pyre.”

The fact that New Yorkers stay in the city, despite the dirty bomb’s destruction and lingering radiation, and also the violence that rose in place of order, reminded me of the New York mentality Brian Wood showed in his masterful DMZ comic series. However, I think it worked much better in the graphic novel series – here, it felt that there wasn’t as much thought put into the world-building as there perhaps should have been. Bits and pieces felt forced, and to then not be fleshed out… Well, Sternbergh’s brevity was not always a boon (though, I repeat, it was refreshing amidst a sea of new, massive doorstoppers).

SternberghA-ShovelReadyUSAs the first book in a series, I’m hoping Sternbergh takes some of the time in his next (and future?) novels to flesh out this dystopian reality. As it stands, this is an engaging thriller, which happens to be set in a dilapidated New York City. Spademan is a good protagonist, and I’d like to read more, but this novel didn’t do enough to establish the world, and given the gaps, why people would remain in the city.

Recommended, therefore, but with the aforementioned caveats. An author to watch, certainly.

*   *   *

Shovel Ready is published by Headline in the UK (Jan.14/Jul.3 eBook/PB) and Crown in the US.

“Kill Shot” by Vince Flynn (Simon & Schuster)

Flynn-KillShot

A second novel of Mitch Rapp’s early CIA career

For months, Mitch Rapp has been steadily working his way through a list of men, bullet by bullet. With each kill, the tangled network of monsters responsible for the slaughter of 270 civilians becomes increasingly clear. He is given his next target: a plump Libyan diplomat who is prone to drink and is currently in Paris without a single bodyguard.

Rapp finds him completely unprotected and asleep in his bed. With confidence in his well-honed skills and conviction of the man’s guilt, he easily sends a bullet into the man’s skull. But in the split second it takes the bullet to leave the silenced pistol, everything changes. The door to the hotel room is kicked open and gunfire erupts all around Rapp. In an instant the hunter has become the hunted. Rapp is left wounded and must flee for his life.

I am a huge fan of Vince Flynn’s novels – I’ve read them all except the latest, now. Sadly, the author passed away earlier this year, so there is actually only the one other novel (which I will read A.S.A.P.). Flynn’s novels are action-packed, tightly written, and always a great read. If you’ve never read any of the Mitch Rapp novels (or Term Limits, the set-in-the-same-time prequel of sorts), then I highly recommend that you do. Kill Shot was a little bit different, following on from American Assassin, the first novel set during Rapp’s very early career as a CIA assassin. It’s a very good novel.

The novel starts with a scene between Irene Kennedy and the CIA shrink, Lewis. They’re talking about Rapp, his incredible proficiency and fish-to-water acclimation to his new job – he’s only been with the Company for a year at this point, and is proving brutally efficient and competent at killing…

“I’m talking about the fact that he is a one-man wrecking ball. That he has methodically, in a little over a year, accomplished more than we have accomplished in the last decade. And let’s be brutally honest with each other.” Lewis held up a finger. “The ‘what’ that we are talking about is the stone-cold fact that he is exceedingly good at hunting down and killing men.”

There’s some nice foreshadowing for the future novels set after this discussion between the shrink and Irene (it continues off-and-on during the novel). For example, this snippet, which foreshadows Term Limits

“Justice is blind, and if you train a man to become judge, jury, and executioner . . . well, then you shouldn’t be surprised if he someday fails to see the distinction between a terrorist and a corrupt, self-serving bureaucrat.”

Rapp, in the meantime, is in Paris, executing one of the terrorists involved in the ring that took down the plane that killed his college sweetheart. The operation doesn’t go as planned, as someone was waiting for Rapp. The next morning, the news breaks in Washington that Libya’s Oil Minister has been killed along with three innocent civilians and four unidentified men. The French authorities are certain that the gunman is wounded and on the loose in Paris. Rapp’s handlers have only one choice, of course: deny any responsibility for the incident and pray that their secret asset stays that way, avoiding capture and dying quietly. Naturally, Rapp is unlikely to do so, and decides to get to the bottom of the situation, and hunt down the rat in the chain of command.

Rapp’s paranoia and relative newness in the business sets in motion a series of events dictated by his training and also belief that he’s been set up by someone very close to him – specifically, and for a short while, the potential that Irene was the one that spilled the beans:

“She was by necessity the person who knew the most about him, and the details of this mission. His orders came from her. If anyone were in a position to set him up it would be her.”

With nobody to trust, he resorts to his wits to get to the bottom of things, as the two sides – Rapp’s and the CIA’s – circle each other, attempting to ascertain the other’s motives. Slowly, though, the truth comes out, and Rapp is able to channel his… attentions in the appropriate direction.

The novel is not as fast-paced as Flynn’s previous novels, and felt slightly drawn out at times. Key events and moments helped maintain interest, however, as we see Rapp growing more into his new role, and everyone else coming to terms with just how good he is at his job. Flynn also offers a fair bit of discussion and commentary on the nature of psychosis and psychopathy and their potential connection to those with careers in the military – especially with regards to special forces.

Given the early setting, it was also interesting to see a different, undeveloped side of Stansfield’s, Irene’s and Rapp’s relationships. They trust his skills, but they have not yet developed the intense bond of trust that we saw even in Transfer of Power (a novel that helped light the fire under my thriller addiction).

I ended up not taking too many notes for this novel – this is not exactly a surprise, when it comes to thrillers or novels that I become engrossed in. It is a very good thriller, and I was drawn on throughout, devouring this far quicker than most novels I’ve read recently.

Overall, this is a very good novel. Not the author’s best, but certainly a must-read for fans of the series and also for thriller fans in general.

Vince Flynn’s final novel, The Last Man, is out now.

Series Chronology: American Assassin, Kill Shot, Term Limits, Transfer of Power, The Third Option, Separation of Power, Executive Power, Memorial Day, Consent to Kill, Act of Treason, Protect and Defend, Extreme Measures, Pursuit of Honor, The Last Man