Quick Review: THE NIGHT AGENT by Matthew Quirk (William Morrow)

QuirkM-NightAgentUSA fast-paced, gripping political conspiracy thriller

To find a Russian mole in the White House, an FBI agent must question everything… and trust no one

No one was more surprised than FBI Agent Peter Sutherland when he’s tapped to work in the White House Situation Room. From his earliest days as a surveillance specialist, Peter has scrupulously done everything by the book, hoping his record will help him escape the taint of his past. When Peter was a boy, his father, a section chief in FBI counterintelligence, was suspected of selling secrets to the Russians — a catastrophic breach that had cost him his career, his reputation, and eventually his life.

Peter knows intimately how one broken rule can cost lives. Nowhere is he more vigilant than in this room, the sanctum of America’s secrets. Staffing the night action desk, his job is monitoring an emergency line for a call that has not — and might never — come.

Until tonight.

At 1:05 a.m. the phone rings. A terrified young woman named Rose tells Peter that her aunt and uncle have just been murdered and that the killer is still in the house with her. Before their deaths, they gave her this phone number with urgent instructions: “Tell them OSPREY was right. It’s happening…”

The call thrusts Peter into the heart of a conspiracy years in the making, involving a Russian mole at the highest levels of the government. Anyone in the White House could be the traitor. Anyone could be corrupted. To save the nation, Peter must take the rules into his own hands and do the right thing, no matter the cost. He plunges into a desperate hunt for the traitor — a treacherous odyssey that pits him and Rose against some of Russia’s most skilled and ruthless operatives and the full force of the FBI itself.

Peter knows that the wider a secret is broadcast, the more dangerous it gets for the people at the center. With the fate of the country on the line, he and Rose must evade seasoned assassins and maneuver past jolting betrayals to find the shocking truth — and stop the threat from inside before it’s too late.

That surprisingly long synopsis does set up the plot for Matthew Quirk’s latest fast-paced thriller rather well. Peter Sutherland is languishing in the basement of the White House, working for two prominent administration staffers, in a strange, important-yet-unexciting job. Then, with a single phone call, his job and life is thrown completely out of whack. What follows is 400~ pages of breakneck paced thriller action and conspiracy. This is an entertaining, well-written thriller. Continue reading

Quick Review: TRIGGER by David Swinson (Mulholland)

SwinsonD-FM3-TriggerUSThe third novel in the excellent Frank Marr crime series

Frank Marr was a good cop, until his burgeoning addictions to alcohol and cocaine forced him into retirement from the D.C. Metro police. Now, he’s barely eking out a living as a private investigator for a defense attorney — also Frank’s ex-girlfriend.

Ostracized by his family after a botched case that led to the death of his baby cousin, Jeffrey, Frank was on a collision course with rock bottom. Now clean and clinging hard to sobriety, Frank passes the time — and tests himself — by robbing the houses of local dealers, taking their cash and flushing their drugs down the toilet. When an old friend from his police days needs Frank’s help to prove he didn’t shoot an unarmed civilian, Frank is drawn back into the world of dirty cops and suspicious drug busts, running in the same circles that enabled his addiction those years ago.

Never one to play by the rules, Frank recruits a young man he nearly executed years before. Together — a good man trying not to go bad and a bad man trying to do good — detective and criminal charge headfirst into the D.C. drug wars. Neither may make it out.

Frank Marr is a private investigator who is trying to do good, while simultaneously battling his various (multiple) demons. The first two novels in David Swinson’s series — The Second Girl and Crime Song — were fantastic, and I blitzed through them back-to-back. Gripping, sharply written and populated with excellent characters, they are among the best novels I’ve read in years. As a result, Trigger was one of my most-anticipated novels of the year. I’m happy to report that it is another excellent crime novel, and did not disappoint. Continue reading

Upcoming: RULE OF CAPTURE by Christopher Brown (Voyager)

BrownC-RuleToCaptureIn 2017, Voyager published Christopher Brown‘s thought-provoking debut novel, Tropic of Kansas. I rather enjoyed that novel, and have been keeping my eyes open for news of the author’s next book. In August 2019, Voyager are due to publish Rule to Capture. It is described as “Better Call Saul meets Nineteen Eighty-Four“, which is certainly intriguing. It is also the first in a new series of legal thrillers set in the same dystopian world as Tropic of Kansas. Here’s the synopsis:

Defeated in a devastating war with China, America is on the brink of a bloody civil war. Seizing power after a controversial election, the ruling regime has begun cracking down on dissidents fighting the nation’s slide toward dictatorship. For Donny Kimoe, chaos is good for business. He’s a lawyer who makes his living defending enemies of the state.

His newest client, young filmmaker Xelina Rocafuerte, witnessed the murder of an opposition leader and is now accused of terrorism. To save her from the only sentence worse than death, Donny has to extract justice from a system that has abandoned the rule of law. That means breaking the rules — and risking the same fate as his clients.

When Donny bungles Xelina’s initial hearing, he has only days to save the young woman from being transferred to a detention camp from which no one returns. His only chance of winning is to find the truth — a search that begins with the opposition leader’s death and leads to a dark conspiracy reaching the highest echelons of power.

Now, Donny isn’t just fighting for his client’s life — he’s battling for his own. But as the trial in the top secret court begins, Xelina’s friends set into motion a revolutionary response that could destroy the case. And when another case unexpectedly collides with Xelina’s, Donny uncovers even more devastating secrets, knowledge that will force him to choose between saving one client… or the future of the entire country.

Rule to Capture is due to be published by Voyager in North America and in the UK, in August 2019.

Also on CR: Review of Tropic of Kansas

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Upcoming: A SHADOW INTELLIGENCE by Oliver Harris (Little, Brown)

HarrisO-EK1-ShadowIntelligenceUKHCOliver Harris is the critically-acclaimed author of the Nick Belsey series of London crime novels. His next novel is A Shadow Intelligence, the first in a new espionage thriller series starring Elliot Kane. I’m really looking forward to reading this one. Here’s the synopsis:

The intelligence service puts two years and over £100k into the training of new field officers. You’re shown how to steal cars, strip weapons, hack bank accounts. There are courses on the use of blackmail and improvised explosives, two workshops solely dedicated to navigating by the stars. But nothing about what I had heard one old spy call whiplash. No one tells you how to go home.

There is a dark side to MI6 that needs men like Elliot Kane — mercurial, inquisitive, free floating. He’s spent fifteen years managing events overseas that never make the papers, deniable and deeply effective. Kane is a ghost in his own life, picking up and dropping personalities as each new cover story comes into play. But when a woman he loves, Joanna Lake, vanishes without a trace in Kazakhstan, he is forced centre stage.

Drawn ever deeper into a realm of deception, Kane moves from merely infiltrating events to steering them. He’s used to a new mode of hybrid psychological warfare — but snowbound Kazakhstan presents unique challenges. Poised between China, Russia and the West, dictatorship and democracy, state intelligence and an increasingly powerful world of private agencies, it’s impossible to work out who is manipulating who. And Kane’s not the only one trying to figure out where Joanna Lake has gone or what she learned before disappearing.

Unable to trust anyone, hunted by his own colleagues, and with the life of someone he loves at stake, Kane needs to work out who is driving events, and why…

A Shadow Intelligence is due to be published in the UK by Little, Brown, in May 2019.

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Quick Review: THE MAN BETWEEN by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins)

CummingC-ManBetweenUKA spy novelist finds himself recruited into the world of espionage…

He risked it all to become a spy. Now he must pay the price.

One simple task for British Intelligence takes him into a world of danger.

Successful novelist Kit Carradine has grown restless. So when British Intelligence invites him to enter the secret world of espionage, he willingly takes a leap into the unknown.

But the glamour of being a spy is soon tainted by fear and betrayal, as Carradine finds himself in Morocco on the trail of Lara Bartok a mysterious fugitive with links to international terrorism.

Bartok is a leading figure in Resurrection, a violent revolutionary movement whose brutal attacks on prominent right-wing politicians have spread hatred and violence throughout the West.

As the coils of a ruthless plot tighten around him, Carradine finds himself drawn to Lara. Caught between competing intelligence services who want her dead, he soon faces an awful choice: to abandon Lara to her fate or to risk everything trying to save her.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite thriller authors. It’s becoming almost cliché to compare him to le Carré, but he remains the best comparator. Cumming writes intelligent, engaging and interesting espionage thrillers. In his latest novel — The Man Between in the UK, and The Moroccan Girl in North America — he takes a premise that is very interesting and possibly something many thriller authors think/fantasize about frequently: what if an author of the genre was recruited by a secret service to aid them in an investigation? I really enjoyed this novel. Continue reading

Guest Post: “The Final Chapter of the Bowers Files” by Steven James

JamesS-BF11-EveryWickedManUSIt was 2005 and I was a frustrated wannabe novelist.

I’d been wanting to write a thriller for years, but every time I started one, I found that my story wasn’t as fresh and original as I needed it to be. I was about ready to give up.

Then one day, while researching investigative techniques, I stumbled across an article about geospatial investigation, a little known, cutting-edge way of analyzing the timing, location, and progression of serial crimes that the FBI was starting to use.

It was unique, different, and perfect for my story. Everything began to click and FBI Special Agent Patrick Bowers was born.

The Pawn released in 2007 and my life would never be the same again.

Since each book takes me around a year to research and write, chronicling Patrick’s adventures and cases has been a labor of love for more than a decade.

And now, with the release of the eleventh and final book, Every Wicked Man, the long-running series is coming to an end and it’s come time to say goodbye to my old friend. Continue reading

Upcoming: AMERICAN HEROIN by Melissa Scrivner Love (Crown)

LoveMS-LV2-AmericanHeroinUSHCMelissa Scrivner Love‘s debut novel, Lola, marked the critically-acclaimed beginning of a new voice in crime fiction, not to mention the introduction of an interesting new protagonist: Lola Vasquez, the leader of a drug gang in Los Angeles. Early next year, Lola returns in American Heroin, which sounds really good:

The unforgettable protagonist of Lola returns in a gritty, high-octane thriller about a brilliant woman who will stop at nothing to protect her growing drug empire, even if she has to go to war with a rival cartel… or her own family

It took sacrifice, pain, and more than a few dead bodies, but Lola has clawed her way to the top of her South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. Her gang has grown beyond a few trusted soldiers into a full-fledged empire, and the influx of cash has opened up a world that she has never known–one where her daughter can attend a good school, where her mother can live in safety, and where Lola can finally dream of a better life. But with great opportunity comes great risk, and as Lola ascends the hierarchy of the city’s underworld she attracts the attention of a dangerous new cartel who sees her as their greatest obstacle to dominance. Soon Lola finds herself sucked into a deadly all-out drug war that threatens to destroy everything she’s built.

But even as Lola readies to go to war, she learns that the greatest threat may not be a rival drug lord but a danger far closer to home: her own brother.

Edgy, complex, and breathtakingly propulsive, Melissa Scrivner Love has crafted a novel sure to please not only those who loved her first book but everyone who enjoys a gripping thriller.

American Heroin is due to be published in North America by Crown Publishing in February 2019, and Point Blank in the UK in March 2019. Lola is out now in paperback, published by Broadway Books in North America and Point Blank in the UK.

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