Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: The Aggrieved

A decade-plus and an additional ten books since the release of The Cleaner – the first title in the compelling Jonathan Quinn series – has seen a lot of changes for Brett Battles’ signature character and his eclectic group of specialists that live and work in the shadowy and often messy world of international intrigue.

Nate began as the clueless apprentice. He would later become an equal partner and a compelling character in his own right. Orlando was the estranged colleague and lost love. She would become Quinn’s wife, partner, and the mother of his child.

The Office and its enigmatic leader Peter have been dead and gone for a few books now. There is a scene in The Aggrieved, however, that gives readers hope that The Office might return in the near future. Perhaps Quinn will lead it, and Nate will be its go-to Cleaner?

One can always hope.

And for all these changes and character development that readers have witnessed in the past decade of reading about Jonathan Quinn – there’s one theme that has always been central, has never wavered, and that we clearly see front and center as events unfold in The Aggrieved: for all the evil he’s witnessed and the many terrible things he’s had to do, Quinn is the good guy.

That fact allows author Battles to play harshly with readers’ emotions in The Aggrieved.

Quinn has to deliver the worst possible news to his own mother – and endures words no son should ever have to live with.

Quinn has to go against Helen, who is more or less one of the good guys, when he attempts to track down Dima, a character central to the last book (which set in motion the events that unfold in The Aggrieved – first-time readers, however, no worries; the author brilliantly begins the story so that you’re pulled right in and up to speed even if you haven’t read the previous book).

After finding Dima, Quinn asks for her help – even though doing so will once again put Dima at risk.

And then the conflict between Quinn and Nate, who is suffering as bad as Quinn from the act of violence in Jakarta that set this story in motion …

Yet, despite all this, what I truly loved about this book is that Quinn, at the absolute lowest we’ve ever seen him in the past decade of reading about his exploits, is proven to have been right in maintaining his “good guy” integrity throughout all the books. Countless people that live in the same shadowy world aid his pursuit of a killer – but it is their respect for him, rather than money or favors or anything else, that brings them to his aid.

I think it’s a profound message for an author to be able to make in any book – but especially while writing a thriller that literally carries readers breathlessly on an edge-of-your-seat around the world journey.

In The Aggrieved, Orlando asks Quinn repeatedly, “What are you going to do?”

About his mom, Dima, Nate, and the killer they’re pursuing … and Quinn doesn’t have the answers. But in the end his true character compels him to act in a way that validates who he has been for the previous ten books, and I absolutely loved it. There were so many ways that Battles could have gone with this story – and while most of them would have been satisfying, I’m sure, he chose to push us right to the edge of Quinn’s breaking point … and then he brought us back.

The result?

This is the best Quinn book since the original title in the series.

It is fast-paced, unpredictable, filled with action, meticulously plotted, and boasts some of the most original characters in the thriller genre.

This is an emphatic 5 stars. I highly recommend it to thriller/espionage fans. If you’ve never read Brett Battles, well, it is ridiculous how many awards he has won and it all started with this series… so get busy reading the Jonathan Quinn series.

Use this affiliate link to purchase The Aggrieved on Amazon.

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I received a free digital edition of this book for review purposes. The review reflects my own unbiased opinion of the book’s content. I use affiliate links for Amazon.

Book Review: The Prisoner

“better safe than headless”

I’m on Alex Berenson’s email list, and when he sent a message to his readers that John Wells was “back undercover in the Muslim world” I immediately went to Amazon and pre-ordered.

I was excited, but also a little worried.

Wells is a great character. Berenson is an incredibly gifted writer. But of late, a number of usually reliable thriller authors have used the Jack Bauer “24” method of going undercover with disastrous consequences (e.g. I have serious reservations about buying any future Scot Harvath books). I felt Berenson was right on target with his idea – I can’t imagine any fan of John Wells not wanting to read about him going undercover in Afghanistan for a second time – but I feared the worst, that Wells would morph into a bad superhero caricature and Berenson would have ruined a great series.

Now that I’ve read the book, I apologize to Mr. Berenson – sorry I doubted you. This is the best post-9/11 thriller I’ve ever read. In fact, it might be the best thriller I’ve ever read, period.

It begins with a CIA mission in ISIS territory. Hence, this great line from one of the operators: “better safe than headless.” After the mission, it’s clear that someone is giving sensitive intelligence to ISIS. Shafer and Wells – with support from President Duto – launch a bold plan to uncover the mole, and what unfolds is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Berenson takes readers on a vivid, surreal journey with pacing and prose that are masterfully executed and a plot that is all too real and terrifying. Berenson has clearly been to Afghanistan and the other dangerous / exotic locales used in the book – for no one could carry a reader down this path so well unless he first traveled it himself.

The book builds to a frenetic pace, and then Berenson cranks it up even more as it turns into a race against the clock to stop ISIS from carrying out an attack that rivals 9/11.

If you enjoy thrillers, read this book. If you really enjoy thrillers that also fall into the “literary” category, then you absolutely need to be reading Alex Berenson. I used to say no one writes that category better than Daniel Silva, but I think Berenson is at the top now.

Read this book – I highly recommend it, 5/5 stars.

Use this affiliate link to read more about The Prisoner on Amazon.

Book Review: Influence

I think pretty much everything written by Bart Hopkins Jr. is worth reading. His style feels old school, and I mean that as a compliment – he uses language very carefully, and smartly (unlike so many thriller authors I’ve read recently who make me feel like my IQ takes a hit every time I read a few chapters), and his stories are always multilayered and thought provoking.

Influence is primarily set in Galveston, an area the author knows very well. It’s the second novel by Hopkins with Cass Destry as the protagonist. Last time around the 20-something PI put a serial killer in the ground. This time the stakes are even higher.

The first half of the book finds Cass on a seemingly innocuous case – locate a young adult female who doesn’t want her mother to know where she is. But after locating the woman in Colorado, Cass is witness to a horrific event – and then the tension and stakes begin to mount quickly.

In the second half of the book a villain emerges, and as Cass travels to Washington, California, and ultimately to a confrontation in Colorado, she will need all of her wit, survival instincts, and a few bullets if she’s going to survive. This is an excellent PI/thriller novel and I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy this genre: 5/5 stars. Use this affiliate link to read more about Influence on Amazon – or visit: http://www.barthopkinsjr.com/

 

Book Review: Liberty’s Last Stand

I’m annoyed that the product description is misleading. It says: “The president of the United States stands on an outdoor stage, flanked by powerful members of his administration and party. Television crews are preparing for broadcast. High above the stage, on a nearby rooftop, a decorated sniper adjusts the scope on his rifle. Afterwards, America will never be the same.”

However, that scene isn’t in the book and nothing of the sort even happens. In truth, it’s not even a Jake Grafton novel — he’s a minor figure in the first 80% of the book, and when he does emerge near the end it’s for some really silly fight sequence / dialogue.

The book is really a “what-if” that has Texas declaring its independence after an Obama-esque president oversteps his authority. If you lean left politically then you’ll hate this book — but if you like conspiracy theories interspersed with action then give it a read.

I did think the concept was entertaining and enjoyed reading much of the parts set in Texas — however, I read this book because it was marketed as Grafton / Carmellini … but it’s such a departure from other titles in the series that I’m left to wonder how Coonts could return to these great characters again in the future. It would have been much better had this been a standalone book with completely new characters.

I know there is an audience for the author’s message, but as a novel it’s just 3/5 stars for me. Use this affiliate link to read more about Liberty’s Last Stand on Amazon.

Book Review: End of Watch

Stephen King got everything right with this book: the pace, dialogue, plot, and a brilliant blend of supernatural creepiness and rational detective work. It adds up to his best book in a long time, and easily the best of this trilogy.

Hodges, Holly and Jerome are back to face Mr. Mercedes — Brady Hartsfield — one last time. Weird things have been happening in the traumatic brain injury unit where Hartsfield lives his days trapped inside his body. But surely he is an impotent monster, right?

Wrong.

King is at his absolute horror-minded best — and the result is a Mr. Mercedes who is supernatural, otherworldly, and more deadly than ever. The plot is chilling, the action is frenetic, and the protagonists are truly heroic characters.

I absolutely loved this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery / thriller / horror novels: 5/5 stars

Use this affiliate link to order it now on Amazon.

Book Review: The Second Life of Nick Mason

Steve Hamilton is a very talented author. You sometimes hear critics use the phrase “same but different” to describe a new twist on a proven formula – and it definitely fits here, as Hamilton has created a protagonist that is both criminal and heroic, and then placed him in a situation that is seemingly impossible to escape from.

The plot, characters and dialogue are gritty and fast-paced with lots of twists and action – and if you’re a fan of mystery/crime/thriller fiction then you should definitely read this book: 5/5 stars.

Use this affiliate link to see The Second Life of Nick Mason on Amazon.

I received a free digital edition courtesy Penguin Random House First to Read in exchange for an honest/unbiased review.

Book Review: Ghosts of War

This book literally begins with the ending of the last title in the series – “The Forgotten Soldier” – but you don’t need to have read any of the previous books to enjoy this one. The plot is similar in some respects to recent books by Alex Berenson and Mark Greaney – a few bad actors manipulate world events to try and lure the United States into a war.

In this case, the Secretary of State is dead (the ending to the last book), the Taskforce is sidelined to avoid being exposed in the fallout, and now Russia is advancing across Europe and our NATO allies are at risk – but then an even greater tragedy strikes America’s government.

This title is very different from the others in the series. The stakes are as high as ever, but this isn’t about the Taskforce chasing down bad individuals – it’s a book about war. And Brad Taylor writes it exceptionally well. Taylor is also more nuanced on the political side than in his previous works, which adds a layer of complexity to his characters.

This is a definite must-read for thriller/war novel fans: 5/5 stars.

Use this affiliate link to see Ghosts of War on Amazon.

I received a free digital edition courtesy Penguin Random House First to Read in exchange for an honest/unbiased review.