Tag Archives: book review

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?


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.


Book Review: The Wolves

I really like the fact Alex Berenson writes literary thrillers. In my opinion, Daniel Silva and Berenson are the best in this genre.

The quality of the writing isn’t the only thing that sets apart the John Wells series from others such as Mitch Rapp and Scot Harvath—Berenson has gotten away from using the “doomsday scenario” involving WMDs and Muslim terrorists in every novel, and instead his plots are intelligent and far more subtle.

In The Wolves, it begins as a simple quest for vengeance. It follows The Counterfeit Agent and Twelve Days as the third book in a series arc centered on billionaire Aaron Duberman. The brief summary: Duberman, who is Jewish but an American citizen, tried to use stolen nuclear materials to start a war between Iran and America. His motivation was to protect Israel from a nuclear Iran.

The Wolves begins after Wells, with help from Ellis Shafer (CIA) and Vinny Duto (former CIA, now a senator), foil the plot. But now the president—who had been sucked in by Duberman’s subterfuge—is protecting himself by hiding the truth from the public, and as a result Duberman gets to skate unpunished for his actions.

Wells decides to go after Duberman on his own. The plot, however, quickly escalates as it morphs into something far more sinister than simple vengeance—and Wells becomes ensnared in a game of cat-and-mouse with politicians and spies from China, Russia and the U.S. … and it all unfolds on the streets of Hong Kong.

Berenson offers a portrait of a warrior who is tired of doing “the right thing” only to come home to politicians bent only on staying in power. Wells is a conflicted protagonist, with emotions and actions and dialogue that are brilliantly written—and the result is an incredibly satisfying novel.

I have just one complaint about this book—someone on the editing team at Putnam really messed up on the Kindle edition (and probably in the print as well, though I haven’t seen it). I found at least seven or eight glaring typos / editing mistakes—and it’s not like I was even looking for them. In one instance, the wrong name was attributed to dialogue. In another, extra quotation marks were randomly included in the middle of a sentence. There were several others, and while I don’t normally get hung up on such things, it’s not like this is an Indie publisher or amateur author.

This is an imprint of Random House.

I’m sure they’ll fix the Kindle edition fast and upload a new version to Amazon, but as someone who really loves this series, the fact the mistakes even exist in the first place is incredibly annoying—because for whatever reason Alex Berenson’s books have never reached the same level of success as some of his contemporaries in the same genre. Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but if Putnam were really betting on Berenson and this series, then wouldn’t they put a better team of editors etc. on this book? Anyway, that’s my two cents.

As for the book, it’s a must-read. Long-time fans should love it, and the backstory is told sufficiently well that if you haven’t read the previous books you should still enjoy this one.

5/5 stars.

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