Tag Archives: thriller

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: 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: Tom Clancy’s Duty and Honor

This is a much better book than the author’s previous contributions to the series (DEAD OR ALIVE, UNDER FIRE). One difference is Jack Jr. isn’t out to save the world — he’s just trying to avoid being killed, and to do that he hunts down the men that are trying to kill him and tries to find a logical explanation for why he’s been targeted.

This allows Jack’s character to be less of a superhero caricature (as he was in the previous books) and more of a flawed good guy who is introspective and trying to find and learn from his mistakes. It makes for less action/excitement in the book, but it actually improves the overall quality of the book.

Forced to work without The Campus and its resources, Jack pulls in some new allies along the way as he crosses America, Europe and ultimately Africa in pursuit of the answers he needs to stay alive.

Another thing I really liked: I expected when the reason he’d been targeted was finally revealed that we’d flip back to superhero caricature mode and Jack would suddenly save the world in the final pages of the book. Well, I was so wrong. The reason is logical and compelling, and Jack’s response to it was even more so.

It all leads to a satisfying conclusion.

Hope this book will get the whole Campus series back on track. I highly recommend it to military/spy/thriller fans: 5/5 stars. Use this affiliate link to read more about it 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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