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Twisted Prey - John Sandford

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - John LeCarre

UNSUB - Meg Gardiner

A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Philipps

How It Happened by Michael Koryta

The Word Is Murder - Anthony Horowitz

Star of the North - D.B. John

The Sinners - Ace Atkins

The Outsider - Stephen King

Spymaster - Brad Thor

The Other Woman - Daniel Silva

The Man Between - Charles Cumming 

Operation Mincemeat - Ben Macintyre 

Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap by Paul Grant 

Berlin Game - Len Deighton (for the Spybrary book club)

Desolation Mountain - William Kent Krueger

Podcast Favorites . (The life and Legacy of Ian Fleming, with author and historian Jeremy Duns, always an excellent and entertaining interview) . (the true story of Oleg Penkovsky, regarded by many as the greatest spy of the Cold War era - with Jeremy Duns, whose book on the topic, Dead Drop, is a classic) (wonderful history of Ian Fleming's involvement at Bletchley Park during WWII, and Anthony Horowitz making a presentation about his new James Bond novel, Forever And A Day. "How I Nearly Started World War III" with Mark Valley, host of the Live Drop Espionage podcast



The Outsider by Stephen King

The Outsider is a brilliant novel. There, I’ve said it. Read the first page, and I defy you to put it down. I'd be tired, and drag The Outsider to bed at night, and even when my arms tired (it’s heavy), I would find a position to read from. This story is that good. Sleep quickly became secondary; not due to anxiety or nightmares, but simply because The Outsider’s imaginative plot, well-drawn characters and flowing narrative had my full attention. I did not want to put the book down. I see potential for some people to call in sick to their job just to keep reading.

 Anyone holding the opinion Stephen King has lost a step is wrong. The premise of this book is built upon questions. The plot revolves around those who realize these questions exist, and are then willing to go forward in search of answers. Can a person be in two places at once? How about conflicting stories - is it possible for each to be accurate and true? How? Why?

Lots of questions. Many of the answers are found in this exciting, dramatic story, but whether you as a reader want to face the questions and answers or not, the plot and characters satisfy. Or they won’t! Reading it, for a while The Outsider seemed a crime novel, evolved into a murder mystery, then before I knew it, King had introduced the supernatural. And it works!

Read and enjoy The Outsider. Stephen King is at his most sublime, on top of the craft.


@ScribnerBooks, @StephenKing, #TheOutsider, #StephenKing



The Sinners by Ace Atkins

In The Sinners, Quinn Colson is sheriff of a small, very Southern town. After military service he fell into the family tradition, and a number of years later finds himself still in the job. Corruption on a high level moves into the area as a drug syndicate expands and flexes it’s muscle. Violence escalates, problems surround him, all the while Colson is under-staffed and trying to find time to get married.

No, The Sinners isn’t comedic, though there is plenty of dark humor and sarcasm. Atkins effectively weaves a web of deep south atmosphere throughout the book. Humidity and warmth are in the air when I open the covers. His main guy, Colson, is alive on the page and easily comes to life in my head. Similarly, the pace and language and feel of the south is strong and helps make this crime thriller special.

The Sinners is exciting in a slow-build kind of way. Sure, Colson’s going to figure things out - after all, this is the eighth book in the series. Using effectively realized characters as his primary tool, slowly building tension, Atkins tells a dark, compelling story. There’s plenty of action, but it never overtakes plot and people. 


@putnambooks, @aceatkins, @katieclay, #thesinners



Star of the North by D.B. John

The dramatic scene unfolding in the initial pages of Star of the North captured my imagination. Author John had my attention. He knows how to write, and had me eager to discover what was around the next bend in the mystery. Star of the North is a stirring, intelligent spy thriller.

The unexpected abduction of two young people from an idyllic beach in South Korea sets an expectant tone and quick pace. The second chapter introduces Jenna, a brilliant academic soon to be recruited by the CIA. I was quickly involved, slowing down my reading and appreciating the people John was bringing to life around her.

Jenna, her CIA handler Charles Fisk, Mrs. Moon and Colonel Cho are Americans, American-Korean, and North Korean. Their stories and life experiences have little in common, yet grudgingly, the intersection of their lives can be seen ahead. I knew Jenna was going to throw herself into CIA work and somehow at the same time try to solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance years before. Yes, in Star of the North readers have answers characters are struggling to uncover. CIA agent Fisk has an ulterior motive, and trying to determine what it is adds to my enjoyment reading.

I knew everyone’s stories in the book were going to collide at some point, but how and why it was all going to come together is constitutes a fine novel. Spycraft and espionage play a believable role in Star of the North. Author John’s first-hand knowledge of North Korea’s people and government and history pulls the basic plot elements together. This fascinated me. My knowledge of what the country is truly like is limited, of course.

 Tension builds throughout Star of the North, events bang up against each other, and I was surprised when I least expected to be. I thoroughly enjoyed Star of the North, hope it sells well and encourages D.B. John to write more novels in the spy - espionage - political thriller vein.

#starofthenorth, #DBJohn, @CrownPublishing



Next On My Reading List...

Last Instructions by Nir Hezroni will be my first book from him. His second espionage novel, to be published May 22, takes the reader inside Israel's secret spy organizations. I'm looking forward to digging in, as this sounds like an exciting story. Even before I start I'm eager to get my hands on Three Envelopes, his earlier spy and espionage thriller.

Ace Atkins, on the other hand, is a fine writer I'm happily familiar with. The Sinners is his upcoming Quinn Colson novel. Wonderful detective mysteries with a southern twist is a vein Atkins mines, one I deeply enjoy. Look for The Sinners July 17. I'll have the book read and a full review published by then.

@nirhezroni, @StMartinsPress, #lastinstructions, @aceatkins, @PutnamBooks, #thesinners


How It Happened by Michael Koryta

Michael Koryta is one of my favorite contemporary crime writers. His characters display emotional levels with a ring of truth, people I quickly build relationships with, whether they’re good or evil. How It Happened, just published, is a stand-alone thriller showcasing a new character, FBI agent Rob Barrett, and it's a damn good thriller, as good as anything by Koryta I've read. 

I won’t bury the headline: How It Happened is an engrossing and satisfying murder mystery populated with complex people and plot-lines. Even when I thought I had figured some things out, I wasn’t sure. Until the very end, I was reading intently, eager to see what was ahead.

Interestingly enough, How It Happened is based on a grisly double murder, years ago, in author Koryta’s hometown. At the time he was on the crime beat and covered the investigation for the newspaper. Talk about hitting close to home.

As the book opens, agent Barrett is sent to a small Maine town to assist in the investigation of the shocking, brutal double murder of a young local couple. An earnest confession from a local drug user well known to the police initially appears to sew up the mystery, until she names a well-known upright citizen as an accomplice. At that point, everything breaks down. Suspicions mount, fingers are pointed, and the spotlight shines on agent Barrett. He’s supposed to be the person uniquely qualified to solve the mystery. But he cannot.

Improbably, Barrett believes the tale this woman spins, but nobody else does. Not the local law, the townspeople, the relatives of those murdered. She’s eventually released as there’s no damning evidence to prop up her confession and tales.

In the eyes of the townspeople, police and the Bureau, Barrett failed. He’s recalled, and the case is buried. His career in tatters, transferred to FBI Siberia, Barrett find himself unable to shake the testimony of the confessor, notable in light of how much he knows about the area in Maine where this took place. Long ago he lived in the region and knows much of the backstory for some of the principal suspects. He knows there’s more to learn; after all, someone murdered these two young people.

When he returns to Maine on his own a couple of years later and tears open the case, all hell breaks loose in Barrett’s life and career. Here’s where Koryta shines as a writer. How It Happened takes off at this point, as Koryta weaves his complex, original plot into a tense, dramatic and satisfying thriller. 


@littlebrown, @mjkoryta, #howithappened