November is finally here, which means store selves will soon be lined with new books from some of the biggest authors in the thriller genre.
Jack Ryan, Jack Reacher, and James Bond are all back, along with the return of an old favorite—Sunny Randall, Robert B. Parker’s Boston-based private investigator, who lives on in an all-new novel from Mike Lupica. David Baldacci also has a new book coming out—the first in a new series, in fact—as do Tom Wood and the dynamic writing team of Brian Andres and Jeffrey Wilson.
Bottom line: it’s going to be a great month for thriller fans everywhere. Happy reading!
Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz
Release Date: November 6 (Harper Perennial)
007 is dead. His body was found in the waters of Marseille, three 9mm bullets fired into his chest and stomach at close range. It’s a devastating blow to Her Majesty’s secret service, but it also paves the way for a younger agent to replace him. Thus, it’s time for James Bond to officially earn his license to kill.
Before M is willing to officially elevate Commander Bond to Double-O status and give him a spot on the fifth floor overlooking Regent’s Park, the young recruit is sent to kill Rolf Larsen, a traitor hiding out in Stockholm—a scene that is briefly refenced in Fleming’s Casino Royale. With the bloody trial run complete, M promotes Bond, who chooses his 007 designation to send a message to the bad guys (a message that’s too good to spoil here). And with that, James Bond, the newly minted 007, is dispatched to France and tasked with finding out who, exactly, killed the former Double-O agent, and what he might have learned while investigating a new development in the Marseille-based criminal underworld that got him killed in the first place.
Taking on one of fiction’s all-time greatest heroes is no easy task, but Anthony Horowitz has proven to be the man for the job. Seeing this inexperienced side to Bond is refreshing and finally provides the true origin story that was always missing from the polished, hardened agent Fleming introduced in Casino Royale. In the acknowledgment section, placed just after the story’s conclusion, Horowitz explains that some of the material was based on an outline Fleming wrote for an American television series that was never made. Using that, Horowitz has crafted an authentic, action-packed Bond novel that even the Fleming faithful will devour.
The book’s best sequence involves Bond having a vision of himself in the future where he skis, swims, and drives fast cars, doing pretty much all the things fans have witnessed him doing both on the page and on the big screen for decades. It’s a brilliant nod to Bond’s legacy from Horowitz, who notes that the beloved MI6 agent feels as though he’ll never die. And in some ways, he never will. Between the novels and movies, both those already made and new projects to come in the future, 007’s place in pop culture history is set in stone, ensuring that James Bond really will live forever. . . and a day.
Past Tense by Lee Child
Release Date: November 5 (Doubleday Books)
As summer comes to a close, Jack Reacher prepares for colder weather the only way he knows how, by setting out on an epic, cross-country trip that’ll take him from Maine all the way to California . . . but things don’t go according to plan.Whenever Jack Reacher shows up, three things are virtually guaranteed to happen: Trouble will come knocking, Reacher will answer, and readers will enjoy the hell out of watching him pick the bad guys apart one by one.
While hitching a ride to Boston, the man driving Reacher has to unexpectedly turn back after a business deal begins to fall apart and needs his attention. They’d only made it to New Hampshire so, rather than backtrack, Reacher says goodbye, hops out and begins walking. Eventually, fate brings him to a Y in the road. Heading right will take him to Portsmouth, which has plenty of bus stops, highways, and suitable hotels. Going left will take him out of the way, to a little town called Laconia—which just so happens to be where his father is from, a place Reacher’s never seen.
Giving himself a day to explore, Reacher heads left and, as readers might expect, trouble, as it always seems to do, quickly finds him.
For starters, Reacher can’t find any trace of his father’s family in the small town—records show no proof that anyone named Reacher ever lived in Laconia. And then there are the dust ups with a number of unsavory types, including a guy who has connections to some wealthy, powerful people who threaten Reacher and tell him to get lost or else. Still living his life as a drifter, Reacher is always on the move, but he’s not about to run from anyone, especially when he’s trying to solve the mystery of his father’s past.
Another plot thread follows a young couple from Canada, head to New York City carrying mysterious cargo inside a suitcase that’s said to be quite valuable. After their car breaks down, they come across an inn that, at best, can be described as a creepy Motel 6, but this ain’t the kind of place where they leave the light on for you. In fact, it’s just the opposite, and soon the couple finds themselves being held against their will and surrounded by danger.
Eventually, the two plotlines collide, as Child expertly weaves both storylines together, leading to an explosive final act that moves at breakneck speeds and has enough action to dazzle even the pickiest thrill-seekers.
Whenever Jack Reacher shows up, three things are virtually guaranteed to happen: Trouble will come knocking, Reacher will answer, and readers will enjoy the hell out of watching him pick the bad guys apart one by one.
Lee Child delivers another winner with Past Tense, a rip-roaring thriller that mixes action and suspense in a way that only he seems to be able to pull off.
Kill for Me by Tom Wood
Release Date: November 6 (Berkley Books)
Set in Central America, Wood opens his eighth thriller with Victor the Assassin—now officially a gun-for-hire, having ended all previous relationships with the MI6 and CIA—in Guatemala for a gun purchase that ends up being a shakedown. The price of the Accuracy International AX50 seems almost too good to be true, because it is. The rifle, it turns out, is little more than bait used to lure customers into the killzone, where a group of gunmen waits, having carefully orchestrated their assault. It’s a plan that has worked numerous times already, but then again, they’ve never encountered someone like Victor before. Lead flies early and Wood treats readers to a great action sequence as Victor is backed into an impossible corner before the story jumps back in time five weeks to explain the lead-up to the hard-hitting opening.
For several years, two sisters—Heloise and Maria Espinosa—have fought to regain the turf their father, once the leader of Guatemala’s largest cartel, held for decades. The catch, though, is that they’re battling from opposite sides, locked in a brutal war against one another, each desperate to take the reins moving forward. In an effort to finally claim the throne, Heloise has brought in a ringer in the form of Victor, whom she hires to kill Maria. The job seems straightforward at first, but Victor quickly finds that the feud is worse than he expected, and the already-dangerous job proves more difficult when it becomes clear that there’s another killer after Maria who’s willing to do whatever is necessary to finish the job.
With other forces lurking and threatening to close in without warning, Victor has his work cut out for him . . . and to complete his mission, he’ll first need to navigate his way through an endless stream of betrayal and somehow find a way to stay alive long enough to get the job done.
While “vulnerable” might not be the right word, Wood does show a side to Victor that longtime readers of his series haven’t seen before. While he’s still a true antihero, the author has managed to humanize Victor just enough that even newcomers to Wood’s books can find him relatable, which is all part of his continued character development. Even so, the thrilling setup leads to a bloody final act that shows yet again why this series is one of the most underrated franchises going today.
Victor the Assassin, the coldest killer operating in the thriller genre today, returns in Kill for Me, the latest twisting, action-packed thriller from Tom Wood, who’s fast becoming mandatory reading for fans of Mark Greaney and Gregg Hurwitz.
American Operator by Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson
Release Date: November 6 (Thomas & Mercer)
Following their latest action-packed thriller, Crusader One, Andres and Wilson bring former Tier One Navy SEAL John Dempsey back for his most high-stakes mission yet.
The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey has been killed. The devastating attack leaves many, including American officials, stunned. However, things are even worse than they originally seemed, as very few people know that the Ambassador’s chief of staff, Amanda Allan, has been kidnapped by the terrorists who killed her boss. Even less people know the truth about Amanda—that she’s actually an undercover CIA operative—or why, exactly, she had been posing as a diplomat in the first place. With neither all-out war or diplomatic solutions proving to be a viable option to secure Amanda and bring her home, the president turns to his third option: Ember.
Led by John Dempsey, the group’s star operator, Ember is an elite, off-the-books task force that serves as the president’s deadliest secret weapon. But this time, John and his team are on their own, unexpectedly cut off from the powers that be and forced to maneuver through war-torn Syria—desperately searching for Amanda in hopes of reaching her before her captors are able to break her and extract the secrets she holds. Time is running out for Dempsey, who battles past demons in addition to present-day obstacles, to figure out what’s really going on—and the stakes end up being much higher than even he could have imagined.
One of the things that makes this series so unique is how Andrews and Wilson have structured their stories. Each book has its own storyline and conclusion, though every three books function as a separate trilogy within the series—continuing the same overall arc. American Operator kicks off a new trilogy, and also introduces a formidable opponent for Dempsey, providing someone who can match him punch-for-punch on the battlefield. Additionally, the writers do a fine job toeing the line on using their military backgrounds to inject been-there-done-that authenticity into the fold, all the while being careful to not overdo some of the lingo and jargon that casual readers might not understand. The balance is nice, and allows the story move fast—which is does from beginning to end.
Equal parts Brad Taylor and Mark Greaney, Andrews and Wilson have quickly established themselves as a major force in the thriller genre, and American Operator is some of their finest work yet.
Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci
Release Date: November 13 (Grand Central Publishing)
Having grown up in Andersonville, Georgia, FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s childhood was defined by one horrific moment when her twin sister, Mercy, was kidnapped in the summer of 1989. She was never located, dead or alive, and her whereabouts remain a mystery to this day, prompting Atlee—who wrestles with survivor’s guilt—to go searching for answers.
After taking a new position in Shattered Rock, Arizona, near the Grand Canyon National Park, Atlee begins investigating her sister’s disappearance in her free time. Her quest for answers leads her to a supermax prison near Denver, which is home to notorious criminals such as the Unabomber and the Boston Marathon Bomber, along with gang and cartel leaders, white supremacists, and even mafia bosses. Patrolled by guards 24/7 and protected by state-of-the-art security features and good old-fashioned endless rows of concrete, the prison is built to keep evil inside, including a man named Tor, who is perhaps the evilest of all the sadistic inmates currently incarcerated at ADX Florence.
Standing well above six feet and a whopping 280 pounds of muscle, Daniel James Tor is a good-looking mountain of a man who is both brilliant and narcissistic. Quietly, he might be the most prolific serial killer ever. He’s also the man Atlee wants to question. She’d done her homework and knew of Tor’s fondness for math, then traced the locations of his victims, carefully mapping them out to reveal a rhombus-like shape when including the address of the home she grew up in—where Mercy was taken from. Looking him in the eyes, separated by a thick wall of glass, Atlee wants to know why he took her sister, how she died, and where her remains are. Instead, the muscled-up Hannibal Lector-like psychopath turns the tables, toying with Pine and challenging her. She doesn’t give into his antics, but she also doesn’t get the answers she’s longed for and is forced to leave, wondering what, exactly, the clever killer had meant with his responses.
Knowing Tor’s too smart to utter anything without having a distinct purpose for his words, Atlee walks away troubled, but has no time to focus on her personal case after a mule wrangler finds one of his mules in the Grand Canyon, stabbed to death and gutted. More pressing is the fact that the tourist riding the mule has gone missing, prompting a widespread ground search for the man that bears little fruit. Though Mercy is never far from her mind, nor is the intimidating presence of Tor, Atlee continues on with her search for the mule rider somewhat distractedly, only to find that the person of interest isn’t who they expected and that a far more dangerous scenario may be playing out before her.
Shockingly, Atlee is pulled from her assignment just as she begins making headway on the case and is forced to make the toughest decision since she joined the FBI. While she was focused on one monster, another quietly emerged . . . and going after them just might cost Atlee Pine her career and her life.
Baldacci has no shortage of bestselling series to his name, but Atlee Pine is his first ever female protagonist, and he does a nice job introducing her to readers here with hopes of building a new franchise around her. Moreover, Baldacci usually targets big cities for his stories, but selected an isolated location out West for Atlee, further making this feel different from past books. The writing is solid, the pacing is fast, and the plot has enough suspense and misdirection to keep readers engaged and guessing right up until the end. Expect to see Atlee Pine join Will Robie, Amos Decker, and John Puller on the New York Times bestsellers list this later this month.
David Baldacci continues to expand his universes by kicking off a promising new series with Long Road to Mercy, another top-notch thriller from one of today’s most popular storytellers.
Tom Clancy Oath of Office by Marc Cameron
Release Date: November 27 (G. P. Putnam’s and Sons)
After a long career in public services that began as Marine Officer before transitioning to the CIA, and ultimately the Oval Office, President Jack Ryan has seen it all. Very little surprises him these days, which is why the current situation that’s broken out in Iran, where protesters are beginning to cause real change, bothers him. Not because the Iranian people may finally taste real freedom after taking on an oppressive regime, but because he prefers a cautious approach before throwing support behind the little-known rebels, whereas the rest of the world is blinded by their excitement at the prospects of forming a Persian Spring.
In-country, a former Russian spy named Erik Dovzhenko chooses to defect, leaving Iran and traveling to Afghanistan where he meets up with an ex-lover of Jack Ryan Jr., who is quickly brought up to speed on a dangerous situation that has Junior and his fellow Campus teammates scrambling to track down two Russian nuclear missiles that have been hijacked and fallen off the grid.
The POTUS, meanwhile, deals with a number of natural disasters at home. Floods are destroying parts of the country, mainly Louisiana and Mississippi, while a deadly flu virus runs rampant elsewhere. Though serious, First Lady Cathy Ryan, who happens to be an accomplished ophthalmologist, is disturbed by fear-mongering rhetoric spewed by Senator Michelle Chadwick. Likewise, Ryan has his own issues with Chadwick, who, when she’s not shouting Fake News into every microphone within a twenty-mile radius, has taken aim at Jack personally, hellbent on bringing down his administration.
As Jack battles political adversaries on the home front and a messy situation in Cameroon, things take a turn for John Clark and the members of the Campus when one of their colleagues is abducted, infinitely complicating things because they now must hunt whoever has taken the rogue nukes and attempt to rescue one of their own before it’s too late.
With everything going on, it’s clear that a conspiracy is rising out of the Middle East, but there’s no rulebook on fighting a faceless enemy, leaving it up to Jack Ryan to write his own and connect the dots before things reach a point of no return and the balance of power in the region is forever altered.
It hasn’t taken long for Cameron, who came on board for last year’s Tom Clancy Power and Empire, to leave his mark on this iconic franchise. After twenty-five previous novels set in the Ryanverse, the challenge for Cameron is finding a way to keep things fresh moving forward. Though the Campus members provide some sizzle, Cameron relies more on his deftly plotted, high-stakes scenarios—while further developing Tom Clancy’s beloved characters—to keep readers interested. Whether it’s seeing the playful moments between Jack and Cathy in bed to start the morning or taking John Clark back into the field and giving him some great one-liners, Cameron utilizes the deep cast of characters at his disposal brilliantly. Longtime fans will be happy to know that under Cameron, “the leader of the free world’s still got it” (in more ways than one).
Marc Cameron dazzled Clancy loyalists with Power and Empire, but now he’s kicking it up a notch for his next book . . . and while Tom Clancy’s Oath of Office is a bit different than past books, it’s still going to blow readers away.
Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud by Mike Lupica
Release Date: November 27 (G. P. Putnam’s and Sons)
After years of rumors and speculation, Sunny Randall, Robert B. Parker’s beloved, Boston-based PI, is finally back.
No matter what, Sunny Randall (who was last seen in Spare Change, 2007) has always loved Richie Burke. And yet, she’s never been able to settle down and commit to their relationship. Well, not since the two divorced years back, which had a lot to do with Richie having serious ties to the Mafia. Still, even now, those ties have a way of coming between the two, especially when his uncle Felix calls Sunny in the middle of the night from Mass General to inform her that Richie had been shot.
Sunny enters the ER waiting room to find Felix and Desmond Burke, Richie’s father, waiting for her. The two men explain to her that he’s alive, but that someone shot him in the back with zero warning. Thankfully, Richie’s saloon was close to the hospital, which might have saved his life. . . unless the shooter never intended to kill him, a question that Sunny can’t help but wonder. Felix and Desmond are asking that same question, and their instincts eventually prove correct when it’s revealed that the gunman muttered, “Sins of the father,” before putting the trigger.
Sunny believes the words were chosen carefully, meant to be a direct message to the Burke family, which sets up a great line from Felix. “Tell that f–ing f–k to send an email next time.”
Sadly, Sunny’s theory takes shape when Peter, Desmond’s youngest brother, is murdered in the little park set above Chestnut Hill Reservoir across the street from the Boston College football stadium. A student out for an early jog found the body, but something about the scene feels off. Sunny takes note of the secluded location and the fact that no cell phone was found at the scene, all of which she believes indicates that Peter had agreed to the meeting before things went south. Obviously, someone has their sights set on the Burkes, who would rather handle things themselves than have the police–or Sunny–do any digging around the family business. But why?
As the story unfolds, old characters make cameos, new characters are introduced, and Sunny revisits some of her old stomping grounds (such as Spike’s, formerly known as Spike’s Place) as readers become reacquainted to her universe. As the body count starts to pile up, though, she goes looking for more answers and eventually discovers that an all-out mob war is close to erupting.
With the vicious blood feud threatening to spill over onto the streets of Boston, where innocent people could wind up in the crosshairs, it’s up to Sunny Randall to put an end to things before it’s too late.
Stepping into Parker’s enormous shoes, sports writer and Young Adult novelist Mike Lupica follows the footsteps of Reed Farrell Coleman and Ace Atkins–who have successfully resurrected Jesse Stone and Spenser, respectively–to bring back a fan-favorite character. From the opening scene in Spike’s, everything about Lupica’s work feels familiar, and his ability to mimic Parker’s voice is truly remarkable. Between Lupica, Coleman, and Atkins, Mike Lupica Clearly does the best job of staying true to Parker’s style. Everything from sentence structure to word choice, how he sets a scene to how he develops the characters, is spot-on and reads as if it were written by Robert B. Parker himself, something his diehard fans will almost certainly appreciate. Beyond that, the story is deftly plotted and moves fast, leading up to a memorable ending that’ll have fans begging for more.
Replacing an icon can’t be easy, but you wouldn’t know it by reading Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud. Mike Lupica mixes a heavy dose of suspense with a shot of nostalgia, effortlessly delivering a relentless thriller that might just be the best book in the series so far.