I am so excited to be writing for CrimeReads, and honestly couldn’t have picked a better month to kick this column off because, without question, July is the very best time of the year for thriller fans. Whether you’re looking for hard-hitting action, nail-biting mysteries, or heart-pounding suspense, there’s a little something for everyone as some of the genre’s biggest stars gear up to release new books this summer.
Spymaster by Brad Thor
Release Date: July 3rd (Atria/Emily Bestler Books)
Over the course of sixteen previous books, fans have seen Scot Harvath do everything from stopping a radical billionaire with plans to implement population control to saving New York City after it was completely cut off and taken over by terrorists. Harvath might be the only guy who’s saved the day more times than Jack Bauer, but you ain’t never seen him quite like this. . .
The Harvath readers see in Spymaster is a little bit older, now in his mid-40s and feeling it. Two decades of carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders has left Thor’s hero battered, bruised, and exhausted. Still, after flirting with semi-retirement in the last book, Scot is back to kicking in doors and shooting bad guys in the head. He’s got a little more help around him now as Thor continues to develop a well-rounded supporting cast of Tier One operators, which is good news for Scot because he’ll need all the help he can get when Russia tries to draw the United States into war by attacking its NATO allies.
Aside from being tasked with preventing World War III at all costs, Harvath is also dealing with personal issues—like the fact that his boss and mentor, Reed Carlton, the original spymaster, is dying. Surrounded by conflict, both physically and emotionally, Harvath must battle multiple enemies in hopes of completing his mission, leading to an action-packed climax that’s as good as anything Thor’s ever written.
Spymaster is Brad Thor at his very best, and this summer’s number one must-read thriller.
Stay Hidden by Paul Doiron
Release Date: July 3rd (Minotaur Books)
Mike Bowditch, the unflinching game warden who’s starred in eight previous books, returns for his most dangerous adventure yet in Paul Doiron’s latest novel. Recently promoted, Mike is now the newest warden inspector in the great state of Maine, which means he’s supposed to spend more time in his office and less time out in the field. However, when multiple fatalities occur on the opening day of hunting season, the police department is stretched so thin that there’s nobody left to head to the scene of a hunting accident on Masquoit Island, where a man confessed to accidentally shooting a woman whom he mistakenly thought was a deer.
Flying out to the tiny coastal island, Mike expects the case to be open and shut, but quickly learns it’s anything but. It turns out that the alleged shooter didn’t confess to anything. Also, the dead woman happens to be an investigative journalist named Ariel Evans, who rented a home on the secluded island to work on a book about a twenty-year-old homicide.
It’s all relevant when Mike discovers that the supposed murderer, a man who may have gotten away with killing his wife two decades ago, lives on the island. Things take a wild turn, though, when another woman, claiming to be the real Ariel Evans, suddenly shows up—raising the stakes considerably for Bowditch.
Doiron, often compared to fellow New York Times bestselling author C.J. Box, uses stunning cinematic visuals, bringing Maine’s atmosphere to life the way James Lee Burke does with Louisiana. Not only is this some of his best work yet, it’s an early contender for best crime thriller of the year.
The Other Woman by Daniel Silva
Release Date: July 17th (Harper)
If someone were to ever commission the building of a Mount Rushmore for thriller writers, Daniel Silva’s face would surely be featured on it, alongside other all-time greats such as Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and the late Vince Flynn.
Even after dominating best-sellers lists for twenty years, Silva continues to get better and better with each new book. It’s an amazing feat when you consider that his protagonist, Gabriel Allon, once the most feared assassin in Israel’s vaunted intelligence service, is now in his 60s and no longer working in the field. After finally taking a long-awaited promotion, Allon is currently chief of the Office, which means that for the first time in his career, he’s no longer a weapon dispatched by his superiors—he’s now the guy calling the shots, which is horrible news for bad guys everywhere.
What I admire and appreciate about Silva is that he finds ways to keep things fresh. For years, Allon has been viewed much like the prodigal son returning home—which in this case is the Mossad. However, for the first time in his career, Gabriel suffers a small fall from grace when an operation he personally flies to Vienna—a place where he’s experienced an abundance of personal grief in past books—to oversee, is a resounding failure. Worse, that failure ends up making headlines around the world, causing many, even the people of Israel, to wonder if Allon really is fit to be chief.
Surrounded by controversy, Gabriel realizes that while all eyes are on him, Russia continues nurturing their relationship with a high-ranking mole who’s penetrated an allied nation’s foreign intelligence service—pitting Allon against another master spy, perhaps the most dangerous of his storied career.
You never want to overhype a book, but for my money, this might be the best spy thriller since John le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The Other Woman is an instant classic from Daniel Silva, who continues building his legacy as one of the greatest spy novelists the genre has ever known.
Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
Release date: July 17th (Little, Brown, and Company)
Edgar-winner Abbott is back with another dazzling psychological thriller about two women who share a troubling secret.
Growing up, Kit Owens was always the smartest kid in her school. That changed once Diane Flemming moved into her district and began challenging her. Eventually, through their shared love of science and their mutual admiration for world-renowned scientist, Dr. Severin, the two became friends—and even pushed each other to new heights, academically, in order to pursue various scholarships. Tragically, the two had a falling out after Diane confided in Kit one night, confessing her deepest, darkest secret. . .which was so disturbing that Kit broke off their friendship and was even plagued by horrible nightmares for years to come.
Now, in the present day, Kit is the star in her laboratory, and close to securing a coveted internship under Dr. Severin to work on a premenstrual dysphoric disorder research. But just as her dreams are about to finally become a reality, her worst nightmare also comes to life when Severin, looking for top candidates outside her own lab, poaches a new researcher from Harvard, who turns out to be Diane.
Always one to cover real issues at the heart of her novels, Abbott delves into a number of timely topics, including career ambitions, disadvantages women face in the workplace, and, of course, friendship. That said, the bulk of the story revolves around the secret that was shared, which Abbott takes her time revealing. For this story to work, the secret has to be so big and so juicy that it’s worth waiting for while everything else develops.
The risky move pays off for Abbott, who stuns with nonstop twists and turns. Give Me Your Hand is phenomenal, and while it’s a tad more of a slow-burn than her fans might be used to, it’s all worth it in the end.
Bloody Sunday by Ben Coes
Release Date: July 31st (St. Martin’s Press)
Silva and Thor are already two of the best political thriller authors of their time, but Ben Coes is closing the gap in a hurry, in part because of a scorching hot streak he’s been riding since 2015 when Independence Day came out. Since then, First Strike (one of the best thrillers since Vince Flynn’s Transfer of Power) and Trap the Devil were both huge hits with critics and readers alike. Now, Coes is gearing up to release Bloody Sunday, his boldest, most daring thriller to date.
When Kim Jong Un is secretly diagnosed with terminal cancer, the depraved North Korean dictator vows to strike a nuclear blow to the United States. Unaware of Kim’s medical status, the president of the United States tasks the CIA with developing an operation designed to collect intel on North Korea’s nuclear program. The president can sense something is coming, and before America can take action, they need to know what they’re dealing with.
To get answers, Dewey Andreas is sent to poison a high-ranking North Korean military general who is traveling abroad. The idea is that, by injecting the general with a souped-up virus, the CIA can give him an ultimatum: become a turncoat and supply the United States with information on Kim’s nuclear program in order receive an antidote cooked up to combat the virus—or die an excruciatingly painful death.
Things take a wild turn when Dewey accidentally injects a small amount of the poison into himself during a scuffle, giving him only twenty-four hours to sneak into North Korea and locate the antidote that may, or may not, still be there.
Any chance of preventing World War III comes down to one man, but before Dewey Andreas can save the world. . .he must first find a way to save himself.
Nobody is hotter right now than Ben Coes, who continues to build on his impressive run of must-read thrillers. Of all the books on this list, Bloody Sunday might be my favorite.