thriller

“Running from the Devil” by Jamie Freveletti

 

Book Cover - Running from the Devil

 

“Running from the Devil” was Jamie Freveletti’s bestselling debut novel, the first of four (so far) with Emma Caldridge as the terrific lead character.

 

Emma Caldridge, American biochemist and endurance marathon runner, falls asleep on a plane to Bogota, but is rudely awakened when the pilot announces that they should assume crash positions. The plane has been hijacked and it has been ordered toward an airstrip that is too small for the commercial airliner. When the plane crashes, it breaks apart and Emma’s seat lands outside the airliner, away from the others.

 

The survivors are herded together by a poorly trained, badly funded, dangerous group of guerilla fighters, more interested in a quick cash return than in protecting the passengers. The infighting is barely controlled by the leaders, and may be even more hazardous to the hostages than their forced march through the mine-filled jungle.

 

Emma helps a young prisoner escape while attempting to grab some apples and she is helped in turn by an injured passenger, a secret government agent named Cameron Sumner, who distracts the thugs while she runs into the tree line to safety. After the plane is blown up, Emma is forced to follow the survivors through the jungle, rather than waiting to be rescued.

 

What follows is a pulse-pounding page-turner with near misses, communication mishaps, captors turning on each other, land mines exploding and passengers being murdered because they are too weak to keep up. Complicating the plot? Neither Sumner nor Caldridge has revealed the truth about their motives for being in the country. The on again/off again rescue operations by the government agencies as well as the international politics of drugs and oil add to the tension.

 

Caldridge and Sumner are well-drawn, sympathetic, intelligent characters, each up to the physically challenging situations, but forced to rely on each other to make it out alive. Freveletti has woven the positive and negative uses of plants into the storyline, giving us a how-to survival manual along the way – just in case we ever get stuck in the jungle with maniacs.

 

One of the scenes that sticks with me is the early one with Emma crab walking across open ground near the downed jet, then scrambling over truck beds in order to steal apples and a phone. I rooted for Emma through her harrowing, high-risk attempt to grab some kind of food for the trek ahead. The tension was palpable and the reader is made aware just how desperate Emma’s journey will be.

 

A top-flight thriller, a strong female character. While I can’t possibly run 100 miles in the heat, or do some of the other interesting bits I can’t reveal (plot spoiler info), all of what Emma Caldridge pulled off is possible. Whether anyone would ever be asked to do them in the time span that EC had? Well, that’s half the fun of reading a thriller. Pretending that they would.

 

The most recent Emma Caldridge book, “Dead Asleep,” has reached #1 on the Kindle list.

 

In addition to her Emma Caldridge series, Ms. Freveletti has written a novel for the Robert Ludlum books, “Janus Reprisal.”

 

For more information about Ms. Freveletti and her work, please visit www.jamiefreveletti.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Split Second” by David Baldacci

 

Book Cover - Split Second

King and Maxwell are two Secret Service agents who were disgraced after their assignments to protect unpopular presidential candidates went horribly wrong. The man King guarded was killed while standing a few feet away. Maxwell’s charge was kidnapped from the next room. All it took was a split second for these two dedicated agents’ lives to change.

 

Michelle Maxwell is a former Olympian, from a family of law enforcement officers and before the kidnapping, on a fast track to promotion within the Service. Now, she might be slated for a permanent vacation. King, having left the Service after the assassination, is practicing law in a small Virginia town halfway between Charlottesville and Lynchburg. That is, until one of King’s employees is found murdered in his office and then the body of a former client is found hanging on the back of his bathroom door. King’s law associates can’t dump him fast enough.

 

The two agents never served together and the professional gaffes occurred eight years apart, but Maxwell senses a connection and obsessively researches her suspicions. Notwithstanding an initial reluctance to dredge up the past, King realizes that people associated with him are dying, his peaceful lifestyle is rapidly disappearing, and Maxwell seems to be an ally when he needs one. They join forces to investigate/unravel the cases.

 

Old hatreds erupt anew, former loves pop up, and as the body count mounts, an almost Shakespearean feeling permeates the storyline.

 

Baldacci’s “Split Second” entertains the reader with an elaborate plot, well-drawn likeable characters, an insane villain, explosive revelations, twists, and surprises that kept me turning the pages all day to find out what could possibly happen next. Betrayals and lies and misdirection, that's what.

 

The popular new TNT TV series, King & Maxwell, is based on the bestselling five-book series. “Split Second” is the first book in that series.

 

In addition to being a prolific writer with 26 published books since 1996 in 45 languages in 80 countries, Baldacci is involved with several charities. The Wish You Well Foundation® was established by David and his wife, Michelle, and supports family and adult literacy in the United States. The Foundation has partnered with Feeding America to launch Feeding Body & Mind, which has collected almost one million new and used books and distributed them through area food banks.

 

For more information about Baldacci, his books, movies based on his books, and his charitable work, please visit www.DavidBaldacci.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“American Assassin” by Vince Flynn

 

Book Cover - American Assassin

 

Vince Flynn’s “American Assassin,” Mitch Rapp, is not a suave, smooth-talking spy. He is a twenty-three year old, non-skirt-chaser, non-political, All-American lacrosse player who has never been in the military.

 

Ian Fleming and Hollywood gave us James Bond and glamorized the life of a spy, interweaving assassinations with hot cars, cool guns, and fast women. However, the tuxedo wearing, Baccarat playing, former Navy Commander rarely had a hair out of place, even when being tortured. Bond had the full force of the British Secret Service behind him, including military backup and impossibly cool gadgets with which to work whenever he got into a jam. 007 was the embodiment of MI6 and was staunchly patriotic. Those characteristics appeared to be the standard by which all other spies in books, on TV, and in the movies were measured.

 

So how does Mitch Rapp qualify to become an assassin? How is he turned into an efficient human killing machine? What motivates him to do the job?

 

He is recruited. An assistant to the CIA Director of Operations sees something in Rapp that could change the direction of a CIA in disarray after many intelligence failures. The CIA needs to take the fight to the enemy instead of merely reacting to events, and Rapp may be just the one to do it.

 

Mitch Rapp, at the beginning of his career in “American Assassin,” will not have the official backing of the CIA, and in an almost “Mission Impossible” style interview, is told that his very existence will be denied if he is caught doing his job overseas. He has guns, his mental agility, his physical skills, and a passport – not much else. Oh, and a training officer that doesn’t like him, calls him a ‘college puke’ and doubts that he is truly qualified to carry out any assignments. Sound like something you’d sign up for?

 

Flynn writes Rapp so convincingly that we buy it all. Why? Rapp agrees to take the job because of revenge, pure and simple. His girlfriend was killed in the Pan Am Lockerbie disaster and he wants to see the perpetrators dead. His ability is proven again and again as he puts up with what he considers the sham of his training, verbally challenging his so-called mentors and questioning his own motivation in the process.

 

After his first operation, Rapp looks in the mirror and realizes a killer is looking back at him. And, he’s okay with it.

 

Flynn explores the post-Lockerbie world and places it in historical context, so that the reader can recognize the global players in the intelligence community. The bad guys are varying shades of nasty, and the good guys/gals are complex, layered characters.

 

“American Assassin,” an intense page-turner that Flynn waited fifteen years to write, is a strongly political anti-terrorism thriller. In the book, an American businessman is kidnapped in Beirut, an operative goes in after him, then is captured as well. There are references to torture, to rendition, and to the Middle Eastern conflict.

 

Mitch Rapp is a character originated in “Transfer of Power,” published in 1999, the first of the thirteen Rapp books. “American Assassin” tells us how it all began for Rapp and is now listed as the first in the series.

 

Sadly, Vince Flynn passed away in 2013 at the age of 47 after a bout with cancer. His family, friends, and fans sorely miss him.

 

For more information about Vince Flynn, his body of work, and his charities, please visit www.vinceflynn.com

 

 

 

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“Up Country” by Nelson DeMille

 

Book Cover - Up Country

In these days between the U.S. celebrations of Memorial Day and July 4th, it seemed appropriate to review “Up Country,” a detective/thriller that places war firmly at its center. DeMille considers the U.S. involvement in Viet Nam and the sacrifices made by all concerned. War never seems quite real unless someone close to us is affected, but lest we forget, the body bags are always bringing home someone’s brother or father or sister or mother.

 

Paul Brenner is close to retiring from military service, but must return to Viet Nam one last time to solve a crime committed during the war almost thirty years before. Was an American soldier killed in Viet Nam back then, actually murdered?

 

In Brenner’s search for the answers to what seems to be a colossal cover up in “Up Country,” we travel through Viet Nam, feel the anguish of a country still reeling from the destruction of the war, meet descendants of the original soldiers who had nothing to do with the regimes of the time, but are still suffering. And, the very men who lost the war now rule it.

 

Brennan interacts with ex-pat Susan Weber to supposedly smooth his in-country travel arrangements, and at times (even during their on-the-road affair) we wonder whether she is a friend to Brennan or an agent of the enemy. Corruption and betrayal at every turn, a harrowing unauthorized trip into North Viet Nam, many tense dealings with a suspicious North Vietnamese Colonel, political as well as military agendas, seeing Viet Nam as a country, not as a war – all blends together in a sobering clash of values and hindsight.

 

DeMille’s ‘Alpha Male’ lead characters are always fully developed, with strong language and active inner dialogue. In “Up Country,” we experience Brennan’s thought process as he assesses his limited options for solving the crime. We are persuaded that he should continue his dangerous mission even as he observes the behavior of the former/present enemy that still lives in the past and can’t let go of the hatred of the U.S.

 

“Up Country,” published in 2002, was based on DeMille’s own experiences upon his return to Viet Nam in 1997, almost three decades after his own military service. DeMille is a master storyteller, as his legions of fans will agree, but in this book, he brings a great deal of himself to the page and in doing that, creates a completely absorbing, gritty tale. One wonders how much is in reality, fiction. DeMille’s other books are great reads, but “Up Country” just may be his best.

 

Visit www.nelsondemille.com for more information about the popular John Corey series and the many other bestselling DeMille thrillers.

 

 

 

 

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“Takedown” by Brad Thor

 

Book Cover - Takedown

 

#1 New York Times bestselling author, Brad Thor, delivers thrillers that keep the action moving. His series of twelve novels feature counterterrorist Scot Horvath as the central character.

 

In honor of the fans old and new of the enormously successful books, Thor arranged for an entire year of “Thrills, Threats, and Thor.” He invited them to read each of the books (one a month) in order, starting in January, 2013, with the first, “The Lions of Lucerne.” Thor’s website has videos and extras about each of the books and of course, an opportunity to buy them.

 

May’s book is “Takedown,” first published in 2006. It is just as topical as Thor’s other recent books and deals with post September 11th terrorism action in New York City. In a horrifying glimpse of the future, bridges as well as tunnels are blown up at the beginning of the book and the resulting action places the President’s daughter in danger.

 

But, are the explosions and destruction a smokescreen for something else? Something even more devastating to our nation’s security than what has already occurred?

 

Yes, indeed. And, unfortunately, quite believable.

 

Foreign soldiers are in the streets and are looking for one of their own, having created the chaos of a burning, crippled New York in order to paralyze any opposition. But the man is so feared that the US government will not admit that he even exists, let alone that he is being held somewhere. The plot is scary enough to give the reader chills and instill a sincere wish that none of this nightmarish scenario ever comes to pass in the USA.

 

Scot Harvath is well written, with some depth and a sense of humanity despite the gravity of his tasks. We experience moments of his deep commitment and never question his patriotism as the drama unfolds.

 

There are multiple bad guys – believable in that they are multi-dimensional – the worst one (a really nasty type) has dogs that he loves and treats tenderly.

 

As in many thrillers, there is a suspension of disbelief while the reader goes along for the ride, but the practicality of one of the action sequences seemed off to my New York City pals. Secret Service agents must get the dying daughter to a hospital. In actual fact, driving a car along the sidewalks of Manhattan to avoid grid-lock traffic doesn’t really work. During the day on most streets, the sidewalks are blocked with potted trees and restaurant awnings and litter baskets and fruit stands and flower stands, etc. and are just too narrow for a car to make any headway. And, if mass transit shuts down, the people spill onto those very sidewalks while they try to get home. “Never gonna happen,” was one comment, even though New Yorkers would like it to.

 

Aside from that, Thor gets the feel of the city exactly right, with its complex maze of office buildings, side streets, subway stairwells, alleys, parks, garages, et al as the background for Harvath’s chase.

 

Be prepared to re-examine the anger of the post 9/11 world in this intense novel, which does include torture scenes. Terrible choices must be made throughout the book, and sometimes the lines are blurred between good and evil. Thor makes the case so well, that taken in the post-9/11 context, we never doubt for a moment that it’s necessary.

 

If you’d like to catch up with the Thor 2013 reading plan, here are the books in order:

January’s Book: The Lions Of Lucerne
February’s Book: Path Of The Assassin
March’s Book: State Of The Union
April’s Book: Blowback
May’s Book: Takedown
June’s Book: The First Commandment
July’s Book: The Last Patriot
August’s Book: The Apostle
September’s Book: Foreign Influence
October’s Book: The Athena Project
November’s Book: Full Black
December’s Book: Black List

 

Please visit www.bradthor.com to read about the other titles in the series, as well as the new release coming in July, “Act of War.”

 

 

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“The 13th Hour” by Richard Doetsch

 

Book Cover - The 13th Hour2

 

Have you ever been so angry that you stormed out of the room, tied up in knots with feelings of hurt and frustration? When you had a chance to cool off, did you wish that you could take back what you had said – redo the last ten minutes? Regrets are often shared at funerals about the ‘if only’ moments: “If only I had gone along with her, if only I had agreed…"

 

But, what if the person you were fighting with is found murdered just a few hours later? Your fingerprints are on the murder weapon found in your car, but you didn’t do it? Nick Quinn is in jail for killing his wife. But is Julia really dead?

 

In an inventive method of storytelling, Richard Doetsch begins “The 13th Hour” at chapter 12 and works backwards. A mysterious man visits Quinn in jail and offers him the opportunity to find his wife’s killer and inexplicably, stop her from being murdered, to make the murder disappear as if it never occurred. The catch? Quinn only has twelve hours to solve the puzzles thrown at him. At the end of each hour, the clock will restart, taking him back to an hour earlier. Each decision he makes will change the future for everyone with whom he comes in contact. And, he will give anything, do anything, to have his wife back at his side.

 

The twists and turns that occur as the future/past is rewritten are surprising and make for an extremely clever plot. Nick discovers things about his wife and best friend/neighbor he did not know in the past and begins to wish hadn’t been revealed in the now. Interesting supporting characters’ lives are shifted in sometimes chilling ways and nobody is as honest as they first appear.

 

Doetsch also tells the story of the people affected by the reverse time travel, so that we see how each of them handles their alternate reality, but our fast-thinking hero is the only one who knows what is happening all the time. We think that we know the ending, because that’s how the book started, but that would be too easy. There are some nasty villains, a devastating plane crash that factors into the twelve hours of choices, a heart-breaking deception, unexpected intrigue, and a theft that made me wonder what could possibly happen next? What else could possibly go wrong for this likeable, desperate man? “The 13th Hour” kept me going as each new wrinkle was disclosed, right until the last page. Great read!

 

Doetsch’s most recent novel, “Thieves of Legend,” (the fourth in the Michael St. Pierre series) is also an action-packed thriller, with unwilling thieves as the protagonists.

 

For more information about Richard Doetsch’s fascinating life off the page, his bestselling books, and future projects, visit www.richarddoetsch.com

 

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“Buried Secrets” by Joseph Finder

Book Cover - Buried Secrets

What’s the definition of a 5-star book? “Buried Secrets,” by Joseph Finder. Totally, slam-dunk, 5-star thriller!

 

Ratings can be subjective, but I think everyone would agree that certain elements are apparent in each reader’s choice for a 5-star book, whatever the genre.

 

5-star books have characters so compelling that it’s impossible to forget them. Nick Heller is a former intelligence officer with Special Forces background. Heller is excellent at uncovering secrets, is loyal to his family and friends and has an ache in his heart for an old FBI flame. He has a secretary who can hack into anything and contacts going way back. And a look that you defy at your own peril. Even Heller is not always immune to ‘the look.’ A family friend, evasive billionaire Marshall Marcus, asks for Nick’s help when his daughter, Alexa, is kidnapped. Alexa is a troubled, intelligent teenager with an earlier kidnapping experience that colors her fear of small spaces. This time, she has been buried alive with limited food and water. Finder has drawn Alexa so well that I felt her terror as she pushed against the coffin, as she tried to stay calm and lost it, as she pleaded for release, as she screamed.

 

5-star books can’t be put down until the last word is read. I carried “Buried Secrets” everywhere. I read it while waiting in line, while eating. I just couldn’t abandon Heller while he dealt with the constantly lying father, the rule conscious FBI, the sick kidnappers, the layers of secrets, the pulse-pounding race against time.

 

A 5-star book makes me want to buy the author’s next book or backlist titles right away. I purchased “Vanished,” the first Nick Heller novel, the day after I finished “Buried Secrets.” Joseph Finder has several award winning novels to his name, as well as “High Crimes,” upon which the Freeman/Judd movie of the same name was based. I’m going to read them all.

 

A 5-star book pushes ‘tell-all’ buttons. I wanted to tell everyone about it. I gushed about compelling characterization and riveting storylines, achieved realistically.

 

A 5-star book is saved, whether on an e-reader or in hardcover, so that it can be relished, studied and enjoyed again. My copy is a hardcover edition. Terrific thriller!

 

For more information about Joseph Finder and his work, visit www.josephfinder.com

 

"Buried Secrets" won the Strand Critics Award for Best Novel.

 

 

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