Review of “The Terminal List” by Jack Carr

 

The Terminal List

Author:  Jack Carr (joint pseudonym)

Publication Date: March 2018

Publisher: First Emily Betsler Books / Atria Books

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8081-1

Agent: Alexandria Machinist

Source of Book: Borrowed from local library

Blurb:

On his last deployment as a Navy Seal, Lieutenant Commander James Reece’s entire team was killed in a catastrophic ambush that also claimed the lives of the aircrew sent in to rescue them. But when those dearest to him are murdered on the day of his homecoming, Reece discovers that this was not an act of war by a foreign enemy but a conspiracy that runs to the highest levels of his own government. They have taken everything from him. Now it’s his turn.

With nothing left to lose, Reece applies lessons learned in more than a decade of constant warfare toward avenging the death of his family and teammates. In a thriller told with breathless pacing and relentless suspense, Reece ruthlessly targets his enemies in Washington’s upper echelons without regard for the laws of combat or the rules of law.

Driven by the love of his family and country and an undying need for revenge, James Reece is on a one-man mission to confront the corruption of absolute power and those who would do anything to achieve it.

(Source of Blurb: inside dust cover)

Review:

This book is riveting. I enjoyed it from beginning to end. I highly recommend this debut novel. It is masterful.

While I find the ex-Navy Seal superhero main character is a little overused in today’s thriller market, this one is very well done. Steve Berry writes a blurb on the back of the dust cover “Double the trouble, twice the action, and quadruple the enjoyment. Careful while reading this, it could leave a mark.” Consider me marked. This tale of revenge and righteous violence struck a chord with me. I found it emotionally engaging, powerfully written, and surprising in its depth. I am not a  weapons or tactics expert, but I would guess Jack Carr has his weapons and tactics presented with the highest possible level of accuracy. His detail is astounding, but not at all overwhelming to this non-technical reader. Carr has a great story to tell here. It is sufficiently anchored in reality to frighten the reader. The story has enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and the suspense continues until the very last page.

My only criticism is a very tiny one. I found the bad guys a little bit too evil to be believable. Once you buy into the bad guys, however, there is a really clever, emotionally complex story.

I also posted this review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0

Link to Author’s Website:  https://officialjackcarr.com/

Purchase Link: https://www.amazon.com/Terminal-List-Thriller-Jack-Carr-ebook/dp/B074ZL7LY1/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=The+Terminal+list&qid=1550936793&s=gateway&sr=8-1

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Review of “The Korean Woman” by John Altman

 

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The “Korean Woman” is a very well-crafted 2019 thriller from John Altman. The plot revolves around the activation of a “sleeper” spy from North Korea. The “Korean Woman” is living a very contented life in New York City, having been married and is in the process of raising children. This is something of a domestic thriller, but not entirely. On the surface, this sounds like a very implausible plot, but Altman is very successful in developing this character and her motivation. If you are a reader looking for a strong female character, “The Korean woman” delivers. The strongest part of the story involves a chase by a group of Central Intelligence Agency spooks, using all sorts of high-tech equipment, but the spy manages to elude them using low-tech methods. I am reminded of an old movie, “Lonely are the Brave” in which a criminal is being pursued by the authorities with almost unlimited resources. In that movie, the viewer winds up rooting for the criminal. Altman takes this premise in a different direction, and does it very well. He has some pretty good twists up his sleeve along the way.

I was a little less impressed with the character development of the Central Intelligence Agency pursuers, however. They were not as well developed, particularly the character named Bach. I also was not a fan of the ending of the book, largely due to the undeveloped characters among the pursuers of “The Korean Woman.” I think this book could be a lot stronger with better development of the characters pursuing the spy.

If you enjoy a good chase scenario with a small taste of domestic thriller, this book will provide that for you.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from NetGalley.

Review of “A Man Called Intrepid” by William Stevenson

 

a man called intrepid

Author:   William Stevenson

Publication Date: 1976, 2014

Publisher:  Skyhorse Publishing

eISBN: 978-1-62914360-6

Source of Book: BookBub

Blurb:

The classic real-life story of the superspy whose vast intelligence network helped defeat the Nazis in World War II.

A Man Called Intrepid is the account of the world’s first integrated intelligence operation and of its master, William Stephenson (no relation to the author). Codenamed INTREPID by Winston Churchill, Stephenson was charged with establishing and running a vast, worldwide intelligence network to challenge the terrifying force of Nazi Germany. Nothing less than the fate of Britain and the free world hung in the balance as INTREPID covertly set about stalling the Nazis by any means necessary.

(Source of Blurb: Skyhorse Publishing)

Review:  This was an amazing book to read. A Man Called Intrepid proves that truth can be as exciting as fiction. I learned a great deal from this book that I hadn’t previously known. The book is really a series of true stories about operations run by Stephenson out of his headquarters in New York City. It brings light on some of the terrible decisions Churchill and Roosevelt had to make before and during World War II. I developed a greater appreciation of these giants as well as the numerous men and women who actually performed the operations described in this book. Many of them died at the hands of Nazi Germany, and many of those who lived received little or no recognition. The sacrifices these people made are awe-inspiring.

I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in World War II or espionage in general. For an aspiring writer, plotlines abound, interesting characters occur throughout, and magnificent stories of the conflicts inherent in espionage operations are well documented. The capture of the Enigma Machine and various related codebooks, the issues involved in the ill-fated, and infrequently discussed raid on Dieppe, and the exfiltration of Niels Bohr, and the raid on the Shell Building in Denmark are some of the particular operations that remain with me after reading “A Man Called Enigma”. It is a classic.

I obtained this book through a promotion on BookBub.

I posted this review in Goodreads and Amazon.

Rating: 4.8/5.0

Review of “The Other Woman” by Daniel Silva

“The Other Woman”, the 2018 effort by Daniel Silva, was one of the best espionage books I have read in recent years. Silva is at the top of his game and keeps improving as his Gabriel Allon series continues.

This story concerns Gabriel Allon, the spy, assassin, art restorer, and head of Israeli intelligence who learns of a highly placed mole from cold war days who has risen to a very high place in Western intelligence. Once again, it seems that Allon is the only person who can deal with the situation.

Although I felt the story was a bit contrived and somewhat preposterous, Daniel Silva makes it plausible, and provides a copious amount of research along the way, as well as some visits to exotic locales. This story held my attention from beginning to end, and I wound up reading it quickly. This is the sign of a great thriller. Silva uses short chapters and changing points of view to provide a very tight story that keeps the reader on edge throughout.

Gabriel Allon still reigns as my favorite thriller hero. His character is the best developed in this book which is to be expected. Whenever Allon speaks a line of dialog, his voice shines through, and you draw a picture of a capable, but somewhat cynical hero, who always wants to do the right thing but is not afraid to get his hands dirty or violate some set of rules.

My only gripes in this excellent book concern the minor characters. I may have had too high expectations here, since his other characters are not as well developed as I believe they have been in Silva’s previous books. One of my favorites, Julian Isherwood is not even present in this novel. The art world, which I have enjoyed reading about in Silva’s previous novels, has no role here. Christopher Keller, Silva’s assassin turned British agent is present, but strangely not given too much stage time and not as colorful as he has been in previous novels. The same goes for Allon’s usual fellow Israeli agents. They are present, but not really important or well constructed in this novel.

Please don’t let this last paragraph deter you from this novel, however. The fact that Silva is capable of making a truly preposterous premise seem very realistic is a testament to his storytelling skill. The fact that I was disappointed in the use of his secondary characters is a testament to the richness of the story world that he has created in his previous novels. I really wanted to see more of these secondary characters since I enjoyed spending time with them in previous novels.

Read this novel. You will not be disappointed.

I obtained a copy of this novel from my public library. I am a fan of Daniel Silva’s work, and I was anxious to read his latest effort. I also posted this review in Goodreads.

Review of “The Billion Dollar Spy” by David Hoffman

“The Billion Dollar Spy”  by David E. Hoffman, is a 2015 non-fiction account of what is known of Adolph Tolkachev, a highly productive spy for the United States. Tolkachev was an employee in the scientific community of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Until he was caught by the KGB, he delivered what was probably the most valuable information the CIA ever received about aviation and radar research and development activity in Moscow.  I enjoyed this well-written book immensely. It reads like a good thriller, and you cannot help becoming emotionally involved in the lives of the main characters. You are told early on that Tolkachev will not survive, but that knowledge did not spoil the book for me, but made it all the more tragic.

The book is non-fiction, based on archival research as well as interviews with some of the participants. It reads like a good thriller and was very difficult to put down. It captured the atmosphere of the Cold War, and portrayed the complexities and dangers of running a spy in Moscow during that time. It provides good background on what diplomats and CIA employees went through while being stationed in Moscow, and gives the reader a great appreciation of the difficulty and courage involved in this work. There is no glamour here. The stress involved in doing covert work in Moscow while under almost constant surveillance by the KGB is evident, as is the personal toll this work took on all concerned.

The largest personal toll was paid by the spy himself, Adolph Tolkachev, who wanted little more than to provide as much information as possible to the West that would do the maximum damage to the Soviet Union which he had grown to loathe. The bravery and obstinance of this complex man was evident throughout, and his willingness to continue providing the CIA information as the KGB’s net grew tighter around him is admirable, but difficult to comprehend. The life of a spy in Moscow in those times was certainly not a particularly good one. Tolkachev’s tragedy is made even more poignant knowing that he actually got little that was useful to him in return from the United States. He demanded large amounts of money, but was really not able to spend it. It seemed to be a form of scorekeeping to him, a measure of his personal worth. The value of the information he provided was far in excess of any benefits he may have received. The CIA was reluctant to provide him with even very simple rewards, like rock music for his son, since being found with such material not readily available in the Soviet Union would have opened him up to unwelcome scrutiny. The author hints, that many lives were saved in our conflicts in Iraq since the United States had vastly superior air power than Iraq. The Russian-provided technology used by Iraq was able to be defeated easily since the United States had extensive knowledge of weaknesses in Soviet aviation and radar largely due to information provided by Tolkachev.

I read this book to get a handle on realistic information on how the CIA operated in Moscow. Although much of the information is now outdated, the stresses, strains and personal tolls paid in the pursuit of actionable on-the-ground intelligence are well presented in this outstanding work. Real spying work involves long and tedious surveillance detection runs, and reading in closets to avoid the scrutiny of any planted video cameras. The presence of deep personal tragedy runs throughout. The wrenching ethical decisions of balancing the demands for more information against the personal risk taken by the provider of that information are clear here. These are tough decisions.

I purchased this book at the “Mysterious Bookstore” in New York during my visit there to attend Thrillerfest. It was well worth the purchase.

I also posted this in Goodreads.

Review of “The President is Missing” by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

 

I wanted to dislike “The President is Missing” by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. After all, a cynic might say that a book co-written by an ex-president and one of the country’s most commercially successful and prolific novelists might be an easy means to cash in on their respective successes. I felt this book would be a huge best-seller no matter what it contained, but most likely would not live up to the book’s promise.  I have to admit I was completely wrong about this book. This was a really interesting read, and although I found it a bit tedious at times, I thoroughly enjoyed its conclusion. The last third of the book held my attention like a good thriller should. The authors combined the intimate knowledge of the Presidency that only an ex-president would have, with the superb writing craft of a best-selling author. It worked! “The President is Missing” will be a best seller, and it deserves it on its own, not just on the prior accomplishments of its coauthors.

The book starts when the president decides he is the only one who can stop an immediate crisis. The premise sounds far-fetched, but Clinton and Patterson pull it off. It is very believable. The book is largely written from the first person point of view of the president of the United States, facing congressional hearings, personal issues, and an unfriendly political landscape. I found the first few chapters, dealing with the machination of congressional hearings, to be completely riveting, with the voice of an ex-president who is familiar with the process coming through loud and clear. The first few chapters were, in my opinion, the strongest part of the book. The middle of the book moved very slowly for me, but the conclusion held my attention to the very last page. I look forward to another installment in the collaborative effort of Clinton and Patterson.

The book has a few weaknesses, in my opinion, but none that should discourage a potential reader from investing some time into “The President is Missing”. I felt the characters could have been developed more fully. The character of the president is the most fully developed, as I would have expected.  Perhaps one might criticize this character as being a little too saint-like. The characters who surrounded the president could have been a lot richer. Even the bad guys in this book could have been fleshed out a little more. My major criticism of the book was that it was a bit preachy, with the president prone to long speeches that detracted a little bit from the plot. I guess ex-presidents can do that and get away with it. Clinton and Patterson certainly got away with it. The preaching did not detract from my enjoyment at all.

I obtained this 2018 book as a gift from a family member. I also posted a copy of this review in Goodreads.

 

 

Review of “Bloody Sunday” by Ben Coes

“Bloody Sunday”, by Ben Coes is a very well-written 2018 thriller about a superhero, Dewey Andreas, who is tasked with trying to assassinate a top general in the North Korean military. In the middle of this operation, the hero manages to inject himself with some of the poison intended for his target. This starts a ticking clock scenario.

This was the first book by Ben Coes that I read. Coes’ protagonist, is an interesting character: a CIA operative who seems to have an unlimited level of endurance and resilience. He is also very slightly flawed. He drinks too much, and he even manages to inject himself with poison during a very unlikely operation against a North Korean general. Things get even crazier after that. Dewey Andreas does the impossible in just about every chapter. He even makes periodic quips when he is in the middle of an operation. I have seen other authors try this, but Coes does it very well. The author layers a very clever sense of humor throughout this novel. Beginning with his backstory in which the author summarizes some of Dewey Andreas’ prior exploits in a few short paragraphs, the reader gets an idea as to what to expect. To me, the backstory came off as slightly unbelievable and somewhat humorous. I believe the author intended this atmosphere of light humor throughout the novel. I found that to be the best part of the novel. It is a lot more clever than just non-stop action.  Coes  writes excellent non-stop action, however, and if non-stop action is your thing, “Bloody Sunday” will make you very happy. If you approach “Bloody Sunday” as fantasy and a fun thrill-ride, you will enjoy this book very much. Dewey Andreas is a little too capable for my taste, but his adventures make great fantasy.

I believe a reader would enjoy this novel more if they had read some earlier entries in the Dewey Andreas series. Also, I was wondering about Dewey Andreas’ drinking. It seemed heavy to me and it didn’t really seem to have much to do with the plot, at least in this novel. His drinking certainly didn’t interfere with his combat skills. There was also a subplot about a strong female character in “Bloody Sunday” that seems to lead into the next book. I usually view lead-ins like this as an unpleasant but frequently used marketing technique to generate interest in the next book. I understand the need to do this, but I felt this particular subplot did not add much to this story and did not pique my interest for the next novel. My criticisms are small, however, and a reader looking for a fun thrill-ride with a very effective ticking clock with an overlay of light humor will thoroughly enjoy “Bloody Sunday”.

I read this as the result of a NetGalley offer. I will place a version of this review in NetGalley and Goodreads.