Cyber Warfare, Classic Heroes, and International Crises

in Thrillers by

Jon Land is back in action giving you his top picks for November in all things thrilling and suspense. This month’s picks feature some classic heroes, cyber warfare, and timely crises at an international scale. Don’t miss out on any of his top seven thriller selections to pick up while you’re sitting around over the holiday drowsy with Thanksgiving food.

Lee Child is at his best in Past Tense (Delacorte), as is his seminal series hero Jack Reacher. 

Reacher isn’t looking for trouble when he steps off a bus in Laconia, New Hampshire. The town happens to be the birthplace of his father and his intentions go no deeper than simply wanting to learn more about Stan Reacher’s upbringing. Before you know it, the dark knight in not-so-shiny armor is mixing it up alternately with a mob and local strongmen, even as he happens upon the kind of sinister criminal plot he so revels in demolishing.

Past Tense contains all the ingredients that make this unquestionably the finest thriller series going today and one of the best ever. The nomadic Reacher is this era’s James Bond, suitably rough around the edges and always there when some sliver of the country needs him. Exceptional storytelling in all respects.

Speaking of exceptional storytelling, and Jack Reacher, David Baldacci may well have created Reacher’s female counterpart in Atlee Pine, an FBI agent with an especially haunted past, who visits demons both new and old in Long Road to Mercy (Grand Central).

But don’t let the fact that she’s with the FBI fool you; Atlee is no stranger to doing whatever it takes to see justice done, a penchant rooted in the kidnapping that stole both her innocence and twin sister from her. In that respect, the book’s Grand Canyon setting becomes an appropriate metaphor for the emptiness of her own soul as she takes up a case in which a murderous present collides with her tortured past in the form of a purportedly missing tourist.

The versatile Baldacci pulls no punches in crafting a thriller in which Atlee’s pain and angst evoke a keen comparison to James Lee Burke’s brilliant Dave Robicheaux as well. Riveting, relentless, and impossible to put down.

But don’t let the fact that she’s with the FBI fool you; Atlee is no stranger to doing whatever it takes to see justice done, a penchant rooted in the kidnapping that stole both her innocence and twin sister from her. In that respect, the book’s Grand Canyon setting becomes an appropriate metaphor for the emptiness of her own soul as she takes up a case in which a murderous present collides with her tortured past in the form of a purportedly missing tourist.

The versatile Baldacci pulls no punches in crafting a thriller in which Atlee’s pain and angst evoke a keen comparison to James Lee Burke’s brilliant Dave Robicheaux as well. Riveting, relentless, and impossible to put down.

On the subject of seminal series heroes, Anthony Horowitz recaptures the original spirit of James Bond as conjured by creator Ian Fleming in Forever and a Day (Harper Collins).

Having grown up on the original books and early films featuring Sean Connery, reading this prequel to Bond’s original debut in Casino Royale made me feel the same way I did upon meeting Goldfinger and Oddjob as a kid. Bond may not even have earned his 007 moniker yet, but the story is chock-full of the series staples that make the current films pale by comparison. Dastardly villains, a sinister plot, beautiful women, a few gadgets and Bond as the ruthless killer Fleming originally conceived.

Reading Forever and a Day establishes in nostalgic fashion the template that spawned the likes of Reacher and Atlee Pine. But this is a superb period piece and exceptional spy novel from the school of John le Carre and Len Deighton as well in its own right.

 

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the great Frederick Forsyth, whose iconic stature sets the bar incredibly high for The Fox (Putnam). The author of The Day of the Jackal doesn’t disappoint, and also adds contemporary color to the Cold War era classics that defined him.

Such contemporary color comes courtesy of a British teenage computer hacker who has apparently penetrated the most secure systems of the Western world, including the U.S. That, of course, make him the quarry of both Cold War-esque villains and British secret agent Adrian Webster, who sees in the young man the opportunity to take down the relentless enemies of the West once and for all.

The moral dilemma that this conflict creates is the driving force behind The Fox which adds a sense of irony and pathos to Forsyth’s superb style sheet. He hasn’t invented a new formula so much as tweaked an old one and the result is a solid success defined by pitch-perfect storytelling.

Retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata’s superb Dark Winter (Kensington) makes for an excellent, albeit far more action-oriented, companion to The Fox.

That’s because the Mahegan here, too, is computer hacking. That said, the approach is far more direct and adversarial, implementing an all-out attack that targets America’s missile systems as well as power grids. It’s left to series stalwart Jake Mahegan and company to take up the hunt for the perpetrators and prevent Doomsday by short-circuiting the ultimate in villainous plots.

Dark Winter is this generation’s Fail Safe, at once both prescient and cautionary, and made all the more terrifying by Tata’s up-close and personal view of real-life threat assessments and war rooms. Brad Taylor and Brad Thor may be his equals when it comes to pure action and plotting, but neither has ever crafted the kind of contemporary classic that promises to endure well beyond its literary lifespan.

Computers play a role as well in The Guilty Dead (Crooked Lane), though technology takes a backseat to old-fashioned investigative efforts in this superb crime thriller from P.J. Tracy.

The apparent suicide of a mega-successful Minneapolis businessman Gregory Norwood on the anniversary of his son’s equally untimely passing leaves a pair of much seasoned and jaded detectives suspecting murder. Their investigation turns up not only evidence to that fact, but also a number of other suspicious deaths suggesting something, and someone, far more nefarious is at large with more lives hanging in the balance.

The Guilty Dead is crime writing at its level best and a psychological thriller extraordinaire. Reminiscent of John Sandford’s superb Lucas Davenport and Michael Connelly’s sensational Harry Bosch series in all the right ways, and a must for all genre aficionados.

Gary Grossman’s electrifying Executive Force (Diversion) doesn’t rely nearly as much on technology for its plot points, substituting bullets for bytes.

The focus here is on a massive terror campaign from within that makes liberal use of assassination in paralyzing the country in a grip of fear. It’s left to Secret Service agent Scott Roarke to sift through the maelstrom in search of the reactionary leaders of the plot, culled from the new polarized atmosphere in which America finds itself.

That may cut a little too close to the truth for some brow-beaten psyches, but no more than James Grady’s period-perfect Six Days of the Condor in the wake of Watergate. This is a cautionary tale, not so much ripped from the headlines as conceivably foretelling them. A political thriller of the highest order cut from the cloth of Alan Drury and Richard Condon.

Jon Land is the bestselling author over 25 novels. He graduated from Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude and continues his association with Brown as an alumni advisor. Jon often bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research as well as a twenty-five year career in martial arts. He is an associate member of the US Special Forces and frequently volunteers in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing. Jon is the Vice-President of marketing of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and is often asked to speak on topics regarding writing and research. In addition to writing suspense/thrillers Jon is also a screenwriter with his first film credit coming in 2005. Jon works with many industry professionals and has garnered the respect and friendship of many author-colleagues. He loves storytelling in all its forms. Jon currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island and loves hearing from his readers and aspiring writers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

Go to Top