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July 26, 2021

Thrillers for Summer Reading

by MK French

While summer reading is usually dominated by romance and feel good novels, sometimes you need to take a break from the sunshine and delve into a more intense read. Thrillers can be a great counterbalance, and today, I review 3 different kinds of thrillers. One didn't really work for me, but it might be something you will like.

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Steel Fear by Brandon Webb and John David Mann

Steal Fear
July 2021; Bantam; 978-0593356289
audio, ebook, print (464); military thriller

Something strange is happening on the USS Abraham Lincoln, but the crew members think the serial killer on board has to be Navy SEAL sniper Finn, who is the newcomer that's being sent home in disgrace. Finn has gaps in his memory, so finding the killer may prove to be his redemption.

It isn't necessary to know a lot about military protocols or acronyms. It's all laid out in the text as the story progresses. The POV shifts around, and the choppy sentence structure at times heightened tension at the start of the book, making conversations into battle salvos. Finn has no concept of empathy and is self-aware of this. He has intelligence networks and allies, not friends, and going onto the ship without Intel is a problem. The ship crew also has no idea why he's there, and morale was already bad to start with.

We have several main characters that we follow along the way, each with their own agenda. Finn has large chunks of his memory missing due to trauma, which the ship psychologist tries to dig into. Others are just wary of his presence, thinking it's a special investigation into their operations; the captain especially is interested in furthering his career, and the people on the ship are all means to an end. When the bodies start showing up and the captain is hesitant to do much about it, several senior crew investigate on their own, and Finn is roped into it to be another set of eyes and ears. This is at times a positive and a negative for him, especially with some of said staff are sure he's the culprit.

It's a tautly written thriller, with some aspects of characters and plot that have to be paid attention to and inferred from what people said earlier in the novel. As with every good thriller, it's all about the details, and there are quite a few here. This looks to be the start of a series and based on the excerpt included in the book, they're all going to be just as intense to read.

Buy Steal Fear at Amazon

Faithless by Steven Ramirez

May 2021; Glass Highway; 978-1949108125
ebook, print (384 pages); technothriller

Jane's last memory before waking up on a slab was dying in Afghanistan. She can now heal when shot at or injured but has a terrible fever without an experimental drug given to her. She wants to figure out her true identity, and why she was experimented on in the first place.

From the punchy opening to the end of this novel, it's a rollercoaster ride of a thriller, rather like Steven Ramirez's other novels. It's an amazing and cinematic opening to the novel, with Jane in Afghanistan until she dies, wakes up in the lab, searching for clothes and weaponry, then fighting her way out of the building when so many of the scientists are bloodied messes. From there, it's almost nonstop action; the lulls are moments of character growth, so that Jane starts off saying she has no emotional attachments to anyone, then forms attachments fairly quickly to the people she falls in with. She also realizes that she can't operate alone anymore.

We reach a satisfying conclusion, but there is a distinct hook for a sequel. Jane got to her initial goals despite losses, and she has people backing her up for the future. It'll be an interesting ride in the sequel.

Buy Faithless at Amazon

The Unknown Man by Natalie Hanson

The Unknown Man
May 2021; ebook (213 pages); thriller

Zalla is an FBI agent whose career and marriage aren't going well. Her ability to sense lies used to help her with her job, and she's currently assigned to the kidnapping of an informant's twin girls. There are no clues, leaving others to call it the work of the Unknown Man.

Zalla starts off noting her bodily asymmetry before going in to interview the CI at her boss' insistence. Her boss essentially is blackmailing her into leading the case and knows that she is going through a rough patch with her husband, as well as that her husband needs Zalla's insurance to treat his cancer. Zalla also mentions having solved eleven cases with her boss; if she's worked there seventeen years, that number seems really low. I'm starting off the book with a sinking sensation because this is supposed to be a thriller and I'm too distracted by how unprofessional they are in the first chapter. The relationship with her husband is stilted, as befitting a troubled marriage, but Zalla has the same response with everyone else she meets. I have a hard time believing that Jessica would want to rekindle a relationship with her that badly to jeopardize her career and blackmail her with it.

I have a hard time liking any of the characters in this, and there are some typos scattered through the text that are also distracting. (ex: rouge instead of rogue, did't instead of didn't) Compared to other thrillers, there doesn't seem to be a lot of tension in the kidnapping case, and there are more asides with characters musing about others' behavior or motivations. It doesn't help me get to know them any better or like them. I kept pushing myself to read more of it to see if that would get any better, but it was a really unpleasant read for me.

Buy The Unknown Man at Amazon

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  1. I like a good thriller. Have been reading lots of them lately too. Thanks for recs! ,

  2. Awesome list!! I need to check some of these out ASAP!