SPIES, ICY GRAVES, DEADLY DOCTORS AND TWO MILLION EUROS: NEW THRILLER READS FOR JUNE
From wartime Europe to Iceland in winter to a London hospital and a regional German airfield, this latest batch of thrillers covers a lot of ground and a diverse set of themes. All of them, however, are tense, exciting reads.
Readers with a fear of hospitals should not read this latest novel by Jack Jordan.
Do No Harm (Simon & Schuster, 1 June 2022) is taut, gripping thriller that gets off to compelling start with respected heart surgeon, and soon to be divorced mother, Anna Jones, coming home to find her son gone and her neighbour murdered. The men inside her home give her a very simple instruction:
“You must kill Ahmed Shabir on the operating table in two days’ time.
If you repeat this to anyone, your son will die. If you are at any point discovered during your assignment, your son will die. If you fail to kill the patient, your son will die in his place.”
Ahmed Shabir is the Labour MP for Redwood, with a very strong anti-drug trafficking stance, and rumoured to be the next Labour leader. His impending surgery has been kept very quiet. Feeling trapped, and with extensive surveillance measures in place, Anna feels that she has to comply, or at least pretend to.
Alternating the view point between Anna, the detective investigating the murder of Anna’s neighbour and a cardiac nurse in a perilous financial, Jordan keeps the tension at a high level as the story twists and turns its way to the exciting climax.
Do No Harm reminded me of Andrew Klavan’s Don’t Say A Word from several years back, but with the extra tension of Anna having to turn killer to save her son. As with the Klavan book, the short crisp chapters keep the story moving along at a good pace and there are some solid surprises. Some suspension of disbelief is required, but not enough to ruin what is a good thriller.
Steel Fear by Brandon Webb and John David Mann was one of my favourite thrillers of 2021 and I was very keen to read Cold Fear, which is set in Iceland in the middle of winter (Bantam, 7 June 2022).
The story follows the central character from Steel Fear, Navy SEAL sniper Finn, who is trying to track down some American operatives who may know what really happened on his last mission. Meanwhile the local police are investigating the strange death of a young woman who seems to have drowned after a late night swim beneath the ice in a park. The two events do not seem to have any connection, other than the fact that Finn was near the park where the girl drowned. But Finn gradually finds himself drawn into the girl’s death, just as the female detective investigating that case becomes caught up in Finn’s mission.
Steel Fear was essentially a murder mystery set on board an US aircraft carrier, with a bit of action thrown in. Cold Fear falls more clearly into the thriller camp, with a good sense of tension and suspense generated from the opening pages and more than the occasional burst of action. The bodies quickly mount up and the investigation into the death of the young woman has some good twists and surprises. As with the first book, there is also the overarching mystery of what really happened on Finn’s last mission and this drives much of the action. The two stories work well together and both move to a taut conclusion.
Webb and Mann are very good at maintaining a good pace, and they are adept at seamlessly weaving in fascinating background material. Finn’s outsider’s view of Iceland is interesting and evocative, and it is easy to become caught up in the story.
For me, this one of the best ‘action’ thrillers I have read so far this year and Webb and Mann are quickly establishing themselves as leading figures on the American thriller scene.
Here is a link to my review of Steel Fear from last year: LATE SEPTEMBER READING: TOUGH ACTION THRILLERS | Murder Mayhem and Long Dogs
In Airside (Welbeck, 1 June 2022) popular British author James Swallow deserts his usual series about MI6 spy Marc Dane for a different type of thriller and a very different type of hero.
Beleaguered British businessman Kevin Tyler is having a very bad day. After spending months setting up a deal to open an office in Northern Germany to manage a large project that will save his company, his partners renege on the agreement at the last moment when another party sweeps in with a better offer. Left high and dry, Tyler knows he is going home to bankruptcy and an uncertain future. And to add insult to injury, an overbooked flight sees him bumped off the last plane home, leaving him behind to wait out a storm until the next departure the following morning.
Stranded in the airside zone of a remote municipal airport, Kevin’s luck seems to have run out, until he stumbles upon a bag of money that could be the solution to all his woes. There’s just one problem – the money is part of a conspiracy of blackmail and murder, and those involved are willing to do anything to keep it.
Swallow takes a little while to set up his story and spends several chapters developing the character of Tyler, who has a lot of flaws and more than a few regrets. The pace picks up about a third of the way in and the rest of the book moves at a brisk rate with some good action set pieces. Some of it is predictable, but there are also unexpected deviations and the ending delivers the action and suspense expected in a thriller.
Some suspension of disbelief is needed, but overall this is a good fun read.
Michael Pert’s debut novel, Sandpiper (Shawline, May 2022), reminds me of those 1970s and 80s World War II thrillers by authors such as Jack Higgins, Ken Follett and John Harris.
Set across the length of World War II, Sandpiper is a nicely plotted ‘cat and mouse’ thriller about the efforts of British Intelligence to uncover a German spy whose activities are threatening Allied operations in France in the critical months leading up to D-Day. Ritter has survived undetected as a German agent in Britain since before the war, mainly feeding low level information back to Germany. When his prized asset, known as Sandpiper, comes across vital information Ritter knows that he has to alert his bosses. Meanwhile a pair of British agents, both scarred by earlier events in the war, make their way to France on a desperate mission.
This is a smoothly written and engaging war thriller that moves along at a good pace. Pert handles his large cast of characters well and the frequently shifting viewpoint adds well to the tension. Some trimming of the side-stories might have sharpened the focus of the plot, but overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable read that is enhanced by Pert’s convincingly limned backdrop of wartime intrigue and several poignant moments.
Fans of classic War World II spy thrillers will like this one!