book reviews

4 Great Thrillers, 1 Miss

I found some amazing thrillers/mysteries these past few months. All of these are from authors I’m familiar with and they didn’t disappoint:

  1. Fast Ice–Kurt Austin is a hard-driving justice-seeking guy who doesn’t like bad guys who want to destroy the planet
  2. Angle of Attack–Zeta agents track a terrorist with weapons-grade plutonium through the Formula 1 European tour
  3. Shadow of the Dragon–Jack Ryan and his son must save the world–par for this series
  4. Dark Sky–Joe Pickett gets dragged into another task–by the Governor–that he wants no part of but almost kills him
  5. The Cellist--good story from an excellent writer with too much intrusive and unnecessary politics–I’m done reading this author
–received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review, except The Cellist–that was from the library
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

Fast Ice

by Clive Cussler and Graham Brown

5/5

Fast Ice (GP Putnam and Sons 2021) is written in the style of Clive Cussler by his ghost writer, Graham Brown. A NUMA Files story, Kurt Austin and his NUMA team are pitted against a billionaire intent on causing a Snowball Earth worse than the one 650 million years ago during the Cryogenian period–all to save the planet from destructive humans. But he’s tricky enough to hide his plans behind lies and deceit that to the uninitiated, make him look the opposite of what he is. It starts when a scientist in the Antarctica disappears and Austin is tasked with finding out what happened. After considerable effort and a few battles, he begins to unravel the truth. The problem is, he still must figure out how to stop the billionaire before he finishes. And he’s almost done.

If you worried about global cooling in the 1970s, you’ll love Fast Ice but this time, our planet is not cooling incrementally but instantaneously.

The voice of this book while not the same as the master (Clive Cussler) is just as good. Dialogue is snappy with enough humor to make it even more interesting. Narrative is quick and important. Pacing is perfect with no wasted words. If you like science based thrillers, you’ll love this entire series and definitely want to read this one. I think it’s the best yet.


Angle of Attack

by Leo Mahoney

4/5

Leo Mahoney’s latest in the Alex Morgan series, Angle of Attack (Lyrical Press 2021) starts with all the action you can handle as Alex Morgan and her partner Lily Randall rescue a kidnapped American scientist from the depths of Iran. After this successful mission, Alex is supposed to get a break but the next job can’t wait. This one takes her undercover as the friend of a girlfriend (her partner, Lily) who herself is the girlfriend of billionaire Scott Renard whose car is entered in the races. They will follow the tour around the world to catch a terrorist and a missing supply of weapons-grade plutonium.

Alex and Lily are tough, talented, beautiful, and often underestimated. Where some might worry when faced with a hopeless battle, Alex and Lily figure out to how to win. I like strong females who don’t melt in the face of danger. I’ve found it in this Mahoney series.


Shadow of the Dragon

by Tom Clancy and Marc Cameron

4/5

In Shadow of the Dragon, the twentieth in the Jack Ryan series, President Jack Ryan has his hands full. There’s a missing Chinese scientist America is accused of kidnapping. Strange noises are heard under the Arctic ice that may or may not be a disabled Chinese submarine. There’s a mole in the US Intelligence community. And, President Ryan’s son, Jack, is right in the middle of all of this. How the team unravels this many problems without breaking their metaphorical Rubric’s Cube is why we-all keep reading these books.

Make no mistake. I love this series and have read all of the books, some with a bit less enthusiasm than others, but their cleverness, twisted plots, and intellectual gravitas never fails to entertain. Tom Clancy’s ghost writer, Marc Cameron, is excellent. He knows Clancy’s voice well and delivers it perfectly but here’s why I gave this particular book 4 instead of 5 stars. Cameron adds so much background information, pretty close to data dumps, that I often lose track of the passion and action. I don’t want to do that. The plots–all five or ten of them–are riveting, intricate, and devious. I want to turn the page and find out what happens, not enter into the backstory of a new or returning character. Sometimes, by the time Cameron returns to where the plot left me hanging (a submarine is stranded below the Arctic ocean, a crewmember who could rescue them is freezing to death on an ice flow, the girl that might solve a world dilemma is being attacked), I;ve lost my passion for what was happening. That might just be me. Others might be fine with that.

None of that takes away from the great lines always found in Clancy books:

“Petty Officer Ward’s demeanor was relaxed—because calm was contagious…”

“Their hunches were basically weaponized with mathematical formulas…”

“Clark had what Ding called “old-man strength,” which was really not strength at all, but cunning and pure meanness in the face of battle.”

Overall, an excellent read with a ton of detail. Recommended for fans of Tom Clancy, James Michener, and the like.


Dark Sky

by C.J. Box

5/5

In this 21st book of C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series, Dark Sky (G.P. Putnam 2021), Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett is hornswoggled into taking the owner of a Facebook-like social media platform on an elk hunt so he can experience the wild outdoors. Joe would have skipped this but his love-hate with the Wyoming governor makes it clear if he refuses, he’ll probably lose his job. And, if he fails to show this wanna-be outdoorsman a successful hunt would be another reason Joe loses his job. What starts as simply an annoying task quickly turns into a dangerous one when one of the thousands of users of Price’s platform decides to kill him because he blames him for a personal tragedy. Joe and Price end up fleeing for their lives and become stranded in the wild with no food, no weapons, and clothing inadequate to the approaching snow storm. Thankfully, Joe’s wife contacts Nate Romanowski, former special forces outdoorsman and a friend of Joe’s who will stop at nothing to save him. If you’ve read earlier stories that include Nate, you’ll realize that this is where the fun starts.

This is not only the next in the series, a well-paced story that never slows but probably one of the best so far. If you like survival stories about the great outdoors, you will love this one.


The Cellist

by Daniel Silva

3/5

I am a fanatical Gabriel Allon fan, the main character in Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. The Cellist (Harper 2021), #21 in the series, sounded no less riveting than I expected. Despite being promoted to a more management roll in Israeli intelligence, Allon continues to weave his cleverness through his agency’s work, this time to capture a reclusive terrorist with the assistance of a savant-like cellist Allon just happens to know. I love classical music–cellos are high on my list–so reveled in the discussion of famous classical pieces. The plot was as tight as previous stories, well drawn, never slow, and without the distractions into deep history some prior books have drifted into. It gained points in Silva’s tangential scenes spotlighting how the elite handled pandemic shutdowns, particularly the arts, but lost points when Silva joined the ranks of writers who feel they must inject politics into stories even where unnecessary, and always to slam the former US president. Frankly, I’m tired of it. I know Daniel Silva is married to a CNN talking head (so probably not a neutral observer) but really, half his audience falls on one side or the other of that political divide and all of his readers simply want a good story. When I read the reviews, the reviews who didn’t like it cited the same reasons I did though more aggressively at times.

Amazon ranks it 4/5, lower than usual but respectable, so I’d say if you don’t mind politics in your fiction, you’ll enjoy this book. Me, I’m in the market for a new favorite thriller author. Any suggestions?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.

82 thoughts on “4 Great Thrillers, 1 Miss

  1. Ooh, each and everyone of these caught my attention, except for maybe The Cellist. I’m probably the only reader in the world that didn’t get into this character. My husband loves him. I probably wouldn’t do too well with a story set on a hunting trip either:) Though the premise did intrigue me.
    Regarding, Wednesday’s question of a successful writer, do you think it’s having your stable of co or ghost writers?. Heh. Heh.
    Have a great one:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • These are all long-time well-considered thrillers. Some have changed as they no longer wrote their books, leaving that to trusted colleagues, and then others are nudging away from the writing that made them famous. Oh well. That leaves room for us new authors!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jacqui, superb reviews and as young was a huge Clive Cussler fan! Although not written by him I’m intrigued and will definitely take a look at this. I used to devour thriller books but I don’t read too many these days so no suggestions alas! Have a very great weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Old man strength,” I love it.

    I think I’ve read one NUMA novel before and would read again.

    Andrew Klavan writes great books that are sometimes thrillers/hard-boiled crime books, sometimes closer to paranormal ghost stories. My favorite thriller by him is Identity Man. Werewolf Cop is also really good. And the title says it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to read Cussler and Clancy all the time, but not so much lately. I liked Cussler better before he teamed up. I haven’t read any political commentary books, not one ever, though I have strong political opinions. I just don’t want to fill my life with it. It’s so stressful. I read for enjoyment. Thanks for the reviews!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I really appreciate your honest reviews, Jacqui. Many people would hesitate to comment on the political aspect. That’s how “cowed” most of us on the right have become. It is no longer okay to have an opinion if it isn’t a left-winged one. It should be okay for all of us to say what we think without being ostracized for having our own thoughts and politely speaking up now and then. I feel the same as you do about politics in a book. I want the story, not the politics of the day woven into it. If we can tell what a character’s political stripe is because of their actions, fine, but just as a commentary, I don’t want to read it in a novel.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I am fighting that feeling, Anneli. Those who know me will allow me to have my own opinion. Those who don’t, well, maybe that’s OK. I was gratified to read so many of the book’s reviews saying that the politics ruined the story, not so much because it was one side or the other but that it intruded on what was otherwise an excellent thriller. Many said what I’m saying, that they’re done reading Silva, even though he is an amazing author.

      Yep and yep–I don’t mind knowing a character’s politics by their action. I do mind being lectured to!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I enjoy a thriller from time to time, just so long as there’s not too much hardware – I’m not interested in what’s in the arsenal! Having said that, I was impressed by James Swallow’s ‘Exile’ when I read it last year. A used bookstore bargain and the second in a series – you don’t need to have read the first.

    Just reading what Susan says above, I enjoy Deon Meyer’s books as well. Tony Parks is another author who writes books set in Africa – you’ve probably come across him.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You’ve been reading a lot! I like historical politics and politics in fantasy/speculative settings, but I don’t like current politics in my books, from either side of the aisle’s POV. I read to escape, not to join a rant.

    I hope you have a fabulous September reading month!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well said. Yes, early politics is pretty interesting, how we got here from there. Now, it’s just nasty.

      I have some great indies on my list–one from Annika I just finished and another about a wandering wolf. I can’t wait to read both of them!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Jacqui – Clive Cussler’s books usually entice … and if I see one I’ll read it. Interesting to read Susan’s comment about Daniel Silva – and Deon Meyer … I’ll have to keep an eye open for them … one always learns something – but did note your comment.
    I’ve been watching the Jesse Stone movies … by Robert Parker … granted Tom Selleck portrays Jesse incredibly well – a good wind-down for me, but very interesting too as his character proves.
    Cheers – Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

    • Custer’s books are still wonderful even without his brilliant voice but not quite as clever. Still, I mostly read them when available.

      I love Robert Parker, and the Jesse Stone series was excellent. Selleck seemed to channel that part well.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Dear Jacqui,
    we have read “Fast Ice” and we read it to its end. It’s a book to read when you are waiting somewhere but we don’t see it as a masterpiece. We didn’t find it really exciting but entertaining.
    Thanks for reviewing these books we didn’t know except “Fast Ice”. We love your reviews 🙂
    All the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like clever science, something extrapolated from reality that makes me wonder if it could be true. Star Trek was like that. Fast Ice is definitely not a masterpiece. I probably wouldn’t remember it if I didn’t add it to my ‘read’ list on Goodreads! There is a big difference between entertaining and memorable, isn’t there?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for another great list of interesting books, Jacqui! Honestly, you own written books are definitely a wonderful read. I only have to get a little bit more vocabulary into my brain. For faster reading and starting reviews. Thanks again, and have a beautiful weekend! xx Michael

    Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for visiting, Jacqui! Yes, you found the new one. 😉 Sorry, commenting and liking would only be possible using WP.com’s Jetpack plugin. Just this is according to the German interpretation of the GDPR forbitten to use. Jetpack sends data to the USA, and dont declare what, how much and how often. So that I don’t have to get a warning from some of our very money needy lawyers, I unfortunately had to let that out. xx

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Also love Daniel Silva and I like some history and politics thrown into the mix! Thanks for the added detail about his wife being a CNN talking head. I’m getting to the end of Deon Meyer’s ‘The Last Hunt’ .. South African author. I’ve read a few of his. This one is spot on with the politics of our country, the state capture, assassinations … a bit too close to the wind. Not too much further to go, I wonder how the end of it will be. Hope there are not any loose ends or too hurriedly ended. His book ‘Fever’ 2016, is eerily close to the covid pandemic – and he says about the corona virus .. this was gripping. Have a lovely weekend 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

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