Rising Tiger (Scot Harvath #21), by Brad Thor

Eight stars

When it comes to novels in the thriller genre, one need look no further than Brad Thor. Always keen to pluck out some struggle on the international scene, Thor proves insightful and highly entertaining as he presents his novels in a no holds barred manner. Pushing away from the over-flogged Russia and ISIS angles, Thor turns to China and India as new domains, where democracy and international safety hang in the balance. With operative Scot Harvath on the scene, the reader can be assured of something intense and full of action. Another Thor winner, sure to keep series fans quite content.

After a US operative is killed in India, the Americans are not ready to turn the other cheek, but must retaliate with some subtlety. Sending Scot Harvath into the region seems the most propitious way to handle things, though it will require much coordination to ensure things go smoothly. Harvath has not spent much time in India, but is ready for a new and difficult challenge.

After arriving in country, Harvath is paired up with a rugged former cop, whose job is not only to show him around, but also help tease out information from locals who may not be as happy to speak with a westerner. Harvath and his host learn a little more about the Indian underworld, in hopes of targeting a gangster who is said to have ruthless ways of dealing with his enemies. Harvath sets his sights on the man and hopes that a little cat and mouse play will lead to a quick capture, or extermination.

All the while, China is raising the stakes with a new and terrifying weapon. Using members of the Indian Army as test subjects, the Chinese hope to create new wave technology, blasting their enemies into submission, while doing a number on physiological aspects of the body as well. Harvath knows all too well what threat the Chinese hold and is sure that this is only the beginning. Working to catch a killer is but one aspect of the mission, but Scot Harvath cannot do it alone. He will need the help of a few locals to harness learning the ropes in a country whose rulebook differs greatly from American covert operations. Thor does a masterful job with this novel to keep the story fresh and the angles sharp.

While series fans have seen a great deal of transformation in Scot Harvath and the stories, there is something familiar with this piece that ties it all together. Well-paced and full of action, Thor painters a picture of a new 21st century threat and how conventional means will not work to solve the problem. Brad Thor is an author like no other, leaving the reader to dazzle in his abilities throughout this high-octane piece.

The world of espionage and covert operations requires constant tweaking to remain relevant without getting too technical. The reader needs to feel as though they are in the middle of the action, but also understand what is going on around them. Brad Thor’s narrative pace is such that things are ever-evolving, but at least not to the point that the reader feels left behind. A handful of returning characters help connect this piece to many of the others, while new faces help add a flavouring not seen in past Harvath novels. There is great character development, such that I want to know more about some of the newcomers, which I hope means they will be back soon. Plot twists emerge throughout, but things stay relatively true to current goings-on in the world, allowing the reader to feel as though they are part of the current international operative network and can trade the threats presented as real and potential in the coming years. I am eager to see how much more Scot Harvath has left in him, though am not tiring of his presence or how Brad Thor is developing the series.

Kudos, Mr. Thor, for another winner in this collection of intense novels. I wait to see what’s next in your arsenal and trust you will dazzle once more.

Black Ice (Scot Harvath #20), by Brad Thor

Eight stars

It’s always a pleasure to read Brad Thor’s novels and what he’s done with his protagonist, Scot Harvath. There is never a lack of action or thrills woven into a story that has political implications. While Harvath has been pushed to the brink over the last few years, he’s come to find the solace he so desperately deserves. Spending time in Norway with a new romantic interest, Harvath is enjoying the quieter life as best he can. However, when he sees a man he was sure he’d killed, Harvath can only surmise that trouble is on the way. Little does he know just how heated things will get in Norway and the Arctic region before too long, thrusting him into the middle of an operation like no other. A riveting piece by a master of the genre!

Scot Harvath is finally able to spend some downtime, after a horrible few years. Tucking himself away in Norway with his girlfriend, Sølvi, Harvath is able to enjoy a vacation for once in his life. What could be better than this bucolic region of the world, with no cares to drag him back into the fight?

While out one day, Harvath cannot help but do a double take, as he sees a man he is sure was dead. What’s worse, this man is no ordinary individual, but a Chinese operative with a penchant for sinister things. Harvath will have to make a decision: ignore it and enjoy his life or alert the Americans and perhaps be thrust into the middle of a manhunt.

As the story progresses, Harvath agrees to work with some of his colleagues to determine what’s going on in Norway and how it an be halted. It would seem that the Arctic region has become part of a larger plan for both the Chinese and the Russians. Melting ice has left the region open for exploration, as well as hidden nuclear technologies. Wait too long and these two countries will have powers that cannot be stopped. Strike too soon and it could scare them away, only to re-emerge elsewhere. It will be a race against the clock, as Harvath works once again to protect the world from the powers of evil. Thor does a masterful job at keeping the story fresh and the reader fully engaged.

I have long come to enjoy the release of anything that includes Scot Harvath, as the entertainment value is usually quite high. This is no exception, mixing the grit of the man’s past with some of the softer sides to him, rarely seen in novels. That there is a new race and technological issue proves useful as well, allowing the reader to feel rejuvenated with something not seen before, rather than the same old thing once again.

Scot Harvath proves to be a wonderful protagonist yet again, pursuing things to the brink and keeping the reader on their toes. There are two sides to the man that emerge, something that series fans may not be used to seeing regularly. His softer side is sobering, though it is unfortunately short lived. Grit and determination fuel him throughout this piece, leaving the reader to see the man who has earned every one of his scars.

As with many of the novels in this series, there is a handful of key supporting characters whose presence only adds to the piece. Be it with needed banter or added grit, these individuals add depth to the story and keep Harvath on his toes. The obvious inclusion of a few nemeses for Harvath adds a darker side to things, though it is by no means troublesome. In fact, without them, the story would likely fall flat.

Brad Thor has proven to be adept at crafting these sorts of stories with ease, pushing the reader to the brink as the try to keep pace. The ideas are unique and separate themselves from many of the usual plots that emerge in stories of this nature, allowing the reader to wonder how much could actually occur in today’s world. With a narrative that pushes things along well and chapters that rarely leave time to breathe, Thor develops a story that is both intriguing and addictive. Those who enjoy espionage and counterintelligence novels will surely enjoy this piece, as well as the rest of the series. While we are twenty books in, the intensity has not lessened and there is always something for the reader to enjoy. I cannot wait to see what’s to come.

Kudos, Mr. Thor, on another winner. I am a true fan and reading to tell the world!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Near Dark (Scot Harvath #19), by Brad Thor

Seven stars

Never one to turn away from a Brad Thor thriller, I turned to the latest in the Scot Harvath series. In a novel that picks up where the last conveniently ended, Thor thrusts the reader into the middle of yet another tactical battle. When Carl Pedersen is found murdered, Scot Harvath can only wonder if it has something to do with one of his past missions. News emerges that Harvath has a massive bounty put out on him, forcing him to take significant precautions. This is an open bounty, where anyone who is successful collects a massive sum, leaving Harvath to always peer over his shoulder. Without knowing where his enemies await, Harvath must forge ahead with reckless abandon and hope for the best. When Harvath finds himself in Lithuania, he learns a little more about Pedersen and some of the missions he undertook in the past. There are some whispers that the Russians might have taken action in retribution for a recent dust-up, but Harvath cannot rest on his laurels. Working with a sly agent whose background comes from the Scandinavian countries, Harvath seeks to extract as much information as he can in order to neutralise the largest threat. With the bounty still in play, he will have to be careful not to make a misstep, for it may be his last. A must-read for series fans, though this one lacked a little of the spark I had hoped to find. Recommended to those who enjoy Harvath and his thrills, as well as readers who like a little international flavour to their novels.

Every series has its best before date and it is up to the writer to keep things fresh, or tap out before they expire. While the first eighteen books in this series proved to be ‘edge of your seat’ thrillers, Brad Thor may have let his foot off the gas with this one, sure to displease ardent fans. Harvath has lived a long and productive life, as can be seen by those who have long followed the series. He has had victories and utter failures in his personal and professional lives, all of which are recapped here throughout a constant flashback narrative. With little to develop except that which is before him, Harvath loses some of his appeal, as though he is simply going through the motions and trying not to die. If I can be so bold, it seems as though Harvath is at the point where it might be time to hang up the tactical vest, as he is no longer able to forget the scars and the numerous aches. The list of strong secondary characters include some returning faces and many new ones as well. Thor hints at some possible new leaders or spin-off series with some who receive both backstory and character development, which might help revitalize the larger Thor universe and breathe new life into his writing. There was nothing overtly wrong with the writing or inherently poor with the plot, but it lacked the depth, sharpness, and twists that series fans have come to expect. I can only surmise that Thor is wondering if he wants to go in a new direction and yet seeks to tie things off before departing, or if this was a last kick at the can in hopes of getting one more book out of Harvath. There is no shame in moving on, but one can hope that Brad Thor will effectively shift things to a new series and not leave his fans with an abrupt cessation after a score of novels bearing Harvath’s presence.

Kudos, Mr. Thor, for another interesting book. I have a feeling this book was meant to convey something to your fans without you bluntly putting it out in a press release. Am I wrong?

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Backlash (Scot Harvath #19), by Brad Thor

Eight stars

Hip-deep into the Scot Harvath series, Brad Thor continues to deliver poignant novels that pull the reader into the middle of the political and espionage-driven world of today. When local authorities are called to a rural community in New Hampshire, they discover four bodies, carelessly slain. The names raise a red flag in the Intelligence community, beginning calls high up the chain of command. With ties to all those slain, one name being suggested as a potential shooter is Scot Harvath, but could he really have killed these people? It turns out not, as Harvath is aboard a covert plane somewhere in Russia, chained to a seat by mercenaries who have no worries about treating their prisoner poorly. When the plane goes down, Harvath is the only survivor, but perhaps not for long. He is in the middle of the Russian wilderness during the height of winter, with only the howling of the wind and wolves to keep him company. If he wants to stay alive, he will have to use all his training to find safety. In Moscow, the news of the crash raises the ire of senior officials, who had hoped for a smooth ‘snatch and grab’ of the Intelligence operative. Now, they will have to locate the wreckage and capture Harvath again. In Washington, those close to Harvath cannot believe that he would be responsible, but know that he was in New Hampshire. They discover that he may have been covertly removed from the country and begin their own mission to extricate him, while not tipping the balance of international diplomacy. Russia has all but declared war on America with such an act, but that is for the politicians to iron out. While working on a plan to get to safety, Harvath will have to survive and stay off the proverbial radar. When he comes to a small community near the Finnish border, he does all he can to stay alive and one step ahead of his captors. The race is on to find Harvath and to the winner comes the spoils. With an international disaster looming below the surface, the new Cold War could be close. Thor delivers again with a stellar novel that keeps the reader on the edge of their seat and Harvath donning a few more scars. Recommended for fans of the series as well as the reader who loves thrillers of an espionage and political flavour.

I have loved most every one of the Harvath thrillers that Thor has penned, finding myself in the middle of their action and political fallout. Thor is able to capture the essence of the story and add his own political flavouring, which keeps the reader wondering if this could actually happen in today’s world. Harvath has lasted for eighteen previous novels, so his scars are plentiful and his stubbornness on point. The reader can sense something else fuelling him in this piece, that being the loss of (another) loved one to those who would see him destroyed. While somewhat reflective on all that he has done in life, there is also a strong sense that Harvath needs to bring about revenge for the loss of a loved one. Thor adds some other interesting information tied to the gathering in New Hampshire, which the reader can discover as they make their way through the narrative. Packed with many returning characters, Thor entertains with some of the unique individuals who appear in many of the nineteen books this series have been published. These characters work well together and blend effectively to create a strong narrative and exciting story. Speaking of the story, it remains strong and kept moving in a forward direction, offering interesting perspectives for those who enjoy espionage with a political angle. Thor has been able to keep his stories strong and uses the current political and social situation to fuel the narrative, rather than relying on past—read: Islamic terror—themes that have long since been flogged to death. While I know the aches and pains must be getting quite troublesome, I wonder if there is another novel or two left in Scot Harvath, or ideas that Thor still wants to tackle.

Kudos, Mr. Thor, for a wonderful addition to the series. I cannot wait to see what else you have for us and hope your fans enjoy this piece as much as I did.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Spymaster (Scot Harvath #17), by Brad Thor

Eight stars

Brad Thor returns with another wonderful novel in his Scot Harvath series, keeping things not only exciting but politically on point. In a world where alliances are always shifting, the reemergence of Russian political dominance is one that cannot be ignored. After a number of high-ranking officials from a number of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) countries are gunned down, word is that it is part of a larger plan to disrupt the collective. There is proof that the Russians have been amassing troops on the borders of their Baltic neighbours, leaving those within NATO feeling additionally nervous as they wonder if this could be foreboding to an aggressive move. Scot Harvath is a member of the team contracted to follow-up and investigate the intelligence, which purports that Russia will strike close to the Organization’s underbelly, in neutral Sweden. The team makes its way to as island off the country’s coast, looking for a Russian cell that could commence attacks on their former satellite states, particularly those who are new NATO members. Under the Organization’s founding documents, Article 5 insists that an attack on one member is an attack on all, which could lead to a new war on European soil. Meanwhile, the Americans are trying to deal with a major gaffe in Poland that could propel the world to turn against them. Someone has broken into a convoy of vehicle and stolen military parts capable of resurrecting previously banned missiles. With the NATO situation gaining momentum, this revelation could push the Russians to the brink. As Harvath and his team seek to dismantle the Russian cell in Sweden, there is the larger concern of what might come on another front. Diplomatic means are off the table and this must be stopped before the world media gets wind of these potentially catastrophic maneuvers. Harvath has much to accomplish and little time to waste. Thor keeps readers intrigued as the story hits home in what could be a ‘torn from the headlines’ plot. Perfect for series fans and those who love politically relevant thrillers.

At a time when espionage and political thrillers are still fixated on all this ISIS, it is nice to see some authors keeping an open mind. Gone are the days when readers tend to want more Islam versus Infidel themed novels, particularly with all the action taking place with Russia at present. Thor spent a number of his novels dealing with this topic, but has been able to look at current news headlines to craft new and exciting storylines that will continue to impress readers. Scot Harvath has undergone much transformation over the series and continues to keep himself a relevant part of the discussion. Thor has not offered additional backstory, but keeps developing his protagonist. With an ever-updated ‘team’ working alongside him, Harvath’s personal attributes are highlighted in new and interesting ways. Others complement him well, while also carving out their own character development, thereby permitting series fans to see constant growth of those names who keep reappearing on the page and adding hope that some of these new names will find a means of popping up once again. The story was not only interesting, but offered the reader a chance to wonder ‘what if’ as it relates to the sub-plots being developed. While there is certainly less of a Russia-US animosity at present, that is sure to change when America finds itself once again and out of the orange-haze quagmire that has foreign policy nursing from the Russian teat. Until then, Thor posits many plausible and thought-provoking storylines that could develop in Western Europe. Using NATO was a brilliant spin on what is currently taking place and, through some of his research and personal sentiments, Thor makes some fairly grounded arguments to keep the politically savvy reader wondering, as well as gasping at the novel’s ending. Might this be some foreboding remains to be seen.

Kudos, Mr. Thor, for another wonderful novel. Some may not like the tempered action, but I found it completely captivating and hope you’ll consider continuing this theme.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Use of Force (Scot Harvath #16), by Brad Thor

Eight stars

Brad Thor is back with another thrilling Scot Harvath piece, sure to add new layers to the War on Terror and the clandestine nature that has kept readers hooked for fifteen previous novels. When an ill-equipped boat full of refugees sinks off the Italian coast, many die or are lost at sea. One significant body that turns up is a mid-level ISIS member with chemistry experience. After Harvarth breaks-up a potentially dangerous terror plot in Nevada, clues lead him to Libya, where a larger terror cell is plotting a significant attack. This is substantiated when a laptop found in the raid has a hidden drive, showing extensive chemical weapon attacks and options that could be used across Europe. There is a buzz inside the CIA Director’s Office, where there are whispers that senior members of the Agency are leaving to join the Carlton Group, where the eponymous head has been suffering issues of mental acuity. This may be the time to bring the Group down, or at least sully them to the point of no longer leeching Agency powerhouses. However, Reed Carlton will not go down with a few tricks of his own, unsure why his largest contractor has turned its back on him. All eyes turn to Paris when it is hit with a significant bombing. ISIS quickly claims responsibility, while a high-level Tajik operative behind the attack is plotting something even larger and more devastating at the heart of yet another Infidel stronghold. When Harvath is able to extract enough information in Libya, he leads his team into Italy, where the aforementioned refugee vessel becomes highly important. Might ISIS be smuggling some of its own into refugee camps, only to lay the groundwork for key strikes in the future? Could ISIS be teaming up with organized crime families in Italy to bring down significant portion of the population, led by a man with the odd moniker of La Formícula, or ‘the ant’. Prepared to do everything in their power to squash La Formícula before he leads a devastating strike, Harvath has little time to ponder his next move. A well-balanced piece that keeps the reader guessing as they flip pages until the explosive climax. Brad Thor fans will not be disappointed with this one, though those not familiar with the series might find it quite tech heavy.

I have long been a fan of Brad Thor and all his novels, which offer the great mix of Vince Flynn grit and Steve Berry off-beat humour. As his no-nonsense protagonist, Thor leads Scot Harvath into many an adventure without fully knowing where things will end up by the novel’s completion. Thor continues to construct a powerful backstory for Harvath, taking even more time than usual to hash-out some of his characteristics while experimenting by pushing a new layer onto the man; a set of emotions that come to the surface. Gone are the days of the neutral Harvath where killing is at the heart of his being. A collection of secondary characters also play key roles in their own ways, both to support and conflict with Harvath. The story is central and poignant to the news coming out of the region today, making the plot not only believable, but also plausible at this point on the ISIS terror matrix. The attentive reader will see some of these things and wonder if there could be some foreboding of what is to come. Those who dabble with the audiobook version of this story are treated to an extra track by the author, where Thor delves into some of the deeper areas surrounding research, influences, character mapping, and ideas for the future. A definite treat for long-time fans such as me who are always hoping to take a little more away from each novel. Harvath is going strong, but certain choices in the narrative might hint of some new pathways to come for the entire series, should Thor follow these breadcrumbs. I cannot wait to see what awaits!

Kudos, Mr. Thor for not letting up in this wonderful novel. I can see many who will be well-pleased with what is insinuated here, as well as the non-stop action.