A tightly focused and exciting second installment of a thriller series.


From the The JD Cordell Action Series series , Vol. 1

A just-retired Navy SEAL tries to save his Vietnamese mother from a drug lord in this thriller sequel.

It’s been over 40 years since Mai Cordell has seen her adopted brother, Dish. She left her home country of Vietnam with a United States soldier named Curtis, and the two married and started a family in America. She finally returns to Vietnam to reunite with Dish, but asking locals about her brother catches the attention of Trần Nam Tin. He’s a drug smuggler who seems intent on controlling operations in the three-nation region (including Laos and Cambodia). Dish, meanwhile, is a gun smuggler who helps arm anti-communist rebels. After he and his comrades attack some of the drug lord’s men, Dish sends a warning to Trần that he “is going to come for him.” Consequently, Trần abducts Mai to bait Dish. When Mai’s son, JD, learns what has happened, he, his Navy SEAL pals, and his trained Belgian Malinois, Ajax, head to Thailand with a plan to sneak into Vietnam. At the same time, Dish searches for his sister; once he teams up with his nephew, they’ll hopefully be able to find Mai and rescue her. Like the series’ first installment, Gilbert’s enjoyable sequel offers some rousing subplots, including—prior to JD’s retirement—SEAL Team 5’s attempts to rescue Dr. Ellen Chang, whom terrorists kidnapped for ransom in Niger. But this novel concentrates on fewer characters, such as the returning players Curtis, Mai, and Ajax. There’s also less action, though there are several opportunities for JD to demonstrate the Vietnamese martial art Nguyen-Ryu, which Mai and Curtis taught him. Still, the narrative gradually builds to a tense latter half, with Mai as Trần’s hostage and Dish in his crosshairs. JD’s story also evolves as the well-established hero suffers more than one loss.

A tightly focused and exciting second installment of a thriller series. (acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73460-232-6

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2020

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Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.


Bentley keeps Jack Ryan Jr.’s life exciting in this latest grand-scale Tom Clancy adventure.

Ryan is in Tel Aviv on an “asset-validation exercise” for a private company referred to as The Campus, and he takes time to hang out at the beach. There, he sees a woman with a child who he can tell is autistic, and he saves her from a knife-wielding attacker. She’s flummoxed; who’d want to hurt her? When mother and son leave, Ryan wants to return the boy’s dropped Captain America toy. “What could go wrong with that?” he muses naïvely. Only three hell-raising threats in one day. Almost immediately he meets agents from Israeli security, Shin Bet. Who is he? What’s he doing there? But though he doesn’t lie about his name, no one ever exclaims, “Wow, you have the same name as the U.S. president. Any connection?” Anyway, Chinese State Security is also interested in the woman, and Jack doesn’t know why. And then mother and son are kidnapped. True to the Clancy style, what begins as the attempted return of a toy mushrooms into a threat of global conflict—“no good deed goes unpunished” is an apt cliché. Other enemies include Iran's Quds Force, an apocalyptic cult—and some smart jihadis, because “the dumb jihadis died a long time ago.” Ryan is a fierce warrior when the need arises, and he refuses a direct order to return to the U.S.: “Sorry, sir…no can do. I’ve got two innocents still at risk—a mother and child.” So even when the bad guys try to crucify him, “nobody did cornered junkyard dog better than Jack.” Meanwhile, an airborne threat may destroy Tel Aviv. The story has some nice wordplay, with helicopters “clawing for altitude like homesick angels,” and the F-35 being “part ballerina, part racehorse, and all killer.” While on the ground “blood flowed and bones broke,” and a female fighter jock has the final say.

Fast, furious Clancy fare, fun even though you already know who wins.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18813-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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More of a curiosity for political junkies than a satisfying story of international intrigue.

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A progressive superstar pens her first political thriller.

Anyone who follows the news knows Abrams as a politician and voting rights activist. She's less well known as a novelist. Using the pseudonym Selena Montgomery, Abrams has published several works of romantic suspense. Her new novel begins when Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn falls into a coma. His clerk Avery Keene is shocked to discover that her boss has made her his legal guardian and granted her power of attorney. The fate of one of the most powerful men in the world is in her hands—and her life is in danger. Abrams gives us nefarious doings in the world of biotech, a president with autocratic tendencies and questionable ethics, and a young woman struggling to unravel a conspiracy while staying one step ahead of the people who want her out of the way. Unfortunately, the author doesn't weave these intriguing elements into an enjoyable whole. Abrams makes some odd word choices, such as this: “The intricate knot she had twisted into her hair that morning bobbed cunningly as she neared her office.” The adverb cunningly is mystifying, and Abrams uses it in a similar way later on. There are disorienting shifts in point of view. And Abrams lavishes a great deal of attention on details that simply don’t matter, which makes the pace painfully slow. This is a fatal flaw in a suspense novel, but it may not be the most frustrating aspect of this book. For a protagonist who has gotten where she is by being smart, Avery makes some stunningly poor decisions. For example, the fact that she has a photographic memory is an important plot point and is clearly a factor in Justice Wynn’s decision to enlist her help. When she finds a piece of paper upon which is printed a long string of characters and the words "BURN UPON REVIEW," Avery memorizes the lines of numbers and letters—and then, even though she knows she’s being surveilled, she snaps a shot of the paper with her phone, thereby making the whole business of setting it on fire quite pointless.

More of a curiosity for political junkies than a satisfying story of international intrigue.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54657-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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