Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Hot Thriller for the Summer Reading Stack, WARNING LIGHT by David Ricciardi

This spring's fine Middle East thriller from David Ricciardi has a publication story that's twisted suspense as well: The thriller author self-published his book WARNING LIGHT in 2014 -- then Penguin Random House picked it up, and the following re-edit created what the publishing firm calls a whole new book.

With the power and punch that the April 2018 release packs, I have to guess the earlier version was also intense (wouldn't it be fun to compare them?). I couldn't stop reading ... even in ebook format (my least favorite).

Here's the premise: A CIA desk office, an analyst, happens to be on a plane that gets diverted to a secret closed airport in Iran, where weapons are under construction. There's an actual field operative on the plane, who'd been meant to infiltrate the site -- but in the chaos of arriving, his cover is blown (and so is he).

So Zac Miller takes a couple of quick snapshots of the airport while debarking, to try to fill the information gap for the Agency. But he's not nearly as subtle as he thinks, is almost immediately caught by very unfriendly military types, yet with a bit of luck and guts, makes a narrow escape -- into, of course, the highly dangerous terrain of the Middle East, with the Iranians after him. Oh yes, and his own side, which swallows a clever Iranian frame-up suggesting Zac's gone rogue.

So begins a high-suspense survival trek through terrain that's unfriendly in every sense:
He paused atop a long scree field. Even in the mountains it was close to one hundred degrees and the heat seared his lungs as he struggled to catch his breath. His legs were sore, his ribs ached from the beating, and he hadn't seen any water. He sat atop the loose rocks and wondered how he would make it out of Iran alive.
Lee Child blurbed this book, which is appropriate, considering the well-structured pace of crises, collaboration, and gutsy survival maneuvers. And the ending is a real delight ... If you appreciate a page-turning thriller with on-the-ground detail and rapid twists, plus a character who grows "just enough" during his run for his life, grab this one. Put it in the summer reading stack -- or sooner! -- for pure release from life's ordinary stresses.

 PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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