Summer’s the perfect time to jump into a new series, so if you don’t already know John Gilstrap’s Jonathan Grave thrillers, grab this one and head to the beach, the porch swing, or anywhere else you won’t be distracted for a while. His newest, Final Target, is simply unputdownable.
Fans of Jeffrey Deaver and Harlan Coben, both of whom enthusiastically blurb on Final Target‘s cover, will find lots to love in the novel’s action, suspense, political intrigue, twists, and deceptions. An added pleasure is the irreverent humor that keeps the dialogue snappy as the pages seem to turn themselves while Gilstrap’s characters infiltrate Mexican jungles to extract the PC, or precious cargo, they’ve been hired to save.
Grave is a freelance hostage rescue specialist. His Security Solutions team is a highly trained, elite, clandestine group of ex-military, technical, and governmental experts who operate at the fringes of the law but on the side of justice. This time, Grave and his partner Boxers have been hired to rescue a DEA agent who’s been captured in Mexico. Or so they thought. They’re able to neutralize the abductors and save the agent, but the extraction turns sour when the helicopter that’s supposed to whisk them to safety never shows up.
That’s when they realize that the mission was never supposed to succeed, and someone’s painted a big, red target on their backs. It’ll be up to them to get out of the jungle and back to the States with only the help of their home office team, remotely connected through advanced techno-gadgetry.
Gilstrap is a recognized hazardous materials specialist and an expert on ballistics. He’s been invited by the Navy SEALS and the Marines to their bases to test weapons. So, all the details feel right as Grave and Boxers fight their way through a jungle that Gilstrap brings vividly to life. One can almost see the action through Grave’s night vision goggles and feel the spongy leaf strewn jungle floor. Don’t be surprised if you jump at the crackling of twigs in nearby bushes.
As they distance themselves from Jungle Tigers out to kill them all (not big cats, but a mercenary army serving the interests of cartel boss, Alejandro Azul) they find an orphanage filled with children whose lives were destroyed by drug wars. Grave and his team decide to try to get them also to safety, while simultaneously working out who set the trap and left them for dead in Mexico. The plot includes the FBI Chief, drug lords, crooked cops, a master thief, a sinister female assassin, a dirty Senator, and his even dirtier chief of staff who’s surreptitiously disposed of. There’s plenty of adrenaline, testosterone, explosions, and gunfire, balanced by realism, suspense and a sense of justice.
Gilstrap, a New York Times best-selling author and 2016 Thriller Award winner, is a master of the genre. Still, his many-layered thrillers stand apart. They’re topical without being trite, and his characters both show and tell. There’s non-stop action, but also, under Gilstrap’s deft hand, glimpses into the kinds of decision making tightropes that mission commanders have to navigate – collateral damage, justice and fairness, loyalty and survival.
Final Target‘s pace is controlled; it’s stuck in hyperspeed. The twists and surprises never let up. If it’s your first Gilstrap read, don’t worry. You’ll be able to jump right in, even though this is the eighth in the series. Soon, like those who know Gilstrap’s work well, you’ll be waiting for the next installment.
John Gilstrap’s photo by Amy Cesal