I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the novel I was most excited about this year, and that is Unknown Rider, by my friend Jack Stewart. Jack and I met via Twitter; we both love thrillers and share favorite authors. I met Jack in person, along with Ward Larsen and David McCloskey, at one of Don Bentley‘s book signings in Dallas. We would meet up again at two of Jack Carr‘s signings. A former Naval aviator, with 23 years as a fighter pilot under his belt, Jack also graduated from the famous TOPGUN Fighter Weapons School. In a word, he knows what he’s talking about.
While on a routine night flight in his F-35C Joint Strike Fighter, Colt Bancroft is routed to check out mysterious lights which are orbiting above and around one of the escort cruisers in his aircraft carrier’s strike group. As Colt arrives on station, his aircraft fails to respond to his control; nothing he does in the cockpit can keep it from rolling inverted—that’s upside down for us non-pilots—and nosediving down directly at the cruiser. At the last moment, the F-35 veers away from the cruiser and Colt regains control of his aircraft. But not his reputation.
Now deemed a threat to his fellow naval crewmen, and looking at the career he fought so hard for slipping away through no fault of his own, Colt begins his own investigation into what happened that night. He finds himself teaming up with a NCIS agent in the middle of her own hunt for a traitor selling secrets to the enemy, and the two realize not only have their paths intertwined, but the people they are looking for are one and the same. Not knowing who they can fully trust, the pair stumble in to a much bigger, and more dangerous, gambit.
Given my friendship with Jack, it’s impossible for me to be 100% impartial in reviewing Unknown Rider, but as I pored over an Advanced Reader Copy while, appropriately enough, flying, I could tell he was on to something with his debut. Mark Greaney, one of Jack’s writing heroes, nailed it when he said, “Strongly evocative of classic Clancy,” and Mark would know a thing or two about Tom Clancy novels. And that’s just it: if, like us, you grew up loving Tom Clancy, Stephen Coonts, and Dale Brown novels, you will love Unknown Rider. It carries the same spirit and multiple plot lines those authors became famous for. It is definitely recommended, and I can’t wait to see what Colt and Punky get up to next.
5/5 phins, a great debut