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Brad Thor has become famous as an unabashedly conservative writer. In recent years, however, he has publicly voiced his disdain for President Donald Trump. Just this past week, Thor was a guest on FOX News where he commented on the upcoming Helsinki Summit on July 16th pitting the U.S. against Russia and their leader, Vladimir Putin. He noted that relations between our countries are at an all-time low, and went on to discuss that the moves Putin is making is reminiscent of those made by Adolf Hitler when territory that the German dictator claimed for his own party eventually led to World War II.

With a plethora of information and historical context to draw upon, Thor is utilizing the current issues we are having with Russia to spur on the fictional action within his latest thriller, SPYMASTER. Author William James once said, “There is very little difference between one man and another, but what little there is, is very important.” Thor places that quote at the opening of the novel, and it speaks volumes about the distance between U.S. and Russian forces, or, more specifically, those on opposite sides in the current spy games.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known as NATO, was formed in 1949 among dozens of nations pledging to band together in an effort to prevent any political or military uprising that could lead to a major skirmish or another world war. Former U.S. Navy Seal and Special Agent Scot Harvath is on a mission on behalf of those principles originally established by NATO. He pairs off with Monika Jasinski as they find themselves in the middle of a brutal fire fight in the Norwegian wilderness. They were sent there at the behest of the Carlton Group, which was founded by Harvath's mentor, Reed Carlton. Carlton saw the U.S. having an ineffective intelligence service, so he created his own. Now, with Carlton suffering from dementia and months away from death, Harvath must continue on with a group of other trusted allies to keep the spirit of the Carlton Group alive.

"SPYMASTER will appeal to anyone who enjoys intelligent and insightful espionage thrillers.... Scot Harvath is pushed to the limit in the most important and dangerous mission of his career, and it is a privilege for readers to come along for the ride."

The murder of three diplomats in three different incidents across Europe spurs Harvath and his allies on as they fear that this is just the beginning of a larger scheme by the Russians. Russia's hacking capabilities are covered here, reminding readers of recent world events of the past few years, and a serious move must take place to subvert the Russians and cut them off at the knees before they can continue on their present course. Russia has famously sought to undermine NATO whenever they can, and SPYMASTER outlines the fictional possibilities and outcomes of these actions.

No one can command expertise on the modern-day spy game like Brad Thor, and each meeting involving allies, enemies and spies is written with such electricity and plausibility that it could be a primer on government intelligence. A U.S. ambassador tries to swing a deal with a Polish intelligence officer to recover six crates that were stolen from the Americans allegedly holding deadly Gryphon missiles. Harvath and his team are sent to Eastern Europe for a showdown with their Russian rivals, and much of the action is set in unlikely places like Gotland and Kaliningrad. Thankfully, the inside cover of the novel depicts a map of modern Europe and Russia, allowing readers to shuttle along with the characters to all of these areas.

It is feared that Russia's next target for expansion is Poland, and the U.S. cannot let that happen. If they sit by and remain out of that action, it could be the end of NATO. When a bombing in Rome claims the life of a NATO diplomat, things get really serious. Harvath and his team are seeking to uncover Russian spies working in and around Poland and to shake them down in order to find out who is actually calling the shots. Speaking of Harvath's team, they are nothing but the finest professionals in the special forces game. I particularly liked the addition of Sloane Ashby, who was previously seen in Thor's stand-alone novel, THE ATHENA PROJECT. I selfishly wish he would write more about that all-female intelligence team.

When an individual named Dominik Gashi is found, it is soon revealed that he is actually Ivan Kuznetsov, a Russian agent. The accounts of his torture at the expert hands of Harvath and company are some of the best written and chilling scenes Thor has ever produced. Consequently, when Harvath is briefly captured by the Russians, they exact a measure of revenge upon him with their own brand of torture. It is noted that the brutality of the Russians when it comes to interrogations is legendary.

SPYMASTER will appeal to anyone who enjoys intelligent and insightful espionage thrillers. Brad Thor continues to amaze with the breadth of knowledge and experience he brings to the table. I am sure we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what he is actually privy to within the intelligence community, which is a frightening thought. Scot Harvath is pushed to the limit in the most important and dangerous mission of his career, and it is a privilege for readers to come along for the ride.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 6, 2018

by Brad Thor

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • ISBN-10: 1476789428
  • ISBN-13: 9781476789422