series of thrillers about an ex-military officer who runs a security services company
and who performs high-risk hostage and kidnap rescues as an unadvertised capability
has become my go-to for absorbing but predictable reading. Predictable because
the main characters have become familiar. There’s Jonathan Grave, owner and
brains of the outfit, who loves the outcomes of his work but doesn’t always
like the paths to achieving them or the collateral damage. His friend Brian Van
de Meulebroeke, known as Boxer, supplies the brawn and expert knowledge of
explosives. I can always count on at least one spectacular scene involving C-4,
Semtex, or their relatives, resulting in mass destruction of something. The
third member of their team is Venice, whose computer skills include hacking,
esoteric research, and satellite networks. At least once in every book I’ve
read, she saves Jonathan and Boxer from certain death through her deployment of
advanced technology. Secondary characters are Grave’s friend Father Dominic,
who serves as an external conscience for Grave, and Irene Rivers, FBI director
whose association with Grave extends well into the past. She and Grave feel
free to call on each other for help and to use their influence to keep the
other out of trouble.
this well-rounded set of characters and plops them into one original scenario
after another, always managing to save the victims while delivering justice to
the bad guys. Think of a modern version of the 1950s television Westerns and it
might look a lot like these books.
Zero (Pinnacle, 2010) Grave and Boxer are pulled into the rescue of two
teenage boys who have been inexplicably kidnapped from their boarding school in
Virginia. Grave is happy to bring them home but first he has to find them,
which turns out to be far more difficult than expected. Add killers for hire,
organized crime, corrupt politicians, cocaine production in Colombia, and a
homeless veteran who wanders into the middle of it all, and the result is a
complicated story with multiple threads that unwind at breakneck speed.
always incorporates a political backstory into the plot. He lived in northern
Virginia near Washington for years and keeps his thumb on the pulse of the action
there. He is also deeply knowledgeable about firearms; entire paragraphs are
devoted to the firepower that Grave and Boxer carry with them on any venture.
enjoy the way Gilstrap works actual local landmarks into the story. In this
volume he references the Torpedo Factory, a building once devoted to World War
II munitions production but now is an art gallery and studio. The detail about
Vienna, Virginia, a small town in Fairfax County that Gilstrap clearly knows
well, is great. He’s used the Vienna library as a meeting place for a couple of
spies, referencing the tiny parking lot, which in real life is the bane of
residents. In this outing Grave meets River at the “Maple Inn”, a pseudonym for
the genuine Vienna Inn on Maple Avenue in Vienna, known as a local hangout and
for its killer chili dogs.
I read these
books as I find them, reading them out of publication order doesn’t affect
understanding the story at all. Highly recommended for fans of intelligent
thrillers and political crime fiction.
Starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2023
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works
on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.