Title: Friendly Fire
Author: John Gilstrap
Publication Date: 28 June 2016
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley
It begins with a shocking act of vengeance. Barista Ethan Falk chases a customer into the parking lot and kills him. He tells police that years ago the older man abducted and tortured him. Then Ethan’s story takes an even stranger turn: he says he was rescued by a guy named Scorpion. Of course, there is no record of either the kidnapping or the rescue, because Scorpion–Jonathan Grave–operates outside the law and leaves no evidence.
As Grave struggles to find a way to defend his former precious cargo without blowing his cover, he learns the dead man has secrets that trace to an ongoing terrorist plot against the heart of America. It’s up to Grave and his team to stop it. But first they must rescue Ethan Falk–a second time.
I first came across John Gilstrap and his Jonathan Grave series about a year ago when I picked up the first book in the series, No Mercy. I didn’t really get into it at the time and to be honest I can’t remember if I actually finished it or not, but since then I have enjoyed some of Gilstrap’s other work so I thought it was time to give Grave a second shot. And boy am I glad that I did.
Friendly Fire is John Gilstrap’s eighth novel featuring hostage rescue specialist Jonathan Grave. When Ethan Falk chases down a man and stabs him to death in front of several witnesses, it looks like an open and shut case. That is until Ethan claims that the man he has just killed actually kidnapped him over ten years ago. But there’s a problem, there’s no record of Ethan’s kidnap yet Ethan is adamant that it happened and he was rescued by a man named Scorpion. When news travels to Jonathan Grave, he has to figure out how to get Ethan off the hook without admitting that he is the legendary Scorpion and he ends up stumbling upon a terrorist plot that could shake America from the inside.
I didn’t realise how much I was enjoying this book until it ended and I just wanted more. I can’t remember the last time I finished a book and all I wanted to do was go back to the start and read it again straight away. Friendly Fire has everything I look for and enjoy in a good thriller and John Gilstrap has a writing style that I really like. The story zips through at a pretty frenetic pace and there is not one place in the whole book where I thought the story dragged. It is literally action packed from the first page to the last.
I thought the plot itself is actually a lot more believable than I was expecting having read the blurb because Gilstrap is able to seamlessly combine two separate, yet also related, story lines into one book without either feeling underdone or out of place. I felt that the terror plot in the book was quite simple and actually something that I hadn’t really seen before in the hordes of spy thrillers that I have read, so that was pretty cool.
The characters were what turned me off the first time I read a Jonathan Grave novel because I felt that Grave was just too perfect and that he was being presented as the spy thriller version of Batman, a rich dude with a secret mission to help people. I’m glad that particular element of Grave’s character wasn’t emphasised anywhere near as much because it made it easier for me to relate to him. I also loved to see the interactions between Grave and Boxers, who is one of the better secondary characters I’ve come across. On top of that, Gilstrap was able to get me to genuinely feel for Ethan, which is something that never happens when I read.
All in all, this book was a lot better than I was expecting and is right up there as one of the best books I’ve come across this year, if not ever. There’s a heap of action, a story that pulls your heartstrings and genuinely gets you feeling for the characters and it is ridiculously hard to put down. Gilstrap has crafted a magnificent thriller and I can’t wait to go back into the Grave stories that I have missed.
Worth a read? Simple answer, absolutely. If you’re a thriller fan and enjoy fast-paced action books with great stories then Friendly Fire is definitely for you. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.