If you’re looking for a summer read that really lives up to the name “thriller” you need look no further than Threat Warning, the third installment of John Gilstrap’s hot series featuring hostage rescue specialist Jonathan Grave. The book kicks off with a breath taking opening sequence – two teenage terrorists open up with automatic weapons on the rush hour gridlock on Washington DC’s Woodrow Wilson Bridge – and it hardly pauses to take a breath before the last page. This novel reconfirms Gilstrap as a master of jaw-dropping action and heart squeezing suspense.
Terrorists have learned to fear Delta Force, the US Army’s elite counter-terrorist team. But when one of its members learns that his family has been kidnapped he calls on former Delta Force operator Jonathan Grave to bring them home safely. If you’re a Gilstrap fan you can already guess that the kidnappings are just the tip of a grand conspiracy iceberg that could crush our nation.
On the surface, Jonathan Grave is a private investigator but in fact he runs a covert company specializing in freelance hostage rescue. Gilstrap has created a fascinating character here, the son of a big-time criminal trying to do the right thing. When I asked if I’d want to invite Grave to my neighborhood barbecue, Gilstrap didn’t hesitate.
“Jonathan Grave is a great guy,” Gilstrap says. “An honorable guy. He could be your best friend. Or your worst enemy. He’s a gentleman and, at heart, a gentle man, but when violence is necessary, he won’t hesitate an instant to kill. How could you not want him at a party in your house?”
Publisher’s Weekly called the previous Grave novel, Hostage Zero, addictively readable. I think this comes from the authenticity Gilstrap is able to inject based on his in-depth understanding of the Special Ops community. He gained their trust during the 5 years he spent researching Six Minutes to Freedom, his nonfiction book about the only civilian (on record anyway) to be rescued by Delta Force.
“That research gave me extraordinary access to that community–unprecedented access, actually,” Gilstrap says. “Many of those operators continue to be friends. I’ve toured the Unit compound at Fort Bragg and the SEAL compound in Virginia Beach. These guys tend not to talk a lot about themselves or what they do; but I like to think that I’ve earned their trust, and that that’s why they take my phone calls and respond to my emails.”
Grave works outside the law, like so many other great fictional heroes from The Shadow to The Saint. But even though his hero has no interest in making arrests or gathering evidence before he acts, Gilstrap bristles at the word vigilante. Still he agrees that at least in fiction, there’s a place for heroes who don’t work within the system.
As Gilstrap points out, “Sometimes, the system just doesn’t work. In Jonathan’s world, it rarely works, and due process takes too much time. Jonathan’s mission is pure: to reunite kidnap victims with their loved ones. If the bad guys would agree to surrender, there’d be no violence. Unfortunately for them, most choose to fight. Big mistake.”
Like any good fictional character, the opinions expressed by Jonathan Grave don’t necessarily reflect the views of his creator, although Gilstrap admits that too many years living inside the DC beltway have made him a bit cynical toward Big Government.
Aside from the nonfiction book and this series, Gilstrap has written four stand-alone novels and several screen plays. He loves it all, but says that writing a series has its advantages.
“I find writing to be hard work no matter what I’m creating,” he says, “but it’s nice to have a cast of characters that I can develop over a longer narrative arc.”
Gilstrap’s hard work has paid off in the form of several visits to the New York Times Best Seller list. If you like Vince Flynn style action, with a strong, incorruptible hero, this series deserves to be in your reading diet. Threat Warning, then go back and read its predecessors No Mercy and Hostage Zero. After that you’ll be as eager for the next Jonathan Grave novel as I am.
To learn more about John Gilstrap, please visit his website.