Talia Inger is a rookie CIA case officer assigned not to the Moscow desk as she had hoped but to the forgotten backwaters of Eastern Europe—a department only known as “Other.” When she is tasked with helping a young, charming Moldovan executive secure his designs for a revolutionary defense technology, she figures she’ll be back in DC within a few days. But that’s before she knows where the designs are stored—and who’s after them. With her shady civilian partner, Adam Tyler, Talia takes a deep dive into a world where only criminal minds and unlikely strategies will keep the Gryphon, a high-altitude data vault, hovering in the mesosphere.
Even Tyler is more than he seems, and Talia begins to wonder: Is he helping her? Or using her access to CIA resources to pull off an epic heist for his own dark purposes?
Award-winning author James R. Hannibal stopped by The Big Thrill to offer some insight into his latest international suspense thriller, THE GRYPHON HEIST:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers have fun and see a new side of the spy world. I also hope they get a greater understanding of how morality applies to espionage—a subject that interested even Thomas Jefferson. But most of all, I hope the readers gain a better understanding of God’s forgiveness and our own need to forgive before we can heal.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
The genesis for this was an email exchange between my agent, Harvey Klinger, and me during which we decided to tackle the question of morality in espionage. Can a spy be moral? Where is the high ground? American leaders have asked these questions all the way back to our founding fathers. Spy thrillers have touched on the idea before, but never to this depth or from this perspective. I hope the readers will find ours, born out of some real experience, to be an interesting take.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
Talia surprised me. She surprised me big time. Before I began writing, I didn’t understand how bitter she could become, and the toll that bitterness takes on both body and spirit. Thanks to Talia, I sought out counselors who taught me so much. In one case, God threw an amazing counselor in my path. It blew my mind. I had just refocused the story, and written in big bold letters on my whiteboard “THIS IS A STORY ABOUT FORGIVENESS.” I was excited to get moving, but the phone rang. The airline I work for as an on-call pilot needed me to fly to Europe and be away from my desk three days. I was so mad—and a little bitter, like Talia. But the captain they paired me with had a volunteer job on his off days. He was a counselor who helped people learn to forgive after the most traumatic experiences like murder or assault. That captain was exactly the person both Talia and I needed in that moment.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
How about some little-known facts about the characters? Darcy Emile, the engineer in our elite team of thieves, is a master of “explosive artwork.” She shows that talent in the middle of the story. Eddie Gupta, Talia’s best friend and tech officer, is not an Edward. He’s an Edison. His Indian diplomat father named him after the famous inventor. Michael Finn, our young daredevil cat burglar, has a smolder that melts hearts. But his confident air is a façade. He has no idea how to relate to women, especially Talia. And Adam Tyler—my favorite—may be living under an alias. Strangely, Adam Tyler is also the Victorian term for a pickpocket’s hidden accomplice.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I have so many stories to tell. Unfortunately, many of them are classified, so I find making up new stories in the military and intelligence thriller genre cathartic. Even then—writing in fiction—my first three novels had to be approved by certain program security offices. After three books with only a couple of redactions, the infamous “they” decided I could be trusted and gave me carte blanche. “They” also told me Drake and Amanda in my third book in the Nick Baron series needed a more developed romantic relationship. Everyone’s a critic.
James R. Hannibal is no stranger to secrets and adventure. A former stealth pilot from Houston, Texas, he has been shot at, locked up with surface-to-air missiles, and chased down a winding German road by an armed terrorist. He is a two-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. James is a rare multi-sense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells and hears flashes of light. If he tells you the chocolate cake you offered smells blue and sticky, take it as a compliment.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.