Publisher: Sphere/Audible Audio (Audiobook – 15 February 2022)
Series: Gray Man – Book 11
Length: 15 hours and 58 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Epic thriller author Mark Greaney returns with the latest entry in his incredible Gray Man series with Sierra Six, an intense and captivating spy thriller that will grab your attention and refuse to let go until the final explosion.
Over the last few years, I have been absolutely hooked on the incredible thrillers of Mark Greaney, who is easily one of the best authors of spy fiction in the world today. Not only did he cowrite a very cool military thriller, Red Metal (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2019), but he has continued his exceptional Gray Man series. The Gray Man books follow Court Gentry, the titular Gray Man, an elite assassin and undercover operator who has worked both for and against the CIA. This series has been so very cool, from the first novel The Gray Man (set to become a Netflix movie later this year), to the last three awesome entries, Mission Critical, One Minute Out (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020) and Relentless (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021). Due to how impressive this series has been, I have been really excited to read the next book, Sierra Six, and it was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022, especially as it had a very cool plot to it.
Court Gentry, the Gray Man, is once again the world’s most wanted spy, hunted by his former employers, the CIA, and every other intelligence agency on the planet. Looking for work, Gentry accepts an easy infiltration mission in Algeria to spy on a delegation from Pakistan. However, the mission goes sideways when Gentry recognises one of the Pakistanis and his rookie technical officer is captured. Chasing after the kidnappers, Gentry follows their trail to India and must relive one of the darkest moments from his past.
12 years ago, long before he became the Gray Man, Court Gentry was a talented young agent for the CIA. Specialising in solo operations, Gentry is suddenly reassigned to Ground Branch and must work as the junior member of veteran CIA action team, Golf Sierra. Given a new designation, Sierra Six, Gentry is forced to adapt to a new way of fighting as he and his team attempt to hunt down a dangerous terrorist leader in Pakistan. However, their mission resulted in a high body count and a great personal loss that has haunted Gentry ever since.
Now, as Gentry works his way through Mumbai, he must face the realisation that the target of his original Sierra Six mission is still alive and active after all these years. Determined to finish the job once and for all, Gentry works with a small team of rogue operators to find his target. However, his old foe has initiated a bold new plan that could have devastating consequences for all of India. Can Gentry get his revenge before it is too late, or will the ghosts of his past finally finish him off?
Greaney is in fine form with Sierra Six as he has written another excellent and intense spy thriller that I deeply enjoyed. Containing an action-packed and multilayered narrative loaded with major set pieces, exciting spy elements and some complex characters, this was another awesome Gray Man novel from Greaney.
Sierra Six was an absolutely thrilling read and I had an outstanding time getting through the impressive and addictive narrative. Greaney does something a little different for this book and features an excellent and intricate split timeline narrative, with the book divided between the events of the past when Gentry was part of Golf Sierra, and the current events in Mumbai which see Gentry again contending with the target of this original mission. The narrative switches between the two timelines every chapter or two and you get a great sense of what is happening in both well-established storylines. These two plot lines advance at a great pace throughout the entire novel and feature their own range of distinctive and fun supporting characters, some of whom appear in both the contemporary and past storylines. I had a lot of fun with the two separate periods, and I loved how they both made excellent use of interesting characters, fantastic developments and a ton of high-octane action sequences.
The timelines support each other extremely well, with certain hints about the events of the past contained in the contemporary storyline increasing anticipation for the historical storyline, while revealed details about the villain and the young Court Gentry from 12 years ago enhance the protagonist’s current adventure. In both cases, Gentry and his allies embark on a methodical hunt for their quarry, with a high body count accumulating as they follow various leads and respond to their opponent’s counter plays. While primarily told from Gentry’s perspective, both timelines utilise distinctive side characters to great effect, and you see intriguing supporting perspectives, including from the antagonist, that help to widen the picture and enhance the richness of the story. Both timelines eventually lead up to an awesome final sequence, comprised of two near-suicidal missions that the protagonist is engaged in. This final section of the novel is extremely fast paced, especially as Greaney shortens the chapters and introduces more frequent jumps between the timelines to make everything seem even more frenetic. Both timelines end with some incredible and awesome major set pieces, and I loved how Greaney used the end of the past storyline to set up the antagonist’s eventual return. The novel ends on a great note, with the two separate storylines coming together perfectly, and the reader is left very satisfied, if a little moved, at the tragic ending of the events from 12 years ago. I was extremely impressed with how this fantastic story came together, and this ended up being an addictive read with so many awesome moments in it.
Sierra Six was a particularly good entry in this already awesome series, and I loved how Greaney was able to create a book that both stands on its own as a thriller, while also serving as an amazing entry in the wider series. This novel is structured to be very accessible to new readers, and anyone can easily pick up this book and start reading it without any knowledge of the prior entries in the series, especially as certain key elements are carefully explained when necessary. There is also a lot for established Gray Man fans to enjoy here, as Greaney provides a bit of an origin story for his long-running protagonist. Not only do we get to see Court Gentry do some of his earliest work for the CIA, but you also get to see his first interactions with key supporting characters, including Matthew Hanley and Zack Hightower. I also loved a couple of fun little cameo appearances and throwaway lines that reference some of the earlier books, including the quick but enjoyable inclusion of the antagonist from the original novel. While there is are no major continuations of some of the established storylines this is still a key and intriguing Gray Man novel, and it is one that people familiar with this series will deeply enjoy.
I was very impressed with some of the unique elements of this book, particularly those involving tradecraft, espionage work and covert combat teams. There is a real focus on tradecraft throughout Sierra Six, and the author ensures that everything feels exceedingly realistic and gritty as the characters play their spy games. Not only do you get to see some of the usual undercover work that Gentry excels in but you also get a great look at paramilitary combat, as the protagonist learns from scratch the rules of fighting as part of a combat team. All this tradecraft really adds to the authenticity of the story, although it did make parts of the book a little clunky in places, especially when the narrator or the characters explain certain espionage or military elements multiple times in overly descriptive ways.
I also rather enjoyed the exciting settings of the various timelines, as Greaney takes the reader to wartime Afghanistan, Pakistan and modern-day India. This is an interesting change of pace from most of the Gray Man novels I have read, which have been primarily set in Europe, and I liked seeing the various descriptive landscapes and unique people. Mumbai proved to be a great setting for most of the contemporary storyline, and it was very fun to see Gentry manoeuvre his way through the crowded districts and locals. I also really enjoyed the focus on Pakistani intelligence and the Indian underworld, which proved to be very fascinating. For example, the fiction criminal group B-Company are clearly based on the infamous real-life D-Company, and it was quite intriguing to see them worked into the story, while also examining their origin and goals of their leadership. All these cool tradecraft elements and intriguing settings deeply enhanced the overall story, and it made for quite a fascinating and distinctive read.
There was some rather interesting character work going on in Sierra Six as Greaney takes his fantastic protagonist to some very dark places at various points in his timeline. I really appreciated the dive back into the period before Court Gentry became the Gray Man, and Greaney paints a compelling figure of a habitual loner with no personal attachments only at the beginning of his espionage career. Watching Gentry join a team and try to play nice with others was a captivating part of the book, and it was fascinating to see the rookie Gentry get rattled by stuff he’ll become much more used to in the future. Greaney also enhances Gentry’s development by including a curious, but touching, relationship in the earlier timeline, which helped to humanise Gentry a lot. However, certain tragic elements from this help mould him into the killer we all know and love, and Greaney subtly introduced the ripples from this into the contemporary storyline. The reader leaves Sierra Six with a much better understanding of this cool character, and I had a great time seeing more of the Gray Man’s past.
Both timelines are filled with an excellent and comprehensive cast of side characters, each of whom add a great deal to the narrative and Gentry’s development in their own way. While there are a few recurring characters from the previous Gray Man novels, most of the focus are on newer figures, who Greaney provides with compelling and interesting backstories. I liked how the past and modern-day storylines both featured great female side characters who helped move the story along in their own distinctive ways. This includes the socially awkward intelligence officer Julie Marquez, from the original Golf Sierra mission, and Indian tech guru Priyanka Bandari, who Gentry is forced to work with after saving her from kidnappers. Both female characters add to the plot a great deal, and it is fascinating to see events unfold from their eyes, especially as they have diverse life experiences and are also seeing very different versions of the protagonist. The storylines around both women are written extremely well, and I really appreciated where both went, especially as they both included tragedy, regret and definitive action. I also must really highlight the use of long-running supporting character Zack Hightower, who was an excellent inclusion in the historical storyline. Zack is always a great foil to Gentry, and I really enjoyed seeing him interact with the younger, cockier version here, especially as it shows some of the earlier dynamics between them. Watching Gentry meet his mentor and friend for the first time was great, and I really enjoyed the cool storyline that developed between them and the other members of the Golf Sierra kill team. All these characters were extremely impressive and I had a brilliant time getting to know them throughout the course of Sierra Six.
While I did receive a paperback version of Sierra Six, I went out of my way to also get this novel on audiobook as I have had some awesome experiences with the Gray Man books in this format before. This proved to be an excellent decision as the Sierra Six audiobook was amazing, perfectly telling the cool story while enhancing the intriguing tradecraft and action elements. The Sierra Six audiobook has a run time just short of 16 hours and so requires a bit of a time investment to get through it, although I think this was more than worth it and dedicated listeners should be able to get through rather quickly. I was also very happy to see that this audiobook once again featured the vocal talents of Jay Snyder, who is one of my favourite audiobook narrators at the moment. Snyder has a gruff and distinctive voice that fits the harder spy thriller feel of this novel perfectly and drags the listener into the intense tale. Snyder does a brilliant voice with all the characters featured within, and you get a good sense of their various emotions and feelings, especially during some of the more action-packed sequences. I had an outstanding time listening to this audiobook and it is an excellent format for anyone interested in trying out this latest Gray Man novel.
The always impressive Mark Greaney has done it again, producing an incredible and exciting new Gray Man novel. Sierra Six, features a bold and captivating story that cleverly utilises two distinctive timelines to tell its intense and moving tale. Loaded with fun character, brutal action sequences, and some intriguing espionage moments, this was another outstanding book I had a brilliant time reading. Sierra Six comes highly recommended from me and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next Greaney book.