The Russian by Ben Coes

The Russian Cover

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 30 July 2019)

Series: Rob Tacoma – Book One

Lenght: 9 hours and 20 minutes

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thriller author Ben Coes returns to the world of his Dewey Andreas series with The Russian, the first book in spinoff series which sets the CIA against the Russian mafia in a violent conflagration.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, some of the most dangerous and ruthless criminals from Russia emigrated to the United States in order to take advantage of the unique opportunities available there. This led to the creation of the Russian mafia, a group whose capacity for violence, murder and collateral damage knows no bounds. The Russian mafia are now the most effective and feared criminal organisation in the world, and conventional law enforcement seems unable to stop them. However, after elements of the Russian mafia organise the brutal assassination of two prominent American politicians, the President of the United States has had enough. Utilising a top-secret piece of legislation, the President authorises the CIA to run a small kill team on US soil. Their mission: kill those responsible for the assassinations while also taking down the Russian mafia by any means necessary.

Tasked with pulling together an elite two-man kill team to undertake this dangerous mission, the director of the CIA knows that his first recruit needs to be Rob Tacoma. Tacoma is one of the best killers the CIA ever produced, an operative without peer who is able to think on his feet and adapt to any situation. Tacoma is the perfect man for this dangerous and secretive job, especially as he already bears a hefty grudge against the Russian. However, this assignment begins poorly when Tacoma finds his new partner murdered by mafia hitmen before he even officially joins the team. The Russians already know what his mission is, and with his identity exposed, Tacoma is now being hunted by the entire Russian mafia. Can even this legendary CIA operative survive against a criminal army without rules, conscious or limits?

The Russian is the first book in the new Rob Tacoma series of thriller books. The Rob Tacoma books are a spinoff of Coes’s Dewey Andreas series, which ran between 2010 and 2018, featuring eight novels. Rob Tacoma was a popular supporting character in the Dewey Andreas books, and it’s interesting to see him getting his own adventures. I have had my eye on The Russian for a little while now due to its awesome-sounding plot, and I really wanted to read it last year when it first came out but I didn’t get a chance. As a result, when I was in the mood for an exciting thriller, The Russian was at the top of my list of books to check out. I ended up really enjoying The Russian as it has a fun, fast-paced story with a lot of action that I was able to power through in a very short period of time.

This new book from Coes features a rather intriguing plot idea of a CIA agent, and by extension the CIA, going to war with an organised crime group, the Russian mafia. I really loved this concept and I think that Coes did a wonderful job expanding it out into a thrilling and enjoyable story. The start of the book is set out perfectly, with the event that shows off the notoriety of the Russian mafia and prompts the President to set the CIA on them, presenting the reader with a pretty compelling start to the book. I appreciated the author taking the time to explore how the CIA were allowed to operate on US soil, and the explanation for this was a really cool plot element. I also loved the quick jump into the next part of the book, which saw Tacoma fall headfirst into trouble when the Russians find out who he and his partner are and send hitmen after him. From there you have a great, fast-paced story, as Tacoma works his way up the food chain of the Russian mafia to the very top. Coes does a fantastic job introducing the Russian mafia and setting them up as major antagonists. Not only does he examine the history of the mafia but he also explores the background of several of the major antagonists in the book, presenting them as real threats.

Among the highlights of this book were the awesome action sequences that Coes inserts throughout the story. In his attempts to take down the Russians, Tacoma engages in a number of gun fights and covert infiltrations to find and kill his targets. Each of these is a lot of fun to see unfold, and there are some really impressive sequences throughout this book. My personal highlight was an extended sequence in an airport, where Tacoma, in the midst of a busy crowd of civilians, must take down a team of assassins who are gunning for him. There were also several great and brutal scenes involving close-combat fighting, including some knockdown brawls between competing Russian gangsters, which of course Tacoma eventually gets caught right in the middle of. Needless to say, there is plenty in this book to keep those action junkies happy, and it I found it to be an enjoyable part of the book. However, readers should be warned that there are several gruesome torture scenes in this novel, which are probably not everyone’s cup of tea.

I felt that The Russian was an excellent introduction into a new major series for Coes, and I liked how he was able to change the direction of his antagonists away from more usual spy thriller targets and towards organised crime. While the author is moving in a new story direction, The Russian is strongly associated with the Dewey Andreas universe. There are a ton of references to the events that occurred in the previous books, and a number of characters from this original series are included, such as the titular Dewey Andreas. Coes does a great job of introducing all the relevant character backgrounds and previous plot events that the reader needs to know, and absolutely no knowledge of these prior books is required to enjoy The Russian. Still, fans of the original Dewey Andreas books will no doubt enjoy seeing how the universe has progressed, especially as The Russian includes a range of different characters from the previous book.

While I did really enjoy the story that Coes pulled together in The Russian, I did find that it was occasionally let down by elements of the author’s writing style. In my opinion, a bunch of plot points were repeated unnecessarily throughout the book and there were several inconsistencies in the book’s timing and characters that stood out to me. In addition, I had issues with some parts of the dialogue, which I found to be a bit unnatural in places. The above issues occasionally broke up the flow of the story for me and they were a bit discordant. However, I still really enjoyed this book, and I felt that the amazing and action-packed story really overcame some of these technical issues. That said, I did find that some of the book’s major twists were a tad easy to predict, especially the last one, which was tied into the background of Tacoma’s character and revisited several times by a bunch of different characters.

I ended up listening to the audiobook version of The Russian, which was narrated by Ari Fliakos, who has previously narrated one of the books in the Dewey Andreas series. The Russian is a relatively short audiobook which ran for 9 hours and 20 minutes. I quite liked the audiobook format of this novel, especially as it allowed me to get through the book really quickly. Fliakos is a pretty good narrator, and he was able to produce a number of excellent voices for the characters, giving many of them passable Russian accents. I did think that listening to The Russian on audiobook made several of the dialogue issues I discussed above stand out a little more, but overall this was a fantastic format on which to enjoy this book.

Overall, The Russian by Ben Coes is a fun and exciting read that I had an amazing time listening to. Coes has done a wonderful job spinning this book off from his previous series, and I really enjoyed the compelling and action-packed story that he came up with. At this point in time, I am planning to read the next book in the Rob Tacoma series when it comes out, and I am looking forward to seeing where this compelling series goes next.

WWW Wednesday – 5 February 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Kellerman and Hurwitz Cover
The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman (Trade Paperback)

After enjoying the previous book in the series, The Wedding Guest, last year, I was keen to check out the latest book from Kellerman.  I have only just started this book, but it has already introduced an intriguing murder mystery that I am eager to unwrap.

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz (Audiobook)

The fifth book in Hurwitz’s fantastic Orphan X thriller series, Into the Fire is another compelling book that I am really enjoying.  I am about halfway through this audiobook at the moment and I looking forward to seeing how this book turns out.

What did you recently finish reading?

Highfire by Eoin Colfer (Trade Paperback)

Highfire Cover 3
The Russian by Ben Coes (Audiobook)

The Russian Cover
To the Strongest by Robert Fabbri (Trade Paperback)

To the Strongest Cover


What do you think you’ll read next?

The God Game by Danny Tobey (Trade Paperback)

The God Game Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

WWW Wednesday – 29 January 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Highfire, Russian Cover
Highfire by Eoin Colfer (Trade Paperback)

I have been powering through this amazing book and should hopefully knock it off tonight.

The Russian by Ben Coes (Audiobook)

I meant to read The Russian last year but didn’t get a chance, so when I felt like listening to a thriller this week, The Russian was on the top of my list.  I have been making a ton of progress with this audiobook so far and it has a really exciting story.

What did you recently finish reading?

Ember Queen, Dark Disciple
Ember Queen by Laura Sebastian (Trade Paperback)


Star Wars: Dark Disciple
by Christie Golden (Audiobook)

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

To the Strongest by Robert Fabbri (Trade Paperback)

To the Strongest Cover

I had initially planned to read The Museum of Desire by Jonathan Kellerman next, but I received a copy of To the Strongest today and now this is at the top of my to-read list.  I am really looking forward to checking this one out and I am expecting another excellent book from one of my favourite authors.

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Wish I read in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I am going to take a look at the top ten books I wish I had read in 2019. 2019 was an absolutely great year for books and I managed to get through a massive pile of fantastic reads (make sure to check out my top reads of 2019 list). However, there are always going to be some outstanding releases that you miss, and 2019 was filled with some amazing books that I wish I had gotten a chance to read. So, I thought I would take the time to highlight which 2019 releases I most regret not getting the chance to read. Hopefully by including them on this list, I will encourage myself to read some of them throughout this year.

Readers of my blog might remember that I did a similar list to this at the start of last year, with my Top Ten Books I Wish I Read in 2018 list. For this earlier list, I looked at which books I most regretted not reading in 2018, and made it a priority to try and get through them at some point. I actually made a little bit of progress getting through the books on this list last year, as I ended up reading three out of the 10 books that featured on this earlier list (like I said, a little bit of progress). Each of these three books that I ended up reading in 2019, which included Cold Iron by Miles Cameron, The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding and King of Assassins by R. J. Barker (review still pending), were extremely epic books, and each of them received a full five out of five stars from me. I am still going to try and read some of the other books that were featured on this 2018 list in the future, but it is definitely time to look to the releases of 2019. Hopefully I will enjoy some of the inclusions on this new list as much as the books I went back to check out last year.

For this list any book with a 2019 release date that I have not yet read is eligible to be included. I had a feeling before I started that this will be a pretty diverse list as there were quite a few intriguing-sounding novels out there that I did not get a chance to try out. It turned out that there were quite a few books out there that I wish I had read last year, but I was eventually able to work out what my top ten were. I think that each of the novels featured on this list have a great amount of potential, especially those where I have already read an earlier book in the series. So, let us get to the list.

Honourable Mentions:


Grave Importance
by Vivian Shaw

Grave Importance Cover


The Russian 
by Ben Coes

The Russian Cover


Nottingham
by Nathan Makaryk

Nottingham Cover


The Second Sleep
by Robert Harris

The Second Sleep Cover

Top Ten List:


The Institute
by Stephen King

The Institute Cover 1

For the second year in a row, the latest Stephen King tops my list of books I wish I had read. While The Institute sounded extremely interesting, I just could not fit it into my reading schedule. I think that I will really have to try and get through this book at some point this year.

The Ruin of Kings and The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons

Jenn Lyons COver

I’m going to do a double feature for this second entry and feature the first two books in Jenn Lyons’s A Chorus of Dragons series. Both of these books were released last year, and they sounded like particularly intriguing pieces of fantasy fiction that I really wanted to read. Unfortunately, I had to prioritise other books in front of The Ruin of Kings, and I did not want to take a look at The Name of All Things until I’d gotten through the first book. The end result is that I didn’t read either of them, which is a real shame. I must try and have a go at reading both of them this year, especially as the third book in the series, The Memory of Souls (which has a rather cool picture of an elephant on its front cover), is set for release in August.

Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation Lost Cover

This is probably the most surprising novel I did not read last year. Salvation Lost is the sequel to 2018’s Salvation, which was one of my favourite books in 2018. I have been meaning to read this sequel since about July, and yet somehow, I keep completely failing to even pick it up. I will hopefully get to this one very soon, and it is probably the book on this list I am most likely to read next.

The Bear Pit by S. G. MacLean

The Bear Pit Cover

The Bear Pit is another book whose preceding novel, Destroying Angel, I found to be pretty spectacular. I was really looking forward to The Bear Pit, especially as it featured a really cool sounding mystery in a fascinating historical period. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a copy of this book (the one copy I saw in the shop was damaged, the horror, the horror) and so didn’t get around to reading it. I will read this book at some point in the future and I cannot wait to dive into another one of MacLean’s compelling and complex murder mystery storylines.

Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Alien Echo Cover

An Alien book, written by horror extraordinaire Mira Grant! How have I not read this book yet? I was really looking forward to Alien: Echo earlier in the year, especially after I enjoyed Grant’s last novel, Into the Drowning Deep. I actually have a copy of this book currently sitting on my shelf, silently judging me, and I will have to carve out some time to get through this one.

We Are the Dead by Mike Shackle

We are the Dead Cover

We Are the Dead was a rather intriguing-sounding 2019 fantasy debut that I very much regret not getting a copy of. I have heard some pretty amazing things about this book, and I really wish that I had managed to check it out. The sequel, A Fool’s Hope, is set for release in July, and I will have to make an effort and read We Are the Dead before this second book comes out.

Duplicity by Richard Evans

Duplicity Cover

This was the second book in Evans’s Democracy series, the first book of which, Deceit, was also featured on my favourite reads of 2018 list. Deceit was an excellent political thriller that expertly portrayed chaotic events that occur within Australia’s Parliament House. I was really looking forward to the sequel, especially as it was going to look at Australia’s electoral process, but unfortunately I just didn’t get a chance to read it. This is another one I am probably going to try and read in the next couple of weeks, and I think it is going to be a really outstanding piece of Australian fiction.

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

The Taking of Annie Thorne Cover

This was fantastic-sounding novel that I heard some good things about from other reviewers. The Taking of Annie Thorne, also titled The Hiding Place, was another dark thriller from Tudor, acclaimed author of The Chalk Man, which featured another of the author’s clever-sounding plots. I really want to check this one out in its audiobook format as it was narrated by Richard Armitage, and I look forward to hearing him tell the story.

Star Wars: Dooku: Jedi Lost by Cavan Scott

Dooku - Jedi Lost Cover

Somehow I failed to read all the Star Wars books that were released last year, which is just disappointing. Dooku: Jedi Lost is a deeply intriguing Star Wars novel that somehow failed to turn up on my radar until after its release. This piece of Star Wars fiction began life exclusively as an audio production, although a printed version has since been produced. The book examines the life of Star Wars antagonist Count Dooku and shows why he left the Jedi Order and how he was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force. Because it is a Star Wars novel, I already know I am going to love it, and it is pretty much guaranteed that I will listen to this at some point. I am really looking forward to learning more about the history of Count Dooku, and from the sounds of it, this book will have some strong ties to one of my favourite Star Was book of 2019, Master & Apprentice.

The Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan

The Wolf's Call Cover

The final book on this list is The Wolf’s Call by bestselling fantasy author Anthony Ryan. The Wolf’s Call is the first book in Ryan’s new Raven’s Blade series, which follows the adventures of a legendary warrior forced to fight another bloody war. This book has a really intriguing-sounding plot and received some very high praise from reviewers, so I will have to try and read it at some point. I might actually read the three books in Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow series first, as they are set in the same world.

 

It looks like I have a lot catch-up reading to do if I am going to make a dent in this list. There are some truly amazing-sounding novels on this list and I fully intend to get through all of them at some point, although with all the outstanding books coming out in 2020, it might take me a little time. In the meantime, let me know what books you most regret not reading in 2019 in the comments below.