Book Review: Surly Bonds, a Military Thriller by Michael Byars Lewis

The Bottom Line: Guaranteed to please Brad Thor fans, this terrific military thriller finds Moscow hardliners plotting to assassinate the next U.S. president.

Moscow, 1995. A small group of communist hardliners, intent on overthrowing the existing Russian regime, gather to discuss operational details. Confident that their plans will work, there’s just one problem – Senator Jonathan Bowman, the man who seems destined to become the next U.S. president, is a Reagan-esque figure who might be willing to risk military intervention to prop up the struggling Russian democracy. At last, the KGB’s Nikolai Gregarin stands to announce his solution: “Gentlemen, within twenty days, we will assassinate the man favored to win the Republican nomination.”

Meanwhile in the U.S., Senator Bowman’s estranged son, Jason, is a student pilot at Vance Air Force Base. Jason keeps the identity of his biological father to himself: “I want to make it through this program on my own. I don’t want anyone saying I made it because I’m a senator’s son.” Through a series of unlikely events, he soon learns of the Russian conspiracy and finds himself in a unique position to help foil the plot to kill his father.

Thanks to author Michael Byars Lewis’ gift for creating well-drawn characters, Surly Bonds is more than a story about espionage and geopolitics – it’s also a coming of age story with a touch of romance. Himself an 18-year veteran of Air Force Special Operations Command, Lewis flew combat missions in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As a result, every piece of Jason’s story – and all military aspects – feels both earned and authentic. What’s more, given the aggressive geopolitics played in today’s Kremlin, the plot feels remarkably timely. Read it.

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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