Rising Phoenix, an Action-Packed Spy Thriller by Evan Graver

The Bottom Line: Rising Phoenix is an addictive, action-packed spy thriller set in the fascinating geopolitical battleground that is Venezuela. Mark Greaney fans may find a new favorite in Evan Graver. 

Rising Phoenix opens in Caracas, Venezuela, as government official Migel Tapia – also known as Cobalt Panther – arrives home to his eerily quiet McMansion. A nightmare awaits him in the master bedroom, where his wife and CIA handler have been bound and gagged by ruthless operatives from the Venezuelan government’s intelligence agency, SEBIN. After witnessing his handler’s execution, and his wife’s rape and murder, he’s whisked away to the mountains for interrogation.

Enter elite CIA operative John Phoenix, who is summoned by Nightingale, aka Leslie Connolly,  assistant chief of the CIA’s Latin American Division. Phoenix’s mission is to extract Cobalt Panther before their entire operation in the region is exposed. 

But as Phoenix soon learns, it may already be too late. Phoenix and the CIA soon learn a person dubbed Dragonfly compromised Tapia and many other case officers and operations across Latin America, Africa and China. The CIA thought they had taken him out in a drone strike, and their miss is proving to be devastating. 

Credit author Evan Graver for not relying on well-worn geographic landscapes in this sophisticated spy thriller. His portrayal of modern-day Venezuela and its strategic importance to Russia and the United States feels fully believable. Graver expertly juxtaposes cinematic, stunning landscapes with Venezuela’s political and economic turmoil, as evidenced by references to the humanitarian crisis, lack of medical supplies and daily hardship. To add realism, Graver selectively name-drops real-world actors (e.g. Mike Pompeo) but keeps political discussions largely focused on Latin America. In a genre that is often filled with dialogue about divisive American politics, Graver’s approach is not just refreshing – it also greatly amplifies the book’s entertainment value. 

While the book’s rich backdrop is worth the prices of admission alone, Rising Phoenix doesn’t skimp on action. Graver excels at writing fast-paced action scenes with truly shocking acts of violence and brutality. In between, readers will fall for Phoenix and Connolly’s well-developed personas. Let’s hope we get to see Phoenix fulfill his longing for outdoor adventures in Texas in future books.  

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