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  • Mandy McHugh

Steel Fear, Brandon Webb & John David Mann: A Review

Military thrillers aren't always my cup of tea, but when I read the synopsis for Steel Fear, I was intrigued. A mysterious SEAL with a damning secret? A ship stuck at sea with a possible serial killer? I couldn't wait to get started.

US Navy SEAL sniper Finn is sent to the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Persian Gulf. He's not sure why he's on the ship or the complete circumstances that brought him there, but he knows whatever it is, it's bad. Trying to piece together his missing chunks of time, Finn walks the ship and observes. In the days following his arrival, however, crew begin dying, and Finn's convinced these deaths aren't suicides. There's a killer on the Abraham Lincoln, and he's being set up to take the fall. I really enjoyed this book. This has everything you want in a military thriller: high-octane stakes, fast-paced action, scoping casts with diverse personalities that reach a boiling point. But it also reads as a solid locked-door thriller. Stuck at sea with a serial killer good at covering his tracks. One by one, they fall. I loved that combination. It worked really well in setting Finn up as an unreliable yet endearing character. We don't know everything about him, so we can't trust him--especially with the memory gaps--but we want to, and that character arc was super successful. I also really enjoyed the structure and the way the mystery unfolded. The chapters were short which kept the plot moving, and even though we don't go into depth with the supporting characters, there are enough clever details and specific memories to round them out and give them life beyond stereotypes. Finn has excellent potential to launch a series, and I can see this making an excellent Amazon Prime show. If you like your protagonists whip-smart, strong-willed, and tortured by an unknown past, this will definitely be the book for you. Overall, Steel Fear is a fast-paced thriller that makes everyone a suspect. Big thanks to Ballantine and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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