In “The Outside Man,” the latest military-political thriller from former Army helicopter pilot Don Bentley, every page is an action-packed adventure. Bentley steers his hero, former intelligence operative Matt Drake, into a series of ever-more dangerous scenarios and impossible odds while keeping the reader invested through every flip of the page until the novel’s literal earth-shaking conclusion.
Bentley served for more than a decade as an Apache pilot with the Army and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Air Medal with “V” device for valor while deployed in Afghanistan. His military service lends an additional layer of authenticity to this fast-paced tale.
Though Drake attempts to leave his intelligence career behind after a mission gone wrong, he’s pulled back in the moment he realizes he’s driving into a trap in the middle of an Austin intersection. From there, Bentley’s plot grips tight and doesn’t let go. Twists and turns abound as Drake zips from one corner of the globe to another, often outgunned and outmanned.
The motley crew of Drake’s fellow operatives is a bright spot among many in the compelling narrative, and their often-hilarious, rapid-fire banter feels like a way to defuse the life-or-death situations they face at every turn. However, Bentley occasionally uses outdated, and in some cases, offensive terms throughout the book, and his villains lack the nuance shown to the cast of heroes. Viewed through Drake, the complex forces at play in the Middle East are easily divided into good guys and bad, which often feels stereotypically oversimplified.
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An intriguing successor to Tom Clancy’s political thrillers, “The Outside Man” delivers edge-of-your-seat action and keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens next. Bentley is a master of cliffhanger chapter endings, and it’s very difficult to put this book down once you pick it up. Even with multiple twists, the story unfolds in a way that feels natural and effortless thanks to Bentley’s storytelling skill and charismatic voice.
“The Outside Man” is the follow-up to his debut Drake thriller, “Without Sanction,” which came out in March 2020. Both novels are available now.
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