The Ten Best Action Thrillers of 2023

Let’s talk action thrillers . . .

Since launching The Real Book Spy in 2015, thrillers have been our bread and butter, driving more people to the site and sparking more conversations than any other genre or sub-category. Yes, we’ve embraced mysteries and covered that genre too over the years, but ’round here, thrillers reign supreme, and since we didn’t do an end-of-the-year “Best Of” article, I got a lot of emails, tweets, DMs, messages, and comments asking for just this such list. So, it’s a little late, but hopefully better than never.

Before I unveil my Top 10 Action Thrillers of 2023, let me preface with this: there were a lot of great books to choose from. Also, no, I did not include my own book, Lethal Range, which was released last August. That omission wasn’t because I don’t think it’s good, by the way. I’m really proud of my second Matthew Redd thriller and even more excited about my third, Out For Blood, which comes out June 4, 2024. I just didn’t want to cloud this list with my own title because writing thrillers while covering them can get kind of weird, and for right now, I want to put all the focus on these ten authors and their books. Again, there were so many options to choose from, and as always, I agonized over making this list—which, for the record, after my pick for top, #1 thriller of the year, is not in any order whatsoever. I also took the liberty of lumping in several sub-categories of the thriller genre together, just to make things easier. So keep that in mind, too.

Now, without further ado, here’s my Top 10 Best Action Thrillers of 2023.


*The Real Book Spy’s Pick for Best Thriller of 2023

Only The Dead by Jack Carr

Release Date: May 16, 2023

Atria/Emily Bestler Books


Serious question, is there anyone hotter than Jack Carr right now? The former Navy SEAL turned #1 New York Times bestselling author is absolutely crushing it. From swinging by to hang out with Joe Rogan and Pat McAfee, to having one of the most-watched shows on Prime Video, which is now gearing up for a second season and a spinoff series, to announcing a nonfiction series of a book that’s set to kick off in 2024 . . . Carr hasn’t just taken the genre by storm, he’s re-defined what it means to be a celebrity author in this current era of action-packed thrillers. From brand deals to celebrity selfies and his own popular podcast, Carr is the guy right now. But don’t let all of that other stuff fool you, though. None of those things happens without killer books, and for my money, Only The Dead is Carr’s best book to date. I’d have to imagine covering Jack is probably what it would have felt like to cover Tom Clancy back in his prime, and I’m excited to see what Carr does next.



The Collector by Daniel Silva

Release Date: July 18th, 2023



As stated above, I took the liberty of combining a few different sub-categories of the thriller genre to make this list, so whereas Silva’s book might best be described as a spy thriller, there’s no way it wasn’t making my Top 10 list. Always a lock to deliver, Silva took it up a few notches in 2023, treating his readers to another exciting, globe-trotting adventure starring Gabriel Allon, the famed art restorer and once wayward son of Israeli intelligence turned Chief of the Office. Now retired, and hoping to live a quiet life with his wife and their children, Gabriel finds himself pulled back into the action when he teams with a master thief to help track down the world’s most valuable missing painting, only to end up inadvertently racing to stop an unthinkable conflict between Russia and the West. This was my favorite Gabriel Allon book of the last five years and it has me really excited to see what Silva dials up in 2024.



Dead Fall by Brad Thor

Release Date: July 25, 2023

Atria/Emily Bestler Books


It’s hard to imagine being on your A-game for twenty-three books (including The Athena Project), and yet, incredibly, that’s just what Thor has done over the course of his career. Here, Scot Harvath, the former Navy SEAL turned secret service agent turned counter-terrorism operator, is looking to lay low for a bit and take a vacation with his lover when he’s instead tasked with infiltrating the war-ravaged borderlands of Ukraine in order to track down a rogue Russian mercenary group that’s savagely killing anyone and everyone in their path, including a group of American aid workers. Now, the United States responds by dropping Harvath into Ukraine, where he’s expected to put the smackdown on the Russian mercs . . . if he can locate them. From the second Harvath sets foot in Ukraine, Thor takes readers on a blistering, heart-thumping adventure that never lets up for a single second. Expect a double dose of action here, and trust me when I tell you to preemptively clear your schedule for the day before you crack this one open.



Code Red by Kyle Mills

Release Date: September 12, 2023

Atria/Emily Bestler Books


After nine books in nine years, Kyle Mills, who was chosen to step in to carry on the legacy of Vince Flynn (who passed away in 2013), has now exited the franchise. But before passing the torch to fellow author Don Bentley, who will release his first book in Flynn’s universe this year, Mills gave readers one last unforgettable ride with the baddest man in the thriller genre, the American assassin himself, Mitch Rapp. The setup is fairly easy here: Rapp owes a favor to one of the most dangerous men in the world, who promptly cashes in by asking Mitch to investigate a new drug being cooked up by the Syrian government. Along the way, of course, Rapp discovers that the lethal new drug was actually created by Russia’s asymmetrical warfare unit as a weapon to be used against the West . . . thus kicking off a race to stop an attack that could kill millions of Americans and decimate the United States. Kyle, thank you for all that you did to keep Mitch Rapp alive and give us fans nine incredible books. You will be missed in the Rappverse, but here’s to a new adventure with Fade in the near future.



The Secret by Lee Child and Andrew Child

Release Date: October 24, 2023

Delacorte Press


Jack Reacher has been dominating the thriller and mystery space for nearly three decades, and yet, he’s never been more popular than he is today thanks, in part, to the hit Prime Video adaption of Child’s #1 New York Times bestselling books starring Alan Ritchson as Reacher. This one, the fourth co-authored with Andrew Child, goes back in time to 1992 to follow a younger Jack Reacher, who was just picked to be part of an interagency task force assembled by the secretary of defense in order to investigate a mysterious string of deaths around the country. The thing is, Reacher has never played well with others, and he’s wise to the fact that he’s the perfect fall guy if things go sideways. As he sets out to find the truth, he uncovers more than he bargained for, and soon, Reacher is back to throwing elbows and taking names, as the big man seeks out justice as only can. I loved the addition of Andrew when it was first announced years ago that he would begin co-authoring with Lee, and maintain that his involvement has given this series the shot in the arm that it needed. I really loved this book.



The Libyan Diversion by Joel C. Rosenberg

Release Date: May 16, 2023

Tyndale House Publishers


Nobody has made a career out of beating headlines quite like Rosenberg, who brought back Marcus Ryker, star of four prior books, in 2023. This time around, Ryker’s relief following a drone strike that killed the most wanted terrorist in the world is short-lived. Abu Nakba, the man responsible for lethal attacks in Washington, D.C., London, and Jerusalem, was thought to have been taken out once and for all. Now conflicting reports from Libya suggest that he might not be dead after all—and, worse for Ryker, the blunder falls on him, as he was the one who gave the order to level Nakba’s headquarters. With new threats surfacing against the United States and news of an impending attack flooding through various intelligence agencies, Ryker must quickly assess whether the news out of Libya is a diversion or something more. Rosenberg dials the suspense to max-capacity for this full-throttle thriller. If you’re not already reading his Marcus Ryker series, start.



Burner by Mark Graeney

Release Date: February 21, 2023



When Alex Velesky, an employee at a prominent Swiss bank, steals explosive records that reveal the full extent of Russia’s corruption, Courland Gentry is tasked with finding the man, securing the documents, and bringing him in for questioning. The only problem is that Gentry, aka The Gray Man, isn’t the only one hunting Velesky. The Russians want him, too, for obvious reasons, as does just about every other country. That doesn’t bother Court, who’s made a career out of taking on the most dangerous assignments imaginable, until he finds out that one of the other hunters is his estranged lover, Zoya Zakharova. With Court and Zoya on opposite sides for different reasons, things heat up in a hurry as Mark Greaney delivers yet another up-all-night thriller that’s too good to miss.



The Devil’s Ransom by Brad Taylor

Release Date: January 24, 2023

William Morrow


A lot of people write action. Of those who do, only a handful of them have actually lived that life, and Taylor is one of ’em, a fact that shines through on every page. Realism aside, Taylor is a great writer and developer of characters, and he has no shortage of fan favorites. From Pike Logan to Jennifer Cahill to Aaron and Shoshona, the key is knowing when to use each character and how much screen time to give them. That can be tricky when taking on a story that involves the collapse of the Afghanistani government, and one man’s mission to get out of the country. Pike is sent in to extract him, but when the Taskforce is hit with a ransomware attack, coupled with the revelation that a former NSA specialist is hellbent on reigniting the Cold War, things get busy in a hurry as danger closes in all around Pike Logan. Thankfully, that’s where Pike thrives, and Taylor shines brightest when his hero is kicking ass and solving problems.



The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz

Release Date: February 14, 2023

Minotaur Books


Plucked from an orphanage as a child and trained to kill, Evan Smoak, better known as Orphan X, spent his youth working for a top-secret government program. Eventually, he split from that life and remade himself as the Nowhere Man, a Punisher-like vigilante who helps people in grave danger. Suddenly, though, the set of rules Evan lives by is tested when his past sins come calling, and he finds himself in a position to kill or be killed. Normally, given the option, Evan would have no trouble pulling the trigger, especially if it meant protecting his own life. Only this time, it’s the president who lays it all out for him: kill a rich, powerful man, or else. Evan, who isn’t a fan of orders, is certainly no mindless killer, no matter how hard the government tried to turn him into one. I was on the edge of my seat, flipping pages as fast as I could to see how he’d get himself out of this one. And as always, Hurwitz did not disappoint.



Unknown Rider by Jack Stewart

Release Date: November 21, 2023

Severn River Publishing


Looking back, 2023 was a great year in terms of new talent flooding the thriller scene, but only one of them made my Top 1o list, and that’s Jack Stewart’s Unknown Rider. Stewart, a former Top Gun instructor, brings the heat with his high-flying debut, which introduces readers to pilot Colt Bancroft, one of the best new characters to come along since Jack Carr’s James Reece. Here, Colt is tasked with investigating a set of mysterious lights floating dangerously close to his aircraft carrier. Seconds later, and without warning, Colt’s F-35C goes unresponsive, inverts, and nosedives right at the aircraft carrier. At the last moment, disaster is averted, but in the aftermath of the unexplainable event, Colt teams up with an NCIS special agent to clear his name before the duo stumbles on a much larger and more sinister plot than they ever could have imagined. Think Top Gun: Maverick meets Mission: Impossible, and you’ve got Unknown Rider. I’m a huge fan of this series and author. Trust me, you will be too.




Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, is also in bookstores, and his third book, OUT FOR BLOOD, comes out on June 4th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. To interact with other readers and talk about your favorite books and authors, join The Real Book Spy’s Discord server.


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