cover image Crimson Phoenix

Crimson Phoenix

John Gilstrap. Kensington, $26 (512p) ISBN 978-1-4967-2855-5

The U.S. approves an Israeli first-strike to destroy Iranian nuclear weapons, in this pallid near-future series launch from bestseller Gilstrap (the Jonathan Grave series). Given the threat of nuclear war, all members of Congress are transported to an underground bunker in West Virginia, but Victoria Emerson, a U.S. representative from that state, balks at entering when she’s told her two teenage sons accompanying her aren’t welcome inside. She resigns her post to go in search of her third son, a student at a West Virginia military academy. When word of the government’s precautions leaks to the press, Iran acts first, killing millions of Israelis with multiple nukes and triggering a Russian attack that takes out 13 U.S. cities, the president, and the vice president. The House Speaker is left to try to run the country after most of America’s power grid is knocked out, while contending with opposition to his leadership inside the facility. Implausible details—both the president and v-p are in Washington, D.C., just hours before the planned Israeli operation, leaving them vulnerable—don’t help a familiar story line. Still, fans of apocalyptic thrillers may want to check this out. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Agency. (Feb.)