The Kobalt Dossier - Tor/Forge Blog



5 International Thrillers to Read this Summer

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By Lizzy Hosty

From Istanbul to Central Europe, Paris to China, come travel across the world with us and these thrilling spy mysteries, including The Kobalt Dossier by Eric Van Lustbader, the newest installment in the Evan Ryder series.




Image Place holder  of - 67Assassin’s Dawn by Ward Larsen

Travel to Central Europe with David Slaton!

Straight out of college, Slaton is eager to excel in his assassin training so that he can go after the man who killed the two people he held closest to him. On an operation in Central Europe, the chance to steal information from the killer’s brother presents itself. However, when the operation goes wrong, and Slaton has to fall back, Slaton is informed that the killer himself, Ramzi, might soon appear. And Slaton vows to take this chance to solidify his place as an assassin.

Placeholder of  -86Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury

Visit an alternate Paris, where Europe has long been under control of the Ottoman Empire with Kamal Arslan Agha!

In 1683, Mehmed IV, sultan of the Ottoman Empire, started his assault on Europe to claim it all for the empire, when a mysterious visitor, naked and covered in tattoos, delivered a world-changing message. Over 300 years later in the conquered Paris, in 2017, Kamal Arslan Agha is a feted officer in the sultan’s secret police that is starting to question his orders – and everything – when he meets a mysterious stranger, naked and covered in tattoos, that reveals a secret the Sultan would do anything to prevent from coming to light.

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Go to Istanbul, Ukraine, and Romania with secret agent Evan Ryder!

After completing her mission and thwarting Nemesis, a fascist syndicate, Evan returns home to Washington D.C. to find that the secret division of DOD she works for has been shut down and her dead sister’s children are now missing. Evan now has to team up with her former boss, Ben Butler and search through the Middle East and Eastern Europe to find the truth, all while on the run from their enemies, including the American billionaires who supported Nemesis.

Image Placeholder of - 88Shadow by James Swallow

Race against time through Europe and the Middle East with Marc Dane! Marc Dane and his partner, Lucy Keyes, are frantic to stop the evil organization that plans to release a deadly virus that could kill millions across Europe and the Middle East. In their rush to discover the truth, they learn that a mysterious bio-scientist with a terrible secret has been abducted and a ruthless far-right terrorist has broken out of captivity. It will take every trick in the book – and then some – for Dane and Keyes to stop a global catastrophe.

Shadow of the Dragon by Marc Cameron

Fly to China with John Clark and President Jack Ryan!

When the brilliant scientist Liu Wangshu disappears and a high-level Chinese mole known as Surveyor has managed to infiltrate American Intelligence, Jack Ryan realizes there’s only one choice to be made. He has to send John Clark deep into China to find a former graduate student of Professor Liu Wangshu who may know where he is. It’s a risky mission, but finding Liu and learning China’s knowledge of aerospace and naval technology is too great an opportunity to pass up.



Eric Van Lustbader on Keeping Writing Ideas Fresh

Image Place holder  of - 29Author Eric Van Lustbader has been a writing for over four decades, and he has always been able to craft new and exciting stories for his novels. To celebrate the release of his newest book The Kobalt Dossier, he wrote about how he keeps his writing ideas fresh after a long career.

By Eric Van Lustbader

“This is a masterly performance by an author who’s still fresh and original after a long career in a genre he helped define.”

Publisher’s Weekly wrote this at the end of their review of The Kobalt Dossier, the second novel in my Evan Ryder series. After a career that has spanned over four decades I’m often asked how I’m able to continue to gather fresh ideas. So many answers to that question I can’t cover them all in this limited space. However, here are the main ones:

I love what I do. I’ve been writing all my life, ever since I was seven, beginning with poems of things I saw around me, like rain, the beach, stars, or things I loved as a child, like a Brontosaurus (who lived in a world long before us!), my Teddy bear, owls (I’ve loved owls for as long as I can remember). I moved on to short stories, and then during my decade in rock’n’roll, interviews with star musicians and think pieces on new trends. Even then I had my eye on the future and what would come next.

No one knows anything, as the great screenwriter William Goldman famously wrote. At an early age I had already come to that conclusion. The so-called fog of war extends to everyday life. If no one knows anything, then what is really happening behind the scenes? As a teenager, I read spy novels by the truckload. One of the reasons they fascinated me was because they explained to me what no one else knew. They opened up a world of shadows, people living outside of society who kept the world from spinning out of control. And since control is what we all want so as not to be blindsided by life I wanted what those heroes had.

Since I couldn’t have that in real life I decided to create my own fictional world where I could have control – of everyone and everything. Ain’t fiction writing grand!

Combining my love of spies and their world with my innate desire, and ability, to extrapolate the near future from current events made writing through more than four decades not only (relatively) easy – writing is never easy, though it’s as often exhilarating as it is frustrating and anxiety-producing – but quite satisfying as well.

I recall with great pleasure my first meeting Robert Ludlum. It turned out that in the heady days of 1980 both he and I had novels on The New York Times Bestseller list. During the course of the evening we discussed our respective heroes, Nicholas Linnear and Jason Bourne. I was later to write eleven Bourne novels in 14 years, but that’s another story for another day. Bob was a terrific writer, but he came of age during the aftermath of WWII and was consumed by the myriad conspiracies that sprang up during those years. For him, everything led back to the war.

I’m younger. For me, the war and the 1950’s were parts of history I read about but did not feel viscerally as Bob did. Besides, I was all about looking ahead. Had I been born earlier I surely would have been influenced by the same issues Bob was, i.e. the US government recruiting Nazi scientists and spies, the rise and fall of Joe McCarthy, the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenburg, to name the most notable.

Dealing with the Big Lie. From the History Collection, “The “Big Lie” propaganda technique surfaced after Adolf Hitler wrote about it in his autobiographical book Mein Kampf (my struggle). A succinct definition of Big Lie reads like present-day political strategy: make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually the people will believe it.

The fact is the Big Lie keeps morphing. It was aided in those earlier days by radio, the first mass media, then by TV, and now, of course, because of the Internet, the most effective agent of mass media to date, it is disseminated across pretty much every country in the world.

Life keeps changing, but the Big Lie remains, producing endless fodder for writers like me, who feel a need to dig deep, turn a spotlight on the deepest shadows that seem every year to creep closer and closer to all of us.

Order The Kobalt Dossier—Available Now!

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Excerpt: The Kobalt Dossier by Eric Van Lustbader




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Evan Ryder is back in The Kobalt Dossier, the stunning follow-up to The Nemesis Manifesto from New York Times bestselling author Eric Van Lustbader.

After thwarting the violent, international, fascist syndicate known as Nemesis, Evan Ryder returns to Washington, D.C., to find her secret division of the DOD shut down and her deceased sister’s children missing. Now the target of a cabal of American billionaires who were among Nemesis’s supporters, Evan and her former boss, Ben Butler, must learn to work together as partners – and navigate their intricate past.

Their search will take them from Istanbul to Odessa to an ancient church deep within the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. And all along the way, an unimaginable enemy stalks in the shadows, an adversary whose secretive past will upend Evan’s entire world and everything she holds dear.

The Kobalt Dossier will be available on June 1, 2021. Please enjoy the following excerpt!




Benjamin Butler had made a mistake. A grave mistake. By Zoe’s determination, anyway. His daughter, eight years old going on sixteen, had made him promise that there would always be Oreos in the house. Because they just returned from a week at the Atlantis in Paradise Island, celebrating her eighth birthday, tonight there weren’t any, which was why Ben was trolling down the wide aisles of the Costco on Market Street NE, in DC with an impatient Zoe on his heels. It was almost 8 p.m.; they had just over thirty minutes to find and purchase the Oreos before the store closed for the night. He should have known where they were; he’d bought them often enough. But Costco had this annoying habit of moving displays around.

At last, after long minutes of hunting, Zoe spotted them midway down the snacks aisle.

“There, Dad! There they are!”

He pushed his cart after his sprinting daughter and caught up with her in front of a massive stack of the oversized blue boxes filled with thirty six-packs of the cookies Zoe loved so much. He grabbed one, looked at her happy hungry face, and decided to make it two, so he wouldn’t have to think about buying them for weeks. As he turned to head for the register lines, he saw a suit standing at the end of the aisle. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw the suit’s twin—or near enough. Ben had been in the business of espionage long enough to recognize government bodyguards with a single glance. He could smell them too—a combination of cheap aftershave, cheap fabric, and sweat. No one was in the aisle save himself and Zoe. He prudently decided to shelter in place and let the situation reveal itself. He stood with his hands on the bar of his shopping cart, Zoe in front of him cradled between his arms, and waited.

A few seconds later, a new actor emerged from behind a display of M&M boxes the size of his chest. The no-neck monster Ben knew as General Ryan Aristides, his boss at DOD, who had proved himself a gutless wonder when Ben’s job and reputation were on the line several months ago. Instead of coming to Ben’s defense against Brady Thompson, the Secretary of Defense, he had stepped away, keeping himself clear of whatever fallout would ensue from Brady coming down on Ben’s head and on Ben’s clandestine shop. As it turned out Ben and Evan Ryder had been able to neutralize Thompson, uncovering evidence that he had been working for the Russians and turning him. As a double agent, he now delivered vital intel to Aristides while feeding disinformation to his erstwhile Russian masters.

The general’s big square face looked pale beneath the harsh blue-white overheads. He walked with a rolling gait, slightly bowlegged, result of his time aboard ships.

“Quite a sweet tooth you have there, Ben,” he said, pointing at the Oreos.

Ben. Aristides always called him Benjamin. Something was up. It was only then, as the general approached, that Ben realized Aristides was out of regs: he was in a shiny suit he might have worn to his daughter’s wedding.

“Zoe,” Ben said.

“Ah, yes, the lovely Zoe.”

The general should have been smiling, but he wasn’t. Anyone else would have said hello to the girl, asked how she was, but Aristides was busy looking at a display of gummy bears. “I hated these when I was a kid,” he said, his voice a basso rumble. “Disgusting stuff, don’t you think? All that sugar, just rots you from the inside out.” But it was clear he didn’t expect or want an answer. In fact, it wasn’t altogether clear whether he was speaking about gummy bears at all.

The general sighed, turned back to Ben. “I think it would be best if Zoe took a stroll around with Wilson here.” One of the suits stepped forward. He was young, fresh-faced, and, unlike his boss, was smiling at Zoe.

Ben took a short moment for a sit rep. Evaluating the situation wasn’t difficult; Aristides had given him little choice. He leaned over and put his mouth to Zoe’s ear. “How about it, kiddo? The general and I need to have a bit of a chin-wag.” He couched the request in as unintimidating terms as he could.

Zoe, who was both smart and used to the secretiveness of her father’s job, nodded. “Okey-doke.

“I’m not a child,” she said, slipping out from between her father and the shopping cart, ignoring Wilson’s extended hand, fixing him with her disconcertingly direct stare.

“My mistake.” Wilson scarcely missed a beat.

When the two of them were out of sight, Aristides cleared his throat. “Ben, I’m afraid I have bad news.”

Ben’s stomach dropped, as if he were in a fast descending elevator. “Let’s have it,” he said.

The general picked up an enormous bag of miniature Snickers, regarded it as if it were a crystal ball, then, almost angrily, shoved it back with its brethren. When he turned to Ben, his gaze was concentrated on a spot in the middle of Ben’s forehead.

He can’t look me in the eye, Ben thought, and braced himself as best he could.

Aristides heaved a sigh. His neck was bulging, threatening to burst out of its collar. “As of today, your shop is out of business.”

“Wait. What?” Ben couldn’t believe what he just heard. “You can’t be serious.”

“Everyone but Evan has already been reassigned.”

“After we delivered Thompson as a double agent? The Secretary of Defense? The biggest espionage coup in ” Ben shook his head. “How

is this possible?”

“You delivered Thompson to me, personally. No one else knows we compromised him and to protect him that’s the way it needs to remain.”

“I understand. Of course I do. But still—”

“Listen to me, Ben. First, POTUS doesn’t care for your agents being female.” Aristides began to count on his fingers. “Second, you lost control of one of them, Brenda Myers. She went rogue and killed a civilian. Third, your shop’s incursion on foreign soil and its messy aftermath have made you and Ryder some extremely dangerous enemies here at home— billionaires with the wherewithal and power to influence POTUS.”

Ben grunted in disgust. “General, with all due respect, you still need me, need my shop. These people aren’t done. Samuel Wainwright Wells is right at the heart of the same evangelical conservative cabal that’s been funding Nemesis’s neo-Nazi arm here in America. That’s the right wing’s plan, meld their brand of conservatism with white supremacy. He’s their top dog. I’ve got my eye on him, with his people spewing their evangelical racism through the TV and radio stations he owns.”

“Undoubtedly. Nevertheless, Ben, these evangelical conservatives have POTUS’s ear. Wells’s Super PAC played a major role in his election. Ever since Wells married his third wife, the former Lucinda Horvat, just over a year ago, he’s been even more seriously into the evangelicals.”

Ben shook his head. “Right. They had a low-key wedding at the DC hotel owned by one of POTUS’s companies. I heard he offered the hotel gratis—as a wedding present.”

Aristides nodded. “Tight guest list—an echelon of his compadres, but none of her family; they’re all dead. Probably because Lucinda is in her late twenties, the marriage caused something of a ripple in the mainstream press.”

“Which set off the usual backlash in the right-wing media. And even they weren’t allowed to take photos.”

The general nodded. “Wells is notoriously reclusive, so there wasn’t much of a story for the press to latch onto. And, of course, Wells’s own virulently right-wing media network ignored the age difference altogether. In any event, it took the new Mrs. Wells no time to climb into the Wellsian life. By all accounts he’s content to have her be his mouthpiece. And POTUS seems enamored of her. She often leads his private prayer group. Word is, she also appears to be taking a more active role in Wells’s business affairs. She’s seen more often at high-level corporation meetings than he is.”

“Well, there you go. Their involvement in Nemesis is a logical conclusion, General. Even you can see that.”

Aristides’s expression did not change. “All circumstantial, all conjecture. You have no proof, Ben. As far as we are concerned, the Wellses’ hands are clean.”

“Their hands are as dirty as they come.” Ben shook his head. “This is insane, General. I know it and you know it.” Ben realized that unconsciously he’d taken up a defensive stance:  feet  at  hip’s  width,  arms hanging at his sides, hands slightly curled. But it was no use— Aristides had already attacked him. He was rocked back on his heels. The ground had been scooped out from under him, and he was falling into an abyss.

“I wish it were, Ben, but facts are facts. This cabal of ultra-wealthy conservatives, whoever they are—”

“Who, not incidentally, are raping this country, following the game plan of the robber barons of the early 1900s.”

“Irrelevant to this discussion. What is relevant is that you thwarted them when you took down Nemesis,” Aristides continued, ignoring Ben’s furious outburst. “They’re not likely to forget that. They’re not used to losing.”

And this is the thanks I get, Ben thought. I get fucked while they get away scot-free. But he didn’t say it. Self-pity was not a trait Aristides could abide. Nevertheless, Ben felt the rage rise in him like bile, burning his stomach and throat, momentarily muting him.

He’d spent a decade in the field, facing innumerable forms of peril that placed him so close to death he could feel its icy heartbeat. He’d deliberately wrenched himself out of the field—a place he had come to view as home—in order to work himself up the intelligence ladder, and at last he’d been delivered his reward: his own black ops shop.

Now it was gone, vaporized with a cynical and self-serving command. “I’ve pulled some strings, dodged a couple of regs, to get you an extremely generous severance package.”

Ben’s lip curled. “Am I supposed to thank you for that?”

Aristides’s meaty shoulders rose, fell. “Either way, the money is yours. It’s in your account.”

“And that’s it?” Ben said with pointed belligerence.

“It’s a shitload of money,” Aristides said with equanimity. “What about Evan?”

“She has a choice. Either accept a reassignment to the Department of Energy or take severance.”

“The Department of fucking Energy? You must be joking. What is she going to do there?”

The general shrugged. “Politics, Ben.”

“You already know what her choice will be, General.”

Aristides nodded. “Money will hit her account tomorrow morning.” Aristides took another step closer. “A word of warning. These people,

they’ll never forget what you and Ryder did,” Aristides said in a raspy whisper. “They’ll never forget.”

Ben passed a hand across his forehead; it came away damp and clammy. He was grateful that Zoe couldn’t see him in this state. The general had done one thing, at least, to ease Ben’s pain—and it was no small thing.

But—” Aristides’s voice returned to its normal level. “Lemons, lemonade.”

Ben’s eyes narrowed. This was no time for word games. “Please.”

The general’s expression softened like taffy. Ben recognized genuine compassion in his eyes.

“Seen in a new light,” Aristides said, “this turn of events can be fortuitous.”

Ben goggled at him. A bitter laugh exploded out of his mouth. “In what multiverse?” He was incredulous.

“Yours.” Aristides spread his hands. “New start, new opportunities.

You were always a wizard at those.”

Aristides’s face was sallow, unhealthy-looking in the overhead illumination. Briefly, Ben wondered whether he looked as bad.

General Aristides glanced at his watch; their time was up. “Evan Ryder is the only one of your field assets currently out of the country,” he said. “Yes?”

Ben nodded.

“For her sake and yours get her the hell back here ASAP.”

Copyright © 2021 by Eric Van Lustbader

Pre-order The Kobalt Dossier—available on June 1, 2021!

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