Ryan Butler holds a dark CIA secret. He has kept quiet for fifteen years, working as an attorney in Arizona and lying about his past…now a string of bizarre murders and the events of 9-11 are about to unravel his fabricated world.
When a former lover, Alana Shannon, shoots her husband in North Carolina, Ryan realizes that only his secret can save her. Unbeknownst to Ryan, the revelation of that secret will compromise an “off the books” mission to assassinate Osama bin Laden.
Beyond Top Secret is a taut espionage thriller with political intrigue, CIA conspiracies, covert military operations, twisting courtroom drama, and romantic passion.
"...combining elements of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan thrillers, the identity hijinks of the Jason Bourne films and the courtroom high-wire of John Grisham novels, the author has crafted a thriller that should be very palatable to less demanding readers. Readers who like twisty plots, secret conspiracies and cinematic action should find plenty of thrills to redeem the novel's minor flaws."
This stupendous thriller challenges both the heart rate and the moral compass.
Trouble has a knack for finding the characters in Rob Lubitz’s Beyond Top Secret, a complicated, entertaining thriller that explores the themes of love and ethics.
In 2000, Ryan tries unsuccessfully to forget momentous events of 1986. But he can’t forget that he accidentally uncovered a mission in which the CIA used mind-control drugs, nor that he had a fling with his best friend’s wife, Alana, whom he still loves. Alana still pines for Ryan, despite being married to Steve. After 9/11, a group of rogue politicians work with the exdeputy director of the CIA, Wilhelm Kronig, to recreate the elixir Ryan stumbled upon in 1986, and soon a covert attempt to assassinate Osama bin Laden commences.
Alana and Ryan end up in the CIA’s crosshairs again when Alana is charged with murdering Steve. A reporter, Connie, and a district attorney, Carle, both looking to further their careers, also get caught in this web. Will Ryan, Alana, Wilhelm, Connie, and Carle get out of this debacle alive, or will they become victims of the dastardly political cabal?
Although it takes a while for the scope of the story’s plot to emerge, this is fitting, because it underscores nagging feelings that Ryan and Connie have, a hunch that something is too fishy to be coincidence, a notion that often gets people in over their heads. The tendency for each discovery to lead to more questions keeps the pages turning at a steady clip.
Thanks to brilliant use of third-person limited omniscient narration, Alana’s deepening helplessness becomes apparent. The book also reveals the plans of the band of politicians bit by bit, compelling further reading as the cover-ups and counter-cover-ups needed to pull off the assassination pile up.
Ryan, Alana, Wilhelm, Connie, and Carle are all relatable. Despite their different drives, keeping people safe and doing the right thing motivates them. Ryan and Alana don’t want their love for one another to put them at risk. Despite their love for the story or the office, respectively, Connie and Carle refuse to risk the lives of many to achieve their dreams. Wilhelm’s patriotism initially motivates him to recreate the drug whose formula he destroyed when he saw the harm it could do. As Walter tells the group, “‘I guarantee that we’ll get some real intelligence, not the bogus crap that I’m sure you’ve been getting with your torture techniques … I propose that we take one of our high-level captives. … After getting all of the intelligence we can out of him with the hypnosis drug, we turn him into a missile to assassinate bin Laden.’”
The drug works by enhancing the effect of hypnosis, so that subjects can carry orders they receive while mesmerized months or years after their initial trance. Given the current debate over what constitutes torture, and recent government reports acknowledging the limited usefulness of such techniques, this book prompts the timely questions: Would use of this drug constitute torturing the subject? Is it ethically permissible to essentially rob someone of free will if bending him to another’s will would save many?
Unlike the heroes, the ruthless politicians do not ponder these dilemmas, but poor Wilhelm finds his ethics changing. This stupendous thriller challenges both the heart rate and the moral compass.
In Lubitz’s (Breaking Free, 2011) thriller, a woman’s trial for murder puts numerous people in danger when it threatens to expose a covert government assassination.
Wilhelm Kronig, the former CIA deputy director, is determined to keep quiet about a buried 1969 experiment for a potent hypnotic drug. But 9/11 changes his mind. He tells the agency how to recover the supposedly destroyed formula and suggests using it for a black op to assassinate Osama bin Laden. Recently, however, participants from said experiment have killed their families and themselves on the day of their 60th birthdays. This doesn’t bode well for Alana Shannon, who shot hubby Steve in self-defense but can’t explain why he went gunning for her. She and an old flame, Environmental Protection Agency attorney Ryan Butler, know a little about the drug due to their involvement in a 1986 incident, which the CIA covered up. But building a legal defense based on that classified information is something the CIA won’t allow—even if it means making sure the witnesses don’t make it to trial. As the story progresses, Lubitz’s rapid-paced novel maintains suspense by sprinkling information like colors dabbled on the canvas of a slowly forming portrait. Much of the info is imparted by characters who, like Ryan, are reluctant or afraid to reveal everything at one time, so scenes are comprised largely of mere dialogue exchanges rather than action. Yet this doesn’t hold up the novel in the least, thanks to Lubitz’s intelligent writing and the story’s fresh, contemporary villains. Physical assaults or threats, for example, simply aren’t necessary when a well-spoken CIA agent can tell Ryan how easily the agency could frame him for treason. There’s likewise an ever present but veiled threat: computers or evidence go missing, while those people relevant to the trial either disappear or meet unfortunate accidents. This is the second book to feature Ryan and Alana, and Lubitz drops enough hints surrounding the 1986 event—in which Ryan killed a man to save Alana—to pique interest for his prior novel without spoiling or regurgitating the story. The coda goes on for a bit too long, but there’s an exhaustive wrap-up that includes elaborating on the birthday homicides and the ongoing bin Laden operation.
Smart and sleek as the secrets slowly spill out.
The novel is a fast-paced espionage thriller. It picks up on some of the story and characters from his first novel, Breaking Free, but stands on its own as an independent read.
Beyond Top Secret is featured as a five star review in the Summer Issue of Foreword Review Magazine
"This stupendous thriller challenges both the heart rate and the moral compass.
Trouble has a knack for finding the characters in Rob Lubitz’s Beyond Top Secret, a complicated, entertaining thriller that explores the themes of love and ethics."
Kirkus Review released April 6: “As the story progresses, Lubitz’s rapid-paced novel maintains suspense by sprinkling information like colors dabbled on the canvas of a slowly forming portrait. Smart and sleek as the secrets slowly spill out.”