Two distressed heroes.
Three dastardly crimes.
And the slickest heists of all time.

Imagine Bin Laden meets Bernie Madoffand hold on for the ride.

⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯

A mysterious summons leads Kyle Achilles to a midnight meeting that shocks the world and sets a master plan in motion.

Meanwhile, Achilles’ former CIA partner is struggling to escape a terrible trap. It’s ingenious and unprecedented—yet just a hint of what’s to follow.

Pursued by ruthless criminals and relentless government agents, Achilles and Jo commence a covert search for their infamous Russian adversary. Finding him seems impossible but giving up is not an option. Ivan isn’t just setting a new standard for clever crime, he’s making money faster than Bill Gates—and plotting the downfall of the United States.

Come for the characters, stay for the surprises, in a unforgettable thriller you'll love discussing with your friends.

"Dare you to put it down." —Charles Lyde

FALLING STARS, KYLE ACHILLES #3, COMING NOVEMBER. 2nd


"My first thought was a new Jack REacher—only better."

—Lucia O'Brien

"Clever to the point where you can't put the book down."

—Maryellen Crane

"All I wanted to do was read, read, read!"

—John David

"Eternally grateful to the friend who told me about Tim Tigner."

—Bob Joiner

"Think of Tim Tigner as Tom Clancy without the filler."

—Larry Nesbit

"Achilles is my new Mitch Rapp."

—Robert Getty

"Every bit as spellbinding as David Baldacci."

—Kathryn Grady

"Tim Tigner has joined the ranks of Creichton, Cussler, etc."

—Maureen Dickerson.

"Still trying to catch my breath. He is a superb storyteller."

—Amy Peck

"Whew! What a ride! Better than any Preston book I ever read."

—Deb Rebisz

Falling Stars

1

Raven

Versailles, France

 

The drone perched atop the slate roof like the big black bird for which it was named, saving battery, waiting to strike. Its minders waited nearby in a black Tesla Model X: a pilot, an engineer and the team leader.

Under normal operational security protocols, the three Russians would have hidden away, out of sight, as drone commanders usually did. But this wasn’t a normal operation.

This was a test run.

A learning exercise.

All three team members needed to experience the first human capture directly.

The pilot needed confirmation that Raven’s cameras were sufficient for combat operations. The engineer needed confirmation that Raven’s weapons would work as designed. The team leader needed feedback, immediate and first-hand. If they unearthed any flaws, he’d have to figure out how to fix them, fast.

KEEP READING

The house beneath the slate roof was typical old-European city-center. A centuries-old stone-block facade abutting both neighbors on a cobblestone street. The street lights were also classic. Old gas lamps turned electric, now yielding to dawn.

The neighborhood was still asleep, other than the baker—and the three Russians in their silent Tesla.

“Why this particular house?” Boris asked.

Michael glanced over at the design engineer. Initially surprised to hear him speak, Michael quickly understood that the query wasn’t chitchat or idle curiosity. It was a technical question from a technical man. Boris could build anything. Fix anything. Create anything. He was Leonardo DaVinci reincarnate. But like many savants, his talents ceased at humanity’s edge. He was often oblivious to things beyond the mechanical realm. “It’s not the house that’s special. It’s the occupant,” Michael replied.

Boris grunted dismissively without turning from the window, his interest extinguished.

“And what’s special about her?” Pavel called out from the Tesla’s third row. The pilot was former military. He knew better than to ask indulgent questions. But Boris had cracked the door and curiosity had emerged.

Michael kept his eyes on the house while replying. “What makes you think it’s a woman?”

“You told Boris the target weighed fifty kilos.”

So he had. One point for Pavel. Michael decided to toss him a warning disguised as a bone. “Ivan has a score to settle. She interfered with one of our operations a few years back. Today, she gets what’s coming.”

Their employer was literally a living legend. Ivan the Ghost was the man to whom the wealthy turned when they needed dirty deeds done without a trace.

Or at least he used to be.

Ivan didn’t take jobs anymore.

He’d given up his work-for-hire business in order to develop Raven, and the plan that went with it. If that plan worked, and Ivan’s plans always worked, he would rake in billions. With a b. If it didn’t, well, Michael chose not to think about that. Like most geniuses, Ivan had a temper. And like most pioneers, he could be ruthless with those around him when things didn’t go his way.

But they would go his way.

Ivan wasn’t just a genius. He was meticulous.

Before driving half the night to Versailles’ city center, he had them run Raven through tests. Dozens of tests. Dogs at first. Then calves. The trial attacks were nothing short of mesmerizing.

The drone itself was impressive, if not a technological breakthrough. A scaled-up version of the quadcopter you could buy at any hobby store. They powered it using breakthrough battery technology from the lab of John Goodenough—stolen of course—and framed it with the same carbon-fiber construction used on racing bikes and tennis rackets. Boris built it to carry 250 pounds of active cargo, and hinged it to fold up for transport by SUV.

Raven’s main offensive mechanism was the true marvel—both for its apparent simplicity and for its amazing action. They named it The Claw because it was Raven’s grasping mechanism, although to Michael it looked more like a snake than a talon.

Roughly the width of a broomstick and thirty feet in length, The Claw was constructed from segments of aluminum tube, anodized black and ingeniously cut to articulate. If properly positioned, The Claw would wrap around the victim’s waist with the push of a single button, automatically applying enough pressure to squeeze flesh without crushing bone. Boris insisted that the mechanics were rudimentary, but The Claw’s speed and grace still stole Michael’s breath every time he saw it in operation.

Of course, the trick to a clean capture was getting The Claw close enough to strike. Pets and livestock were one thing, humans were literally a different breed.

Given Raven’s speed and nimble nature, Pavel was confident that he could catch anyone outdoors. The way he figured it, about a third of the victims would behave like a deer in the headlights, too frightened to react. Another third would allow curiosity to override judgment, rubbernecking until it was too late. For the final third, the warrior class, there was the taser.

Under normal circumstances, Michael was certain this particular target would require the taser. She was a fighter. But today she wouldn’t get the chance. Not with Raven silently perched and The Claw ready to strike.

“How long have you worked for Ivan?” Pavel asked, breaking the silence from behind the Drone Mobile Command Unit. He was trying to make the question sound casual, but came up short.

Michael weighed his response. In fact, he’d been with Ivan since Ivan was in middle school. Michael had just won Russia’s welterweight youth boxing championship when Ivan’s hard-charging father had recruited him to be a companion and mentor to his son. It was Michael’s first paid position, and it would be his last. After twenty years, Michael knew he was destined to be with Ivan to the end—be it abominably bitter or unbelievably sweet. “Long enough to know that he treats those who please him extremely well—and those who don’t, accordingly.”

A mood of grim reflection wrapped around the Tesla like a black burial shroud.

But only for a moment.

Before another word was spoken, the front door of the house opened, and Jo Monfort emerged.

 

CHAPTER 2

Not a Dream

Versailles, France

 

Josephine Monfort stepped onto the stoop of her house and began to stretch. She’d always loved her early morning runs, but ever since moving to the posh Paris suburb of Versailles, they’d been positively blissful. This was her meditative time, her opportunity to put her body to work and her mind at ease. What better place for that than the grounds of the legendary palace built by Louis XIII? What better time than dawn—when the birds were chirping, the bread was baking, and the tourists were sleeping?

Jo braced her hands against the cool stone and leaned back into her calves. She’d dreamed of swarms of locusts, and was eager to push that pestilent thought from her mind. A good run would be perfect.

Two seconds into her stretch, she sensed an ozone disturbance off to her left, like a television coming to life in a cool, dry room. A flash of movement followed, then something brushed against her waist. Something hard. Something cold. Faster than she could flinch it wrapped itself around her, like a cattle lasso or a boa constrictor.

She seized the end of the object with both hands while sizing it up. A steel cable gripped her waist. No not a cable, a mechanical construction. And not steel, more like black aluminum. She had to be dreaming. This couldn’t possibly be real.

Time slowed, just like in a dream. She became capable of calculating actions between heartbeats and planning battles between breaths, but she could not escape the feeling that this couldn’t possibly be happening.

Willing herself to wake up, Jo wrapped her right hand around the loose end of the coil and her left around the lower loop. She tried pulling them apart.

The object pressed back. It felt alive.

She clawed at the mechanical creature this way and that, trying to pry it from her flesh.

It wouldn’t budge. Not a millimeter. Not with everything she had.

She didn’t stop.

It got worse.

A billowing hum erupted from the rooftop some twenty feet above her head. It sounded like a swarm of locusts and signaled the second stage of the assault. That explained her earlier dream but shed no light on her present inexplicable condition.

She traced the tail of the mechanical snake up to the source of the sound, a shadow of an object now emerging from atop her home. A big black UFO. No, not a UFO. A drone.

The object that ensnared her was much smaller than a military craft, but much larger than a civilian one. Roughly the size of a mattress, it was shaped like an X with propellers extending from each corner. The snaking cable descended from a spool in the center. It resembled the line dropped from a Coast Guard helicopter, although this was clearly no rescue.

Jo’s hands continued to battle her bindings while her brain grappled for answers. If this was an assassination, why not use a gun? If an abduction, why not a couple of thugs and a panel van? There had to be something bigger, deeper, or broader behind the attack. Something strategic. Something sinister. Something …

The answer struck her as swiftly and unexpectedly as the snake. Ivan! Ivan the Ghost. The grandest strategist of them all.

Jo had been part of the team that put a big black mark on Ivan’s otherwise flawless record. She had long suspected that he would not forget, that he’d have his revenge, that this day would come. But Ivan had disappeared, and most believed that he was either dead or retired. Apparently he had fooled everyone, yet again.

Without relaxing her grip on the snake, Jo studied the drone hovering overhead. No doubt it had cameras. Was Ivan observing her now? Was he going to watch as the metallic snake crushed her to death?

Convinced that she couldn’t overpower the metallic snake, Jo began searching for another weakness. Her focus shifted skyward and settled on the propellers humming overhead. Could she stop them with sticks or stones?

As if in answer, their pitch increased, and her situation went from bad to worse.

The drone lifted skyward and her feet left the ground. Before she could reorient, Jo found herself dangling like a hooked fish.

Desperate to stop her ascent, she lunged for the lamppost. It was the old fashioned kind, a fluted black steel cylinder that crooked to suspend its lamp from above. A functional ornament retained by a city that clung to its grandiose past.

The fingers of her right hand caught the fluting. Pulling carefully on that precious purchase, she swung closer to the pole, but the drone’s ascent denied her left hand a grip. Without a second to spare, Jo brought her legs into play. Quick as a falling cat she twisted and arced and swung them around the pole, crossing her ankles as the drone drove her higher.

Her legs latched around the top of the crook. But not at the knees. She caught it down by her calves.

With her head above the rooftops and her legs clinging to the pole, Jo felt like a worm in the beak of a bird. Refusing to become breakfast, she put everything into her legs. She willed them to become bands of steel.

The upward force pulled the cold coil hard against her diaphragm, restricting her breath and raising her panic.

She pressed the panic back down while refusing to release her ankles. She might suffocate or be ripped in half, but she vowed to fight up to that point. She vowed not to give. She stared up at the mechanical beast with a defiant stare and drew energy from her rage.

That was when she first noticed it. A familiar rectangular barrel with a yellow tip, a muzzle turning in her direction. A taser.

Her heart sank.

Her tears started flowing.

There was nothing she could do.

She had no shield, no place to hide. Just locking her legs demanded all the might she could muster. She wanted to shout “That’s not fair!” but couldn’t spare the breath.

Staring back at the beast above, Jo swore she would not yield.



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