The Bottom Line: A perfectly crafted revenge thriller about an aging soldier who refuses to go quietly into the night. Fans of Thomas Perry’s The Old Man will love The Dead Don’t Sleep.
Decades after serving in Vietnam, the war has returned to Frank Thompson. As part of a joint CIA-special operations unit, Frank carried out lethal missions in enemy villages that he would like to forget.
But while on a trip to New Jersey to visit his nephew, Frank is recognized by a member of his former unit. Shortly afterwards, the windows of Frank’s home in Maine are shattered, and Frank finds 1969 baseball trading cards on the lawn – a terrifying warning from seasoned killers. We soon learn that Frank killed a fellow soldier named Thumper, and a trio of fellow soldiers who call themselves the National League All Stars are eager to make him pay.
In Frank, author Steven Max Russo has created a sympathetic character that readers will cheer for. While Frank has carried out acts of inexplicable violence and made his fair share of mistakes, in Russo’s hands, Frank is ultimately a man of deep emotion and loyalty. Frank is clearly struggling with the recent death of his wife of 45 years. Russo also uses a powerful Vietnam flashback in the prologue – as well as Frank’s confessions to his nephew, Bill – to capture readers’ hearts early in the book.
Bill’s transformation from a normal citizen into someone who realizes he may have to fight for survival is a highlight. In a pivotal moment, Frank begins teaching Bill on how to handle a tactical shotgun, when Billy asks, “What are you expecting, Uncle Frank, a war?” Readers already know the answer to that question, and in Russo’s hands, they are in for a high-octane adventure they won’t soon forget.