Booklist Starred Review:
Reading this debut novel is like finding a gold nugget when all you were expecting was a few pretty stones. The author, a former FBI agent, writes like a pro, and this is one of those thrillers you genuinely wish wouldn't end. At its center is Puller Monk, FBI agent, compulsive gambler, and accomplished liar. Monk is in charge of the SPIN squad; that's short for Special Inquiries, and lately he's been making inquiring about Judge Brenda Thompson, a candidate for the Supreme Court. It's Monk's job to make sure she's scandal-free before the confirmation hearings begin; when a teensy discrepancy in Thompson's security questionnaire turns up a deep, dark secret, he's surprised to learn that his own boss, the assistant director in charge of the Washington bureau office, wants the investigation shut down. Never one to do what he's told, Monk pursues the case anyway and finds a lot more than he bargained for. Tightly plotted, with a couple of nice twists, the novel is jam-packed with atmosphere and behind-the-scenes detail. It is apparent throughout that Riehl is writing about what he knows. But it isn't just verisimilitude; Monk is a strong lead, a believable character full of contradictions and obsessions we've only begun to explore. Further Monk adventures aren't just welcome; they're absolutely necessary.
Publishers Weekly Review:
Longtime FBI agent Puller Monk carries more personal baggage than an Amtrak train in this convincing thriller from debut novelist Gene Riehl. Monk is the director of the SPIN (Special Inquiries) Squad, tasked with completing an exhaustive background check on Judge Brenda Thompson, the first African–American woman nominated to the Supreme Court. Monk is also shouldering a serious gambling addiction, a girlfriend who is a drunk and an Alzheimer's–addled father he detests. Monk's tyrannical FBI boss, Kevin Finnerty, last of the old Hoover disciples, wants the Thompson report on his desk ASAP, but there's a problem. Special Agent Lisa Sands has uncovered a lie on Judge Thompson's SF–86, the personal security questionnaire submitted by all nominees. Monk's immediate impulse is to turn to gambling, but Sands convinces him to investigate the judge's lie. They are quickly drawn into a complicated conspiracy that threatens their lives, results in three murders and leads to treachery in the uppermost levels of the bureau. Car chases, beatings and gunbattles ensue. Meanwhile, the nursing home that takes care of Monk's father is threatening to kick the old man out unless Monk pays his overdue bill. His solution? Place a few bets, which he invariably loses. Riehl writes a lean, vigorous prose laced with self–deprecating humor, and as an ex-FBI man he fuels his story with fascinating insider details. He's a little weak in the romance department, but readers will skim those sections, racing ahead to the next example of agent expertise. And since the conclusion finds Monk with most of his personal problems persisting, a sequel looks likely.
Forecast: Riehl's flawed but determined G-man should shake some of the rust off the FBI thriller genre. Readers will be clamoring for more from Agent Puller Monk.
From The Book Jacket:
"A must-read, a suspense-packed cautionary tale of corruption told by an ex-FBI agent who isn't afraid to show us the ugly stuff on the inside. With this stunning debut novel, Gene Riehl has brought a fresh new voice to the world of crime fiction."- Harlan Coben, bestselling author of No Second Chance and Gone for Good
"Quantico Rules is my kind of story. It is full of high tension, intrigue, and the details of life as an FBI agent that could have only come from a career agent himself. Gene Riehl has taken his experiences and turned them into a thriller that is good till the last page. But it is more than a page-turner. It is an incisive study of an agent battling the obstacles of bureaucracy to finally make his stand."- Michael Connelly, bestselling author of Lost Light and City of Bones
Publishers Weekly Review:
The risks in Riehl's follow-up to the successful espionage thriller Quantico Rules are literary as well as cloak-and-dagger. There's a sexy, dangerous villainess, a blonde assassin born Samantha Williamson but now named Sung Kim; the sleeper of the title, she was stolen from America as a child and trained in North Korea in various martial and felonious arts. Series hero FBI agent Puller Monk matches wits with her in an extended game of cat-and-mouse. But Monk's also besieged by serious personal problems, and Riehl devotes equal space to these in the novel. Monk's father finally dies after a long battle with Alzheimer's, and Monk wonders if he's losing his own mind to the same disease. Nevertheless, he accepts a secret assignment to find a priceless stolen painting. The reader knows from the beginning that the heist is the work of Sung Kim, now a killer agent of the dangerous North Korean regime. Indeed, some of the best chapters involve Washington insiders riffing on the current political situation here and abroad. Even Monk's involvement in the top-secret investigation has a stressful personal twist: William, the NSA operative who recruits Monk for the mission, catches him in a delicate moment with lady love Bethany . . . Could this possibly affect their working relationship?
FBI agent Puller Monk returns for his second outing. Monk's father has just passed away, and Monk suddenly has to deal with the revelation that he may have a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer's. That's not all he has to deal with: there is a superspy on the loose, a beautiful young American woman raised by the North Koreans, and the good guys don't know exactly what she looks like or exactly where she is, but it's imperative she be stopped, and (naturally) Monk is the only man for the job. The notion of the deeply flawed hero has been one of crime fiction's staples for decades, but Riehl, the former FBI agent who came out of nowhere with the first Monk adventure, Quantico Rules (2003), works plenty of fascinating variations on the theme. Puller is no standard-issue flawed hero; he is a fresh, exciting, and dramatic creation. Like its predecessor, this novel barely scratches the surface of Puller Monk, and we eagerly await further entries in what has quickly become an excellent series.
A crackerjack opening . . . Sleeper doesn't lack for action."
“Riehl knows the territory and portrays it with convincing and often chilling precision. To his insider knowledge, he adds the talent of a first-rate storyteller who keeps the action moving briskly while never easing up on the suspense button.”
- San Diego Union-Tribune