The American (Ryan Kealey Series #1)

The American (Ryan Kealey Series #1)

3.9 63
by Andrew Britton

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CIA agent Ryan Kealey has no time to wrestle his demons. Former U.S. soldier Jason March, one of the world's deadliest assassins and Ryan's former protégé, is now working with a powerful terror network whose goal is nothing less than the total annihilation of the United States.

Ryan puts together the pieces of a terrifying puzzle. With the fate of


CIA agent Ryan Kealey has no time to wrestle his demons. Former U.S. soldier Jason March, one of the world's deadliest assassins and Ryan's former protégé, is now working with a powerful terror network whose goal is nothing less than the total annihilation of the United States.

Ryan puts together the pieces of a terrifying puzzle. With the fate of the country resting on his shoulders, he finds himself caught in a desperate game of cat-and-mouse with the most cunning opponent he's ever faced, a man who won't be denied the ultimate act of evil and who is all the more deadly for being one of our own.

"Well-written and exciting. . .perfect escape reading!" --Tampa Tribune

"Absorbing. . .extraordinarily hard to put down." --Charlotte Observer

"A gripping saga ripped out of the latest headlines." --News & Record (Greensboro, NC)

"Like Tom Clancy, [Britton] has produced a thriller that makes current terrorist threats all too real. . .Highly recommended." --Library Journal (starred review)

More Phenomenal Praise For The American

"Britton has delivered a level of storytelling excellence most writers spend a lifetime trying to achieve. . .a sizzling page-turner!" --Brad Thor

"A riveting and compelling debut. . .the surprise of the month and maybe the year."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The titular character of 24-year-old Britton's debut thriller is no patriot. Jason March, a blond al-Qaeda operative with a ferocious grudge against the U.S.A., kicks off an orgy of revenge by blowing up Senate Majority Leader Daniel Levy's motorcade, slaughtering the senator, his aide and assorted Secret Service personnel. Assigned to hunt down this killer is ex-CIA agent Ryan Kealey, March's former commanding officer when they were both Special Forces soldiers in the U.S. Army. While on a secret mission years before, March wounded Kealey and murdered everyone else on the team. Now, Langley sends the uniquely qualified Kealey-along with CIA counterterrorism expert Naomi Kharmai-after the unstoppable killing machine. Other than the mildly interesting March, there's little original material. The evil characters are numbingly familiar-al-Zarqawi and bin Laden loom large-and the usual Arab minions and murderers play out their predictable fictional roles. The writing never rises above the pedestrian: "The sands of the endless desert south of Kabul burned beneath the fiery orb above." Readers open to another formulaic Arab terrorist story may enjoy this one, but anyone looking for something new will find it ordinary and tedious. (Mar. 7) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
During a secret Middle East mission, Jason March, a South African-born American soldier, traitorously kills the other men in his squad and shoots their leader, Special Forces and CIA veteran Ryan Kealey. Kealey shoots back and survives. When an unknown assassin later kills a U.S. senator and scores of bystanders, Kealey discovers that March, too, has survived. Through direct contact with the director of al Qaeda plus Iranian funding, March now plans to kill the U.S. President, and Kealey is likely to use any means to stop him. Britton, just 24, offers an impressive first novel. His army background explains his skilled use of military and weapons terminology, but it is his considerable writing talent that brings this rip-roaring plot to life. Like Tom Clancy, he has produced a thriller that makes current terrorist threats all too real, in part by graphically depicting the behind-the-scenes world of spies, clandestine agencies, and everyday terrorists. Highly recommended for all suspense collections. [The American is the first of three thrillers to feature Ryan Kealey.-Ed.]-Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A debut thriller about a vengeful terrorist who proposes to destroy the United States. He begins by assassinating a U.S. senator. Next, he proposes to take out the president, plus whatever dignitaries happen to be in the vicinity when his bomb explodes, and go on from there, murdering en masse. He is-it need hardly be said-your basic archfiend, brilliant, remorseless, the kind the genre battens on (see The Day of the Jackal, etc.). Which is to say he's amoral as a lab rat, a genius at explosives, a wiz of a sniper and a tactician who might have impressed even Clausewitz. Nor will it come as a surprise that he has ties to al-Qaeda. He blames the U.S. for betrayals that led to the ignominious collapse of his family fortunes and has the long, implacable memory that defines a world-class grudge-holder. "Jason March is one of the most dangerous men the U.S. military has ever produced," says CIA stud Ryan Kealey, and he ought to know, having trained him. Matched against supervillain March, then, is superhero Kealey, the protagonist of Britton's planned trilogy. He has the "penetrating gray eyes," the rugged good looks and the maverick mindset that allows him to take the law into his own hands whenever it seems to him that the fate of the nation rests there as well. Kealey also has the requisite female sidekick (brainy, leggy), useful for titillation between bouts of bloodletting. So the game's afoot, predator vs. prey, though it's not always easy to tell them apart, or even which stone-cold killer to root for. Plot and cast have that derivative feel, and while the 24-year-old debut novelist can serve up an arresting action scene, that isn't enough to counter the pervasive pall of deja vu.

Product Details

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Ryan Kealey Series , #1
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Read an Excerpt

The American



Copyright © 2006 Andrew Britton
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7860-2260-1



It wasn't an easy climb to the top of the 170-foot slope, especially after an hour-long swim in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Nevertheless, Ryan Kealey was pleased to feel only a slight sense of exertion when he finally reached the small clearing above the cliffs. He took a long moment to admire the view, then moved off at an easy pace down a gravel footpath. It wasn't long before he came across a ragged beach towel draped over a solitary fence post. Using it to dry his unruly black hair, Kealey continued along the path until the trees parted and the house he had purchased eleven months earlier came into view. The thoroughly remodeled home stood three stories tall, with elaborate French doors and windows tucked neatly into the cedar-shingled exterior. The expensive slate roof was a recent addition, as was the exterior fireplace centered on the inlaid stone patio. Ryan had done most of the stonework himself, but had contracted out for the roof. While he was proud of his abilities as a handyman, he recognized that there were limitations to his skill.

As he approached, the door leading to the kitchen was suddenly flung open, and a young woman rushed out to envelop him in a ferocious hug.

"Damn it, Ryan, I've been looking everywhere for you! I've got some news you definitely don't want to hear," she said with an infectious grin.

Kealey smiled back, charmed as always by her youthful exuberance. "Then I know you'll save us both the trouble and keep it to yourself," he said with a laugh.

She bounced alongside of him as he moved through the open door into the warm interior of the house.

"You'll never believe it," she said breathlessly. "I overheard the dean saying that your attendance record is even worse than that of your 'most consistently inebriated student,' were his exact words, I think, and then he said —"

"Katie." He interrupted her excited rambling with gentle good humor. "I need that job even less than he wants me there. I wouldn't worry about it." Kealey occasionally lectured at the University of Maine as an associate professor of International Relations, but lately just hadn't been inclined to make the trip. Although he was becoming increasingly bored with the teaching, he had to admit that something good had come of it as he surreptitiously glanced at Katie Donovan out of the corner of his eye.

She was pouting as though put off by his lack of interest in her story, but the theatrics didn't last long. "Honey, I've been running around since six this morning," she said. "I'm going to take a shower."

"Care for some company?" he asked with a mischievous grin.

"Oh, I see how it is," she retorted, wearing a knowing smile of her own. "You're more than happy to jump in the shower with me, but you couldn't care less when it comes to hearing about my day."

He shrugged. "I guess we'll just have to compromise. I'll scrub you down while you tell the story."

"'Scrub me down,' huh? Is that what you call it now?" He opened his mouth to protest, but she had already peeled off her T-shirt and tossed it in his face. Then she was running up the stairs, screaming in mock fear as Ryan followed close on her heels.

Much later, he stood on the second-story balcony with a cup of coffee and stared out across the frigid gray expanse of the ocean. He watched as the towering thunderheads several miles offshore seemed to grow at an alarming rate, and could soon feel the strong gusts as they brought small sprinkles of rain inland. If he strained, he could hear the distant peel of thunder over the television tuned to MSNBC in the master bedroom. Every major news network had been providing continuous coverage of the preceding week's attack in Washington, as they were prone to do with any disaster — natural or otherwise. As he sipped the warm coffee, he heard the screen door slide open and Katie approached from behind, gently wrapping her wind-tanned forearms around his waist and resting her chin on his shoulder.

"You're expecting a call, aren't you?"

Ryan raised an eyebrow at that. They had been together for only six months, and though they had once had a short, awkward discussion about the work he used to do, the subject did not often come up. Once again, he was amazed by how perceptive she could be.

He turned to face her, instinctively reaching out to touch her cheek, smooth beneath waves of shimmering golden brown. As her troubled blue eyes searched his face, he found he could only answer truthfully.

"I guess I am. The call is a given. It's whether I go or not ..." He turned to gaze at the approaching storm. "I just don't know."

She leaned in to kiss him gently on the lips.

"Yes, you do."

Later that evening, Katie left for Orono to attend a night course in physics. From the front door he watched as she tossed her books haphazardly into the rear seat and sped off in her battered Corolla, throwing him a cheerful wave along the way. Although she couldn't have known it, her prophecy was fulfilled when the telephone rang just before eight. Ryan hesitated and kept his fingertips on the receiver for several seconds before lifting it to his ear.

It was still dark the following morning as Ryan streaked north on I-95 in his dark blue BMW 645Ci. He had scribbled a short note punctuated with an apology and left it on the kitchen table, but guessed that Katie would still be furious when she finally got back from Orono. Although the concern skirted the edge of his mind for a while, it was soon replaced by the pleasure of the car's performance and the scenic beauty of the surrounding countryside.

As the first rays of the sun filtered through the passing forest, dense tree cover overhead rained dying leaves of brilliant red and yellow onto the roof of his vehicle and the approaching road. The trip seemed to pass faster than he had expected, and it wasn't long before he pulled into the daily parking lot at Bangor International Airport, the heavy sedan easily navigating the numerous speed bumps leading into the garage. It was just past 7:30 when he collected his electronic ticket from a pretty blond attendant at the United Airlines counter, who managed to flash him an alluring smile despite the early hour. By 8:45 he was on the next flight to Washington, D.C.

About the same time he landed at Dulles International, Katie Donovan was rocketing recklessly up the narrow driveway bordered with pines to the house on Cape Elizabeth. She was in a dangerous mood, having spent the morning arguing with her faculty-appointed advisor over the course her dissertation was taking. As a second-year PhD candidate in applied mathematics, she had already spent so many years in school that the thought of leaving it all behind to start her career was becoming an increasingly attractive idea. The argument had degenerated into a shouting match; she had definitely burned some bridges there, but took solace in the fact that she would be spending the rest of the afternoon with Ryan.

Opening the front door, Katie announced her arrival with a flourish, but there was no answer. The sound of her heels clicking against the polished hardwood floors echoed throughout the house as she walked through the empty rooms. In the kitchen, she looked around in puzzlement before noticing the sheet of paper on the table.

The note was apologetic, but Katie still found herself growing angrier each time she read it. How could he just take off without even saying good-bye? Over the past six months she had opened herself to him, shared so much, and in return he had revealed almost nothing of his past, except that he had briefly worked for the Central Intelligence Agency. It had taken a considerable degree of craftiness and charm to get that much out of him.

She picked up a framed photograph of the two of them standing on a pier at Kittery Point, Ryan's arm loose around her waist. She admired his dark Irish good looks, lean physique, and easy smile, then caught herself and slammed the picture down on the antique wooden cabinet, leaving a small mark in the lacquered surface. Tears welled in her eyes, and she wiped them away angrily as she stormed out of the house. Feeling suddenly childish, it occurred to her that he would probably be disappointed if he could see her now. She felt a rush of shame, which quickly turned to anger again as she drove away even faster than she had arrived, which was very fast indeed.



To avoid the challenge of getting into Langley while listed as a visitor, Ryan had agreed to meet the person he spoke with on the telephone "off campus," so to speak. He waited in a brightly lit café just off the George Washington Parkway, seated in a far corner of the room facing the door. The atmosphere was pleasant on a Friday afternoon, young professionals and college students busy making plans for the weekend, exchanging small talk and gossip, casting flirtatious glances across the crowded room. Many of these glances were aimed in Ryan's direction, but he didn't notice; sitting alone in the bustling atmosphere of the café, he could not help but feel old and out of place.

After almost twenty minutes had passed, a cold gust of air swept through the room as the door was pulled open. The man who entered was so unremarkable in dress, height, and build that he immediately blended into the background. That kind of practiced anonymity was to be expected, though, as Jonathan Harper had nearly twenty years of field experience to draw from. He had begun his career as a young analyst working the Soviet desk, but it wasn't long before the bland-featured, exceptionally intelligent young man had found his way into the Operations Directorate. By the mid-1980s he was running agents behind the Iron Curtain and making arrangements for those few defectors whose positions within the Committee for State Security made them valuable assets to the CIA. Now, at the pinnacle of his career, Harper had the number-three spot at Langley as the deputy director of operations. He lifted his hand slightly to acknowledge Ryan's presence as the younger man stood up, coffee cup in hand, to follow Harper back out into the cold.

"You look well, my friend. College life seems to agree with you," Harper remarked as the two men strolled slowly along in the direction of the Mall. The sky was a pale gray, and the bite of the air seemed to promise an early snowfall. Ryan glanced to his left and guessed that the words were meant sincerely. Sometimes it was difficult to tell as Harper's face never seemed to give anything away. With his hair carefully parted on the right, his conservative but expensive style of dress, and a solemn expression that seemed to be permanently etched into his features, Jonathan Harper, as Kealey had always thought, looked more like an aging minister or banker than an intelligence officer.

"I can't say I'm unhappy."

Harper took a moment to digest those words. It was the same way with Ryan every time.

"Got a lot of time on your hands, though, I'll bet."

Kealey hesitated. "I try to keep busy. I'm teaching now, and I met someone. It's not a bad life, John." He turned his penetrating gray eyes onto Harper's. "What I have now is worth having's good, secure."

They strolled along silently for a while. Jonathan didn't find the words convincing. He knew about the twenty-four-year-old student Ryan was seeing, and he knew about the tenuous teaching position at the university. Slinking by in some backwater, feigning interest in the mundane. Waiting for time to erode away the memories of what he had seen, and maybe what he had done ...If asked, Harper would have said that Ryan was worth more than that. He did not imagine that the younger man wouldn't know he was being checked up on. Kealey wanted to be convinced; otherwise, he wouldn't even have bothered making the trip.

"You've seen it all over the news, I imagine. It's just fucking unbelievable. A hit on three cars in broad daylight, and we have nothing. Except, of course, for six dead civilians, one a pregnant woman, and seventeen injured. The media's all over this, and so the president is all over us. Evidently he was pretty close to the senator." Harper shivered as a brisk wind swept through the bright orange leaves of the trees overhead. "This guy took out Levy's entire detail, Ryan. I'm not talking about people who barely managed to squeak by on the Civil Service Exam. They weren't riding out desk duty for the pension, either. They were professional protection officers rotating off the presidential detail, for Christ's sake."

"I heard on the news that one survived. A woman."

"Yeah, her name is Megan Lawrence. Seven-year veteran. That's a sad story — she's got a six-year-old kid, and she's not expected to pull through. Fuck it." Harper whipped his empty Starbucks container toward an overflowing trash receptacle. It bounced off the top and hit the ground, where the wind promptly pushed it back onto the sidewalk. A female jogger dressed in colorful attire approached, her blond ponytail bouncing in accordance with her footfalls. She shot Harper a dirty look as she passed them by.

"Levy was on his way back to Alexandria; he and his wife had a place on Gentry Row. The route was checked out by the detail and given approval, but it was one of five possible choices, and selected at random less than a half hour before they left the Russell Building. So we have a list of people that had access to that information, and it's short. The Bureau is taking a hard look at each and every one of them. From what I gather, they already went to McLaughlin on the D.C. Circuit for the wiretaps. We should know more in a day or two, if they're willing to participate in the new spirit of cooperation."

"Why was a senator receiving Secret Service protection anyway? I thought that came down to the Capitol Hill Police."

Harper hesitated meaningfully before answering. "I can show you why. We have a tape — more than one. I think, actually, that you might know the person who did this."

With this revelation, it was as though time suddenly stopped for the younger man. Cold fingers inched their way up from the base of his spine, threatening to seize his throat in a terrible grip. He was lost for a moment, until just as quickly the feeling passed and he felt Harper's reassuring hand on his shoulder.

"Watch the tapes, Ryan. Watch the tapes and tell me what you think. That's all."

The two men walked slowly back in the direction of the café, Harper awarding himself silent accolades. Kealey was lost in another, more terrifying world altogether.



Although the nation's capital is home to many prestigious medical facilities, including University Hospital in Georgetown, the only adult burn unit in the metropolitan area is located in the Washington Hospital Center on Irving Street. Within forty-five minutes of the rocket attack all but three of the victims had been routed either directly or indirectly to this center, including Megan Lawrence, the only Secret Service agent to survive the initial devastation.

Naomi Kharmai wearily climbed the worn stone steps that were in constant contradiction to the modern building they adorned. She had spent the morning at Washington General speaking with bystanders who hadn't seen or heard anything that could be of real use to her, or more importantly, to her immediate supervisor. The clouds had made an appearance earlier in the day, and the sky was a white sheet overhead. The warmth of the pale sun on her back lifted her spirits slightly as she walked through the main entrance past the intense scrutiny of a security guard.

Her interest extended to what she could learn, but no further. She was not burdened by the sight or knowledge of the terrible injuries that so many of the witnesses had suffered; rather, it was the lack of progress finding information that was such a crushing disappointment to her.

Taking the elevator up to the fifth floor, Naomi asked to see Megan Lawrence. After bluffing or outright lying through a series of questions and filling out the appropriate paperwork, she was finally escorted to Lawrence's room by an exhausted young resident.

"Her injuries are very severe," he confided in a low voice, although there was no one within sight to overhear. "She sustained multiple fractures to the skull when her head hit the pavement, but somehow she was only slightly concussed. That's the least of it. She suffered extensive third-degree burns over thirty percent of her body, penetrating down to the hypodermis. Most of the burns are on her chest and arms, upper legs. There wasn't much pain at first ...Her nerve endings were seared, but she started to feel it on Monday. We've had her on a morphine drip for two days."


Excerpted from The American by ANDREW BRITTON. Copyright © 2006 Andrew Britton. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Born in England, Andrew Britton moved with his family to the United States when he was seven, settling in Michigan, then North Carolina. After serving in the Army as a combat engineer, Andrew entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and received his degree just before his death in 2008, at the age of 27.

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The American 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 63 reviews.
deepdvr_ca More than 1 year ago
like the premise of this book. I listened to the CD Audio version that I picked up at a truck stop for $3. The set up was good. Good revenge factor. The big terror event was deflating and the ending was just not plausible. Trying to set up a sequel. An evil Jason Bourne series. I mean how can someone, even a super terrorist high IQ super villain type survive a 180 foot drop off a cliff into freezing sea water. I know about suspending belief but come on. The only person in the entire US spy community to solve the problem is a retired ex special forces guy. Out of the thousands of US spies, Keeley is the only guy. Give me a break with these formulas. While I am at it, I wish these authors would get rid of the female character who throws a fit when she realizes the protagonist is going to do his job. Throw a fit and go home so the villain can get them there. Talk about trite. Most people I know, male and female, would just tell their whiny significant other to take a hike or grow up. I mean they went from having a great night out to her ultimatum. Me or the job. Pleassssssssssssssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Book
Guest More than 1 year ago
The American will linger in your mind. the kind of book that will make you lose track of time. Very impressive.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story and I can't wait to read the rest of the series, but sad to learn author unexpectedly passed away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As with most books that are first in a series, this one started slowly due, as much as anything, to the need to introduce then develop the characters. I found the plot to be relevant and timely. The way the writer unfolds the plot is very well done as well. There were twists and turns aplenty along the way that were highly unexpected making this a very enjoyable and nicely paced read. Looking forward to starting the next book in the series. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys international espionage thrillers.
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JAS45 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this read very much. Characters were well developed and the story did keep my interest to the very end. Exciting to read and always happy to see the good guys win in the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DaveAzBc More than 1 year ago
Predictable and far-fetched, but I was still hooked into finishing the book. The protagonist is described in super-hero terms, the villain is described in super-hero terms, in fact you could be reading a comic book! Nonetheless, the action is good and once the terrorist threat is actively in progress, I found myself caring whether or not the bad guy could be stopped! I would call this a guilty pleasure, but I will probably not buy the sequel.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book took a couple of chapters to get into it but then on the edge throughout the whole book I couldn't put it down and when I had to I couldn't wait till I got a chance to get back into it.
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I read this book, and I feel like I have just finished reading one of Vince Flynn's books. The similarities are too much. The main character, a real hero who survives bullet wounds, assualts, explosions, and attacks, while fighting the bad guys. He fights by his own rules, and in the end wins by killing the bad guys, and a terriorist attack in D.C. or else where is prevented. His operations are covert, and only a few high ranking officials know, including the president. If things don't go as planned they deny he exists or they cover up. I don't plan to read, any time soon, this type of book with the same type of characters, plot, or story line. If you have read any one of VInce Flynn's books you will know what I mean. I read all five of his books.
crazyreaderAP More than 1 year ago
well written. plots and people very believable.
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