Introducing Mike Houtz, a Marine Corps officer candidate that was within the top five of his OCS class before an injury took him out of the fight. For those that know the story of Vince Flynn, the author behind the Mitch Rapp series, he too had a dream of becoming a Marine officer and had a similar fate, making it to the grueling OCS training, when some type of medical condition popped up and prevented him from moving forward. With Mike’s dream to serve destroyed, he found another way to serve his community and turned to a career in the medical field. After a long and successful career in medicine, he decided to hang up his stethoscope and become a thriller writer. What he delivered, with Dark Spiral Down is a non-stop adrenaline rush of detailed action, a driven plot, an emotional rollercoaster, and an intense desire to turn through the pages as fast as possible. Putting this thriller down for an extended period of time was just too difficult. The desire to keep reading, find out what is going to happen next, and the end result was just too great.
From the first pages of Dark Spiral Down, the antagonist is introduced. Commander Park Chul-Moo of DPRK. A type of commander that does not lead by example, in fact his legend is such that when his men failed him in any way, shape, or form, “they were rarely seen again.” This guy is as brutal as he is dedicated to his Supreme Leader, but also a type of villain who wants to be famous, or more accurately, ‘feared’ by the world. He pulls no punches in attempting to accomplish his goals, which is to get a powerful device into his country, which would tip the scales of the current world superpowers, giving North Korea an advantage in orchestrating global conflicts in their favor, specifically in regard to political gains and of course, economic growth. The device, a clean fusion device which is capable of delivering clean energy world-wide, but in the wrong hands can be weaponized and turned into a weapon more powerful than any nuclear bomb. North Korea learns the devices is being shared with a key ally in Nagasaki and sends Parks and his team to steal it at all costs. They accomplish their mission and are heading back to North Korea when a team of American Commandos intervenes.
The Team of American Commandos led by Team Leader Butch “Dragon” Haufner intervene with their escape back to North Korea and assault Park’s and his team in China. While successful in retrieving the powerful device, his team takes heavy casualties. Butch, left with no comms, and no way of communicating with higher command authority goes deeper into China in an effort to evade capture and return this powerful device back to his government. He chose this route due to his knowledge of the local terrain. Learning about Butch and his childhood we learn he was chosen for this mission due to his knowledge of the battlefield. As a child, having lost his parents, he and his brother Cole were raised nearby at a Shaolin Temple by a Buddhist monk and Shaolin Kung Fu master and to them, uncle, Master Li. During their childhood, they practiced the monk rituals and the local sport, Kung Fu. With both brothers being very formidable due to their first-hand training, both are a one-man army against all would be attackers.
Now comes the brother, Cole Haufner. Cole did not follow his brother into Military service, instead he used his extreme talent in the octagon, very close to becoming the next world middle-weight champion. When it comes to MMA fighters, one of the first that pops into mind is Conor McGregor, due to his rough demeanor and foul attitude, Cole is the complete opposite of that. A man of honor and respect, with values and integrity. He is introduced while in the octagon in the middle of a fight. His corner coach is at this side wondering why he hasn’t dispatched his opponent yet, saying “he’s never let a fight go for more than a minute.” Then noticing Cole glance at an empty chair, he puts two-and-two together and realizes he’s dragging out the fight in hopes his brother, Butch will arrive in time to see him win. Realizing his brother will not make it, he ends the fight in a quick and final manner which leaves no doubt as to who the winner is. Cole is the best, there’s no question about it. His motivations however are not for fame. He took this fight for one reason and one reason only. To make enough money to provide his son with a life saving surgery he needs. You see, Cole is married with a family. A man with a good life and an even better future. Until tragedy strikes! In one instant, after this fight, Cole’s whole world is turned upside down. Now, he has no one. Left alone, contemplating what to do next with his life, he learns his brother is missing. With absolutely nothing left at home for him and his only family left in danger, he sees it as his mission to rescue his brother. Now Cole, almost a world champion, uses his skills in a different way. Learning as he goes that outside the ring, there is no referee, this is life or death. Cole however, does not disappoint. Manning up when the time is right, utilizing his skills and quickly learning new ones from an ally he runs into along the way. A Delta Force operator that goes by the call sign, Hammer. His brother’s team mate who survived the initial attack but was separated from Butch. Together they battle the forces against them, which come at them from every angle. The local police, a local gang with a leader who got thrown out of the same temple Cole was raised in as a kid, hence a grudge he holds. The DPRK agents hellbent on killing anyone in their way, a former CIA spy turned traitor with a computer genius in his employ that can hack any computer, satellite and camera in the city.
If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled, page turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard thriller reader. It will not disappoint, with hand to hand combat in extreme detail, gun fights, espionage that is State sponsored, torture scenes with details I only imagined possible in a movie, Dark Spiral Down should be on your reading list. Get it ASAP!
About the author
After a career in medicine, Mike succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream. He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.