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Best thriller novel 2020 Kip Cassino
The Narrow Man Thriller novel Kip Cassino

It’s 1986, a decade after the anguish of Vietnam. Karl Thibault is a war hero. He’s also a psychopath, sealed in an asylum for the brutal murder of his wife’s lover, crazed by the dreams that torment him.

Karl escapes. He’s driven by two mad compulsions. First, he must punish any man who’s touched Marianne, his wife. After that, he must escape to South America with his son, David.

A smart young cop and a dedicated F.B.I. agent work to end Karl’s murderous quest. Their hunt stretches from the glitter of Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe to cities around the nation. The twists and turns of Karl’s homicidal run are only matched by the depths of his insanity. He must be stopped. But how?

Available on Amazon Kindle or in Paperback


Kip Cassino’s taut thriller follows a deranged man on a bloody mission, as well as the law enforcement officials on his trail.

In 1986, Vietnam veteran Karl Thibault resides in an institution for the criminally insane. Suffering from extreme PTSD, Karl is in prison for the murder of his now-ex-wife’s lover. Karl has bided his time and is now ready to break out and finish his mission: to kill any other man who has “used” her sexually, and to kidnap their young son, David.

Armed with information from David, Karl brilliantly and ruthlessly traps his quarry. As the body count from his mission mounts, Karl plots to elude law enforcement and make a final escape to Brazil.

Readers should be aware that The Narrow Man includes multiple, graphic scenes of torture and other violence (including sexual violence). Rather than being gratuitously exploitative, however, these scenes feel germane to the story and its characters.

As a psychotic, PTSD-addled Vietnam veteran, Karl could have been reduced to an offensive stereotype. Instead, Cassino offers a nuanced portrait that humanizes him. A scene in which Karl visits the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington, D.C., is especially powerful. The other characters, too, reveal complex pasts and motivations.

Cassino, a Vietnam vet himself, is a top-notch writer, at times poetic. For instance, he refers to Vietnam as a “confused opium dream of a war . . . a conflict where the rotation of those in charge guaranteed an annual amnesia.” He even injects humor into the grueling story, as when an FBI agent who has started smoking again from stress muses that “Thibault would end up killing him, too—with cancer.”

The novel’s pace never lets up. It’s no small feat to balance a fast-paced story and relatively slim page count with such rich character development and narrative style. Although decidedly not for the squeamish, The Narrow Man will be a treat for thriller fans who relish substance with their suspense.

- Blue Ink Review

In Kip Cassino's troubling thriller The Narrow Man, a broken veteran embarks on a killing spree with the hope of reuniting with his doting son...The book's prose and dialogue complement each other, alternating between moments of exposition in a smooth way. Some lines are flowery, and their additions are unsettling, functioning to mirror Karl's fractured mind...The Narrow Man is a dark thriller with a sinister villain and a promising ending.

- Foreword Reviews

This thought-provoking thriller focuses on Karl Thibault, a Vietnam War intelligence officer suffering from PTSD...The author sets a dizzying narrative pace, taking readers across the country during the pursuit of the murderer...An uneven but sobering book that highlights the need for improved care of veterans.

- Kirkus Reviews

I was hooked so well from the prologue I was worried that the transition to the chapters would disappoint. No need to be concerned. A riveting story that found me turning pages faster and faster as I got deeper into the book and the villain got deeper into his plan.

- Amazon Review

“A few of us got frozen …. We couldn’t get our perspective back, even when the scary things were over. We were the narrow men.”

Karl Thibault is a tautly strung, intelligent, wily Vietnam War warrior who cares deeply for the men in his small reconnaissance unit. When a brash officer seeking quick advancement shows up and demands they take a risk-fraught mission, he resists but finally complies.

The inevitable disaster ensues — the loss of his men and a rage-fueled act on his part — and Thibault tips. He becomes a most extreme form of the “narrow men” — a PTSD-ravaged psychotic killer — and goes on a vicious mission. Still intelligent and wily, Thibault puts his warrior skills to civilian use to locate, torture, and kill men who he believes “defiled” his sexy ex-wife. The action in this thriller, which pits him against a Tucson cop and an FBI agent, is fast-paced, tight, often grisly, and satisfyingly suspenseful.

In this debut novel, former newspaperman and Vietnam veteran Kip Cassino gives a nod to the PTSD work of the Veterans Administration (and tips his hand a bit — he, like Thibault, has bad dreams). As he developed this complex character with care, you can be pretty sure there’s a sequel to “The Narrow Man” in the hopper.


Scariest villain I have come across in a long time. You really want this guy to be caught! Well written thriller!

- Amazon Review

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