An Unbeaten Man by Brendan Rielly

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 Calling Brendan Rielly’s book, An Unbeaten Man, a “thriller” doesn’t do it justice. What a plot! From the United States to Saudi Arabia to Russia, you’ll careen around the world in the midst of a cast of characters that are at times intriguing, frightening, confusing, and compelling.

If you enjoy spy novels, as I do, this one’s for you. But please be forewarned: An Unbeaten Man may keep you up at night. Two nights in a row, I was up an hour beyond my usual bedtime because I could not stop reading.

But let’s start at the beginning, before An Unbeaten Man, published by Down East Books, ever got to my doorstep. The story starts with Morgan Rielly’s compelling book, Neighborhood Heroes: Life Lessons Learned from Maine’s Greatest Generation. Written by Morgan when he was in high school and published by Down East Books, Neighborhood Heroes offers the stories of Maine World War II veterans who Morgan personally interviewed to preserve their stories. And what stories they are. The book and stories inspired many and it was a privilege for me to write a review of Morgan’s book.

Morgan is now a sophomore at Bowdoin College, and yes, of course, he’s working on another book about teenage immigrants to Maine. Let’s hope that is available soon because it will be a timely and important book, for sure.

Brendan is Morgan’s Dad and very proud of him, as he should be. But there is more to this family’s writing story, because Brendon’s Dad, Ed Rielly, is a prolific writer who has published everything from a memoir of growing up on a small farm to two children’s books. Ed is also a professor at St. Joseph’s College in Standish.

You can read a lot more about them on their website, In Morgan’s section, you’ll find the review I wrote about his book.

Which brings us to Brendan who arrived in Maine when he was 7 and is now an attorney who chairs the litigation department at Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry in Portland. As a student at Bowdoin College, he wrote for the Times Record, the American Journal, and the Bowdoin Orient. He studied advanced fiction writing at Notre Dame and is a member of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. I don’t know how he finds the time, but Brendan has also served on the Westbrook City Council for fourteen years, the last ten as president.

It’s not easy for a first-time novelist to get published by a major publisher, so that alone will tell you that An Unbeaten Man is something special. The scary premise of An Unbeaten Man is that a microbe has been discovered by the main character, Michael McKeon, that can destroy petroleum stocks. Perhaps, given the challenges of climate change, we should wish this were true!

McKeon and his family are kidnapped and he’s forced to assist a secret organization of spies and traitors intent on using McKeon’s discovery to destroy the oil stocks in Saudi Arabia and Russia. Although McKeon’s discovery was meant to convert oil to gas, a positive development, it becomes a weapon and tosses him into an electrifying race in which, if you don’t pay attention, you may confuse the good guys with the bad guys. In fact, that changes as the story progresses. Yes, there is a lot of suspense and an amazing array of twists and turns that will challenge you to keep reading.

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