Posted by: Matt | July 29, 2007

Making the List

What books do we have this week? That is a very good question. Last week had a sci-fi theme and this week I think I should have a spy theme. So, here are three spy thriller books to add to the list.

  • The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva – “In this debut novel, veteran journalist Silva mines the reliable territory of World War II espionage to produce a gripping, historically detailed thriller. In early 1944 the Allies were preparing their invasion of Normandy; critical to the invasion’s success was an elaborate set of deceptions–from phony radio signals to bogus airfields and barracks–intended to keep Hitler in the dark about when and where the Allied troops would arrive. Catherine Blake is the beautiful, ruthless spy who could bring the whole charade crashing down; Alfred Vicary is the brilliant but bumbling professor Churchill has tapped to protect the operation. Along with a teeming cast of other characters, real and fictional, they bring the chase to a furious and satisfying climax.” Silva is being called by some the next Le Carre who we have next on the list…
  • The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John Le Carre – “It would be an international crime to reveal too much of the jeweled clockwork plot of Le Carré’s first masterpiece, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. But we are at liberty to disclose that Graham Greene called it the ‘finest spy story ever written,’ and that the taut tale concerns Alec Leamas, a British agent in early Cold War Berlin. Leamas is responsible for keeping the double agents under his care undercover and alive, but East Germans start killing them, so he gets called back to London by Control, his spy master. Yet instead of giving Leamas the boot, Control gives him a scary assignment: play the part of a disgraced agent, a sodden failure everybody whispers about. Control sends him back out into the cold–deep into Communist territory to checkmate the bad-guy spies on the other side. The political chessboard is black and white, but in human terms the vicinity of the Berlin Wall is a moral no-man’s land, a gray abyss patrolled by pawns.” Le Carre knows what he’s talking about as he once worked for British Intelligence.
  • The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson – “After proving his loyalty in Afghanistan and elsewhere, CIA agent John Wells, the first Western intelligence officer to penetrate the upper levels of al-Qaeda, is assigned a mission on American soil by bin Laden’s chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. On his return to the U.S., Wells, now a devout Muslim (for real), finds his years spent in deep cover have left him conflicted. The agency itself seems wary of him—other than Jennifer Exley, the agency analyst who debriefs Wells (aka Jalal) on his return. The scrutiny intensifies when two bombs go off in L.A., killing 300. Berenson, a New York Times correspondent since 1999 who covered the occupation of Iraq, deftly employs the classic staples of spy fiction in his debut novel—self-serving bureaucrats, a beautiful co-worker love interest and an on-the-run hero suspected of being a traitor—then mixes in current terror tropes: car bombs, smuggled nuclear material, and bio-weapons. There’s too much introspection from friend and foe alike, but mounting suspense, a believable scenario and a final twist add up to a compelling tale of frightening possibilities. It’s not for the squeamish, though: the torture sequences and bombing descriptions are graphic and chillingly real.”

Three spy novels from three different authors. One considered a master and two up and comers on the spy literary scene. I’ve read Le Carre so I can vouch for him, but as for the other two I’m hoping they are far from the stuff Tom Clancy has been turning out recently.



  1. Hmm, I don’t think I’ve EVER read a spy thriller! Is that like the book version of James Bond movies? I don’t like those.

  2. I read The Spy Who Came In From the Cold for a writing class and thought it was pretty good. It had more character development than others of the same genre from what I hear but I haven’t read many other spy thrillers so you’ll have to let us know how you get on and which others are worth reading.

  3. Oh…these sound good! I haven’t read a lot of “spy” novels. I have a whole stack of Tom Clancy books here, but I’ve never read any of them!! I do love Nelson DeMille though. I guess those are spy/espionage type books. I’ve also wanted to read the Bourne novels by Ludlum.

    Great list, as usual!

  4. Dew – some spy thriller books are similar to a James Bond movie, it depends on who you read. Le Carre is definitely not like a Bond movie, that could be because he was actually in the intelligence industry so he knows what it’s actually like.

    verbivore – I would say that your assessment is probably accurate at least from what I have read of Le Carre.

    Stephanie – Tom Clancy used to be my favorite author but his last few books were really not very good. It’s like he decided that his books would sell whether they were good or not and started phoning it in. I have read the first two Bourne books and they are nothing like the movies, emphasis on the nothing, but they are pretty intense.

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