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Twisted Prey - John Sandford

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold - John LeCarre

UNSUB - Meg Gardiner

A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Philipps

How It Happened by Michael Koryta

The Word Is Murder - Anthony Horowitz

Star of the North - D.B. John

The Sinners - Ace Atkins

The Outsider - Stephen King

Spymaster - Brad Thor

The Other Woman - Daniel Silva

The Man Between - Charles Cumming 

Operation Mincemeat - Ben Macintyre 

Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap by Paul Grant 

Berlin Game - Len Deighton (for the Spybrary book club)

Desolation Mountain - William Kent Krueger

Podcast Favorites . (The life and Legacy of Ian Fleming, with author and historian Jeremy Duns, always an excellent and entertaining interview) . (the true story of Oleg Penkovsky, regarded by many as the greatest spy of the Cold War era - with Jeremy Duns, whose book on the topic, Dead Drop, is a classic) (wonderful history of Ian Fleming's involvement at Bletchley Park during WWII, and Anthony Horowitz making a presentation about his new James Bond novel, Forever And A Day. "How I Nearly Started World War III" with Mark Valley, host of the Live Drop Espionage podcast



Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap by Paul Grant

Is there a place and time in modern history the equal of Berlin, Germany in late 1961? I can’t imagine one, certainly not historically, nor from my lifetime. Author Paul Grant shares my attitude, I’m confident. Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap is his first novel, is self-published, and it’s terrific.

Grant is a historian, with a keen interest in Germany between the two World Wars. His hope is that paying attention to what’s happened before will provide lessons  for today and perhaps even ward off similar mistakes happening again. I don’t share his optimism, but however Grant’s motivations shake out, he writes a hell of a good novel.

Caught in the Mousetrap is the first in at least three (I hope more) novels revolving around the Schultz family, in Berlin. August 1961 finds Klaus Schultz coming into possession of documents leaking advance news of the East German plans to build the Berlin Wall. Hard-headed, muckraking American journalist Jack Kaymer, in love with Klaus’ daughter Eva, works too much, and loves her and their daughter and his investigative writer/spy role. It’s all overwhelming.

When his sources lead Jack to a secret East Berlin warehouse full of materials clearly headed for wall construction, as he gathers more info, he knows politics and life and potentially war are going to come to a head. Jack desperately wants to understand what’s going to happen, to write about it, and at the same time get his family safely from the East to the West. But oh man, the times are changing faster than anyone can readily absorb.

When the Stasi throw their weight around and get their hands on Jack, then kidnap Eva, life gets dark and desperate. 

Reading Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap was fun and rewarding. It’s clear to me, as a spy and espionage and history fan, that Paul Grant is passionate about this era and Germany, and has a deep appreciation for the people and events of the time. He understands the ties that motivated people on both sides of the wall, ideologically and physically. 

I’m attracted to the plot of Caught in the Mousetrap, and found myself understanding and enjoying Eva and Jack and Sophie and Dobrovsky and Gerd and a cast of Stasi and Russian figures. Grant impressed me with how he cast these people as individuals, giving them room to grow in their roles, developing an exciting, rather complex story. 

Berlin: Caught in the Mousetrap grew on me as a reader. The pace quickened; excitement and tension built. By the last few chapters I was hungry to continue reading, enjoying the growing tension, and worried like hell about Jack Kaymer and Eva Schultz. This is a dynamic novel, populated by fully-realized characters set in a can’t-miss environment. I’m looking forward to Reaping the Whirlwind, next in the series, already purchased and on my bedside table reading stack. Buy this book, support a fine author, and enjoy a hell of a good adventure/spy story., @spybrary, #caughtinthemousetrap,

buy it on Amazon



The Man Between by Charles Cumming

Novelist Kit Carradine is fascinated with spies. His father worked for British Intelligence; of course Kit doesn’t know much of what his duties or experiences were, but it gives context to his interest. Carradine writes spy and espionage thrillers, and is successful, to a point. His life is comfortable, but lately he's found himself musing about what’s possibly missing in life, and he procrastinates actually writing ‘cause he’s bored with his routine.

Abruptly, Carradine’s dreams are seemingly realized when British Intelligence reaches out, asking him to take on a simple task. The agent presents this like it's not even a real mission, just a favor the writer is happily positioned for. Of course Carradine is excited, and jumps in without asking too many questions. 

The Man Between moves swiftly after this. In short order Kit finds himself in Morocco, on the trail of international fugitive Lara Bartok. Attempting to put into play the expertise he thinks he has, learned while sitting at a desk online, doesn’t play out as he’d hoped. Quickly he’s out of his depth, involved with Russian agents, British and American spies, and the violent revolutionary group Resurrection. 

A growing relationship with Bartok, dawning realization that few people are who they present themselves as, and a whirlwind of events push Carradine to decisions and dangerous situations he never dreamed possible.

Cumming wraps his complex and imaginative plot with taut political commentary. His awareness of the divisions in society today, and how they may be playing out in the intelligence world, reads true to me. I was captivated through my entire read of The Man Between, couldn’t wait to turn the page. 

This book is an example my passion for reading; I couldn’t put it down. Charles Cumming and The Man Between trailed me everywhere in my home. I couldn’t shake them. When I find myself brushing my teeth and balancing a hardcover book on the sink, I’m in deeply. Even hiding the book in my beloved Tom Bihn laptop bag didn’t help.  

Kit Carradine, Lara Bartok, and a couple of the spooks with significant roles become fully realized people. Spycraft is integral to the plot. Treachery and double agents abound. Tension builds chapter by chapter. 

Replaying plot high points of The Man Between does it no justice. Charles Cumming is writing novels featuring spies and espionage as well as anyone alive today. His grasp of current political currents is clear, yet never a hammer blow to the story.

I cannot recommend The Man Between more highly. It’s a fine thriller, laced with spies, espionage and vivid characters. 


@CharlesCumming, @HarperBooks, @HarperCollinsUK, @Spybrary



The Other Woman by Daniel Silva

Do you seek adventure and tension in the novels you read? What about highly intelligent dialogue and deeply-drawn characters - will that work? How about plots veering dangerously close to contemporary events? Are you able to handle all this in one beautifully-written book?


Daniel Silva has you covered with The Other Woman. I found myself immediately drawn deeply to the story and people and issues. I found myself carrying the book around the house, reading a few pages here and there at each opportunity. Forget about eight hours of sleep once you crack open Silva’s 21st novel - it’s not happening.

Silva writes spy novels, worthy of standing on their own without needless comparisons to LeCarre or Deighton. After many years of writing, with a large, impressive body of work to his name, Daniel Silva’s stories and characters inhabit a clearly developed, exciting and interesting world. It’s often dangerously close to the one readers inhabit. The Other Woman neatly drives that point home.

Spy and espionage fans should find the Kim Philby connections and threads throughout The Other Woman fascinating. I found Silva’s integrating Philby into a story set in today’s espionage world  cleverly done. Israeli spy Gabriel Allon finds himself in the midst of a complex conspiracy puzzle involving the Russian KGB, a deeply buried double agent, and espionage history coming to life around him. Much of the book takes place in the richly appropriate spy setting of Vienna.

Daniel Silva writes with elegance. He knows how to weave a complex plot in compelling fashion, and brings elements together to construct a winning, exciting novel. The Other Woman is drama-filled, exciting and satisfying.

@DanielSilvaBook, @HarperBooks, #theotherwoman, #danielsilva



Spymaster by Brad Thor

Wrapped in a stunning cover, Spymaster has more to live up to than just being Brad Thor’s latest thriller starring the seemingly indestructible Scot Harvath. Spymaster’s dramatic title implies author Thor is weaving his familiar military-styled thriller style into the world of spies and espionage. He pulls it off, though whether to the satisfaction of LeCarre - Deighton - style fans is in doubt, in my opinion.

I came to this new book a fan of both thrillers and spy fiction. Thor’s work is familiar to me, and I quickly found myself enjoying, even savoring, Spymaster. I’ve never read Brad Thor slowly before. The plot, too-close-for-comfort to today’s daily news feed, helps Spymaster ring true. I’m especially happy with how Article 5 of the NATO charter is woven into the storyline and Scot Harvath’s thinking and motivation.

Brad Thor’s writing is more relaxed in Spymaster than I remember from earlier books, notably in the first half or so of the book. His plotting and characterization flow nicely. I enjoyed full immersion in the world of spies, counterspies, double agents, tradecraft, and political intrigue. 

Don’t look to me to rehash the storyline and plot. It’s tense and exciting and builds well. There are clear lines separating the real bad guys from the good guys; there are fuzzy lines wrapped around people in-between. 

Harvath is written as well as I’ve seen him. He’s older, almost 40, worries about his longevity, and takes measures to be able to remain at the top of his game. He’s no longer a super-man and knows it. Characters throughout Spymaster are strongly realized. I wasn’t even too bothered by the amazing number of rounds fired and some of the almost-impossible action scenes. 

Spymaster moved too quickly through the last couple of chapters. I wanted more of the pacing of the earlier portions of the story, and the plot moved away from spycraft towards military action more than I wished for.

I’d enjoy seeing his future efforts move even further into the spy and espionage realm. Knowing how closely Thor follows news and events in real life, I’m confident he will. I’m calling Spymaster the best Brad Thor novel yet.


@BradThor, @AtriaBooks, @AtriaMysteryBus, #spymaster



Thomas Lyons Fine Books

Many of you are well aware of my passion for identifying and visiting (and shopping) at quality used bookstores. Unfortunately, today they are fewer and farther between. Recently I located one less than ten miles from me, a wonderful shop in business for five years in Neenah, WI (Thomas A. Lyons Fine Books). Somehow I was unaware of their existence, until a local newspaper article about their pending move and expansion was published. Needless to say, a trip there (with one estate sale and two thrift shops on the way) was a priority today. Once inside the cozy, classy confines, it was immediately clear to me Lyons is curated, inventory is sleeved, and their inventory is in immaculate condition. Conversation with Meredith Lyons, Manager of the business, was friendly, knowledgeable, and escalated when I began pulling books and placing them on the counter for purchase. We talked at length about signed editions, authors, ARC copies, etc. I felt good about my new relationship when Meredith asked if I wanted to go upstairs into the rare/collectible room, which turned out to be the office of her father, Thomas Lyons. This room is a dream space for me; large wooden desk in the middle, stacks of collectible books, catalogs, papers, lamps, surrounded on the walls by glass-door bookcases. I could happily live in such a space. The contents of these cases are for sale. Damn. I was careful touching the books. Suffice to say I didn't purchase anything from upstairs, but travel to their website to get a flavor of what I examined. There is a wondrous James Lee Burke short story collection I've never seen, in any condition, I have my eye (and heart) on. I'll be returning to Thomas A. Lyons Fine Books often.

These two books are among my purchases today. They are in immaculate, VG+ or better condition, slipcased, and beautiful additions to my library.