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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



Back to Basics with LeCarre

After a couple of weeks reading and writing about modern operator-Seal-thriller-kinda military novels, my reading palate needs refreshing. What better way to re-set than with one of the very best spy and espionage novels of all time, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold?

Reading this classic once again reminds me just how superb LeCarre is. He's untouchable.

#JohnLeCarre, #spywhocameinfromthecold, @Spybrary


John Sandford Hits Home Run With Twisted Prey

Twisted Prey, the newest Lucas Davenport thriller in the long-running (28 books) series, maintains the rigorous levels of writing, characterization and plot I expect from John Sandford. If I just finished this book, and I'd hold Twisted Prey up against anything Sandford has published in book form (I own and have read nearly all of his work). Davenport finds himself in Washington D.C. in this adventure, and quickly learns to take the place seriously.

I'll have a full writeup soon; in the meantime, get your hands on Twisted Prey and be prepared to set aside a chunk of your life while you're turning pages!

@J_sandford, #twistedprey, @PutnamBooks


Warning Light by David Ricciardi

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Warning Light is the epitome of the all-hell-breaks-loose CIA-spy-thriller-mystery - but done right. Before I’d turned the first page, I was hooked. Hell, both earthquake and tragedy are in the first sentence! 

Warning Light is a wild ride. Chapter one flew by. My close reading was challenged by the shocking path CIA man Zac Miller found himself on. When his mission abruptly diverged from it’s intended path, I felt his frustration and surprise and shock. This is within the first 30 pages. 

I won’t rundown the plot. Zac Miller finds himself in circumstances out of his control, considered a rogue by his own organization. At the same time, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard considers him a dangerous spy and doesn’t hesitate to treat him like one. Nothing good is coming out of this situation for Miller. His original mission is in tatters, as is his body.

How Zac Miller handles everything thrown at him, how author Ricciardi ratchets up the tension and escalates the stakes, is superior storytelling. Warning Light is an exciting spy tale with a healthy vein of thriller and a not-too-heavy sprinkling of military action. Toss in a couple of real surprises and plot twists, garnish with the knowledge this is David Ricciardi’s first novel, and you’ve a winner.

Warning Light kept showing up all over my house. Any time I found five minutes I was cracking it open. Exciting from front to back, Warning Light is a winner.


@RicciardiBooks, @TomColgan14, @BerkleyPub



No Man Dies Twice by Michael Smith

Police Inspector Peter Ritter is in trouble. His world, investigating murders and criminal activity in Germany, during WWII and at the height of the Nazi regime, is complicated and dangerous. As if dancing around the Gestapo doesn’t present enough obstacles, informants are everywhere, often disguised as old friends.

No Man Dies Twice presents a gripping and entertaining crime noir tale. Ritter is an honest detective in a fundamentally shifting society. His marriage is on the rocks; rumors are that he’s soon to be replaced in his job. He self-medicates with alcohol as he tries to stay sane. Who wouldn’t?

Events in his life, professionally and at home, begin to spin. A Jew is murdered, and as Ritter looks into it, he’s pressured to discontinue his efforts. Next, a local Gestapo big-shot is brutally murdered. Soon bodies are stacking up. In the midst of these overwhelming and eventually overlapping investigations, he uncovers a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. 

Michael Smith successfully brings wartime Germany alive on the pages of No Man Dies Twice. His descriptive writing creates an environment, an atmosphere, I brought to the motion picture created in my head. I know Inspector Ritter and feel empathy for him, his friends and work, and the life he finds himself in. I felt I was living in Germany during the war, alongside Ritter. The air, the sounds, the food and drink and cigarette smoke, they all flow from the printed page.

Spies, double agents, tradecraft, Nazis, alcohol, women - author Smith delivers a debut novel in No Man Dies Twice. He presents a powerful story and a memorable character in Inspector Peter Ritter. Smith’s career in British Intelligence marries nicely with his deft writing touch. I look forward to sharing further adventures with Ritter in the future.

@DiversionBooks, @MickWSmith, #nomandiestwice



Greeks Bearing Gifts by Philip Kerr

Never before have I opened a book review talking about the recent death of the author, but I cannot ignore the black cloud hanging over me while I completed reading Greeks Bearing Gifts. Philip Kerr passed away late in March; he was only 62 years old. I’ve read and enjoyed Kerr’s work for years. Experiencing an active writer one year younger than myself die while I’m immersed in his most recent novel is sad. It changed how I read Greeks Bearing Gifts and how I feel about Bernie Gunther, the unlikely police detective who has lived (via Kerr’s writing), and survived, in Nazi Germany, the decades surrounding World War II. 

Greeks Bearing Gifts presents an older, beat-up, somehow-still-decent-human Gunther, down on his luck, working at a hospital morgue. A chance meeting presents what sounds like a very positive opportunity, working as a claims adjuster for a German insurance company. Since the war, the world has adjusted, Germany is on the rise economically, and Gunther has reinvented himself with a new name and occupation and locale. He thinks police work, the Nazi decades, his old life and acquaintances, are behind him.

Nope. Traveling to Greece investigating the suspicious sinking of an insured vessel belonging to a German begins a pilgrimage through adventure and mystery. Gunther’s past collides with his present as he’s thrown back into detective work, finding himself wrapped in the middle of a complex series of murders, overlapping political movements (to say Germans are unpopular in Greece at this time is an understatement), intrigue and shadowy characters.

Philip Kerr is at his best in Greeks Bearing Gifts. I found myself reading slowly, savoring the language and atmosphere and pulling myself into Bernie Gunther’s caustic, cynical head. As events and people revolve around Gunther, history lessons unfold in the midst of Kerr’s evocative, beautiful, language. His descriptions are unusual and unique:

“…she was wearing black and generally resembled a poorly erected Bedouin’s tent.”

“Detection is in your blood, Ganz, as if it was a disease.”

Greeks Bearing Gifts seeps atmosphere. I found myself transported to post-World War II Greece; I could smell the cigarettes constantly smoked by everyone. I felt Gunther’s pull towards solving crime and getting into people’s heads, and his cynical attitude towards the entire world. Author Kerr led me through mysteries and red herrings and seemingly unresolved situations, through a wholly satisfying story to an ending both Bernie Gunther and I are happy with. 

What superb storytelling.


@PutnamBooks, #philipkerr, #greeksbearinggifts