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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



Speakeasy: A Novel by Alisa Smith

One look at the brilliant cover of Speakeasy: A Novel by Alisa Smith, and I was all in. This debut effort is set in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, a country only recently receiving attention as a hotbed of past spy and espionage activity.

Author Smith’s great aunt was a code-breaker for the Allies during WWII and inspired some of his writing. He nicely combines family tales and the criminal world of Vancouver, creating the foundation for the adventures of Lena Stillman, a bank robber-turned-codebreaker. Speakeasy is exciting and a good, page-turning historical novel. I enjoy the protagonist’s criminal past mixed with espionage, creating a nicely original plot.


@StMartinsPress, #alisasmith, #speakeasy



The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel Rosenberg

In The Kremlin Conspiracy, author Rosenberg sets in motion a series of unrelated (or so it seems) plots, any of which could change the world’s balance of power. A big player in this story is a Russian president for which power-hungry would be an understatement, someone wishing to raise Russia to former glorious levels of world domination. Mix this guy with dedicated American soldiers with their own crusade, and the result is a boiling mixture of emotions and action and adventure. Does that sound convoluted enough? 

Plots and characters are clear and easy to follow in The Kremlin Conspiracy, probably more than I’ve made it sound. Remember the classic Tom Clancy novels when two seemingly unrelated plots would slowly move towards each other, and at some point in the book readers would suddenly figure out how everything works together? To me, that’s what Rosenberg works toward in this adventure.

The Kremlin Conspiracy is not a spy and espionage novel. It’s a thriller with clearly delineated good and bad guys. I found myself effectively visualizing the halls and meeting rooms of the Kremlin. Events move quickly in this book, so the pages turn rapidly. This is a quick, action-packed read with a solid dose of geo-political intrigue.

@TyndaleHouse, @JoelCRosenberg



Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

I cannot remember any spy or espionage book garnering as much mainstream attention as Red Sparrow. Of course the media are being driven by the new motion picture adaptation, and Jennifer Lawrence and her star power, but nonetheless I’m impressed.

To date I’ve not seen the movie, but I’ve kept current with reviews and opinions. At this point I don’t care that the novel isn’t faithfully followed; how could it have been? Was computer gadgetry going to illuminate Dominika’s colorful sense of people’s emotions? I think not, nor would I want to see some clumsy CGI effort. When I watch Red Sparrow I hope to simply enjoy it as an interesting, action-packed spy movie. My needs are simple.

On the other hand, as anyone who has read my glowing review of author Jason Matthews’ The Kremlin’s Candidate will know (yeah, I’m reading the trilogy out of order), this guy can freakin’ pen a marvelous spy novel!

I’m not a “tell the plot in a review” type. Red Sparrow spotlights Dominika, coming up through the ranks of Soviet espionage, basically setting the place on fire with her talent and drive and unique personality. She triumphs over adversity and roadblocks with verve and steel will and a level of determination rarely seen. As time passes and experiences stack up, as Dominika creates deep relationships within both the Russian intelligence service and the American CIA, she finds herself rethinking much of what she’d always believed. Tradecraft and spycraft and the entire world of espionage is front and center in this novel. I find how Matthews brings everything alive for the reader to be most unusual and compelling.

Red Sparrow is exciting, wonderfully written (the quality of novel sure to convince some neophyte authors to hang up the keyboard), and compelling in the best way. I always wanted to turn the page and continue the story, while at the same time it felt right to take my time and savor the sentences and word placement and characterization and events.

I do not exaggerate at all when I say Red Sparrow is a phenomenal, exciting spy thriller. I’m confident history will treat Jason Matthews with awards and honors.


#redsparrow, #jasonmatthews, @ScribnerBooks



The Deceivers by Alex Berenson

Lately I’ve been reading too many military-Seal-lotsa guns novels, and needed a good spy tale to cleanse my palate. Just in time, author Berenson came along with ex-CIA operative John Wells to assist in untangling a web of covert moves designed to shift geopolitical power across the globe.

The Deceivers is a stand-alone spy tale of classic proportions. Maneuverings behind the backs of those who think they’re in power - check. Full-on deceit to the faces of people who believe in you - check. Sleeper cells, double agents, assassinations, Russians and Muslims - check.   

Don’t assume Berenson has pulled plot-lines from today’s (hell, this hour’s) news to build the narrative of The Deceivers. Given the lead-time needed to write, produce, print and distribute a book, events in here came to the clearly agile mind of the author long ago. 

I enjoyed this engrossing, fast-moving spy tale a great deal. Something I admire about John Wells, the primary character in this book (and eleven other novels by Berenson), are his many failings, and his ever-present angst about his real-life, wife and daughter, relationship. Wells is far from the infallible, always-has-the-answer bullet-proof “hero” popular in much thriller fiction. His friends have earned their place in his life, and they stand by each other in all circumstances. 

Solving the puzzles presented in The Deceivers takes the work of a team, one clearly led by Wells. His supporting cast are strong, clearly-drawn personalities of their own, and I felt they add a great deal to the narrative.

If you enjoy a fast-paced, adventurous spy story with detailed, obviously researched background environments, and a tight narrative peopled with those you’ll care about, The Deceivers is a fine choice.

@PutnamBooks, @AlexBerenson, #TheDeceivers





The Terminal List - Jack Carr

Carr’s first novel, The Terminal List, has gotten a hell of a lot of play on Twitter. Some of this reflects the writers I follow, naturally, but I’ve been impressed by how excited other authors are by Terminal List. Brad Thor took the book on TV and plugged it! I enjoy seeing these close bonds and respect between book writers. I’m guessing Jack Carr is a hell of a nice guy.


The Terminal List is a fast-paced, action-jammed thriller with a military bent. The plot, in a nutshell, centers around James Reece, a Navy Seal abandoned by the government after an operation goes bad. Not only his team but the forces sent in for rescue are killed in a dramatic, unexpected explosion. A trap. As if that’s not enough sheer crazy drama for one person, after returning home his wife and daughter are brutally murdered. The evil at work here is hard to comprehend. 

Reece is essentially framed, resulting in his evolving into a rogue operator, on the outs with the military, his old friends and comrades. Striving to clear his name and uncover the conspiracy imbedded at the highest levels of government, Reece becomes a one-man war dog. But he’s human, all too human, not at all one of the mechanical, invincible “heroes” populating some fiction today.

Reading and constantly turning the pages of The Terminal List, I kept reminding myself Jack Carr hasn’t written a published novel before this one. Try that thought on for size while you’re imbedded in the life and times of James Reece. From it’s superb cover design, through the driven, passionate tale of this chapter in Reece’s life (I believe readers will encounter him once again), The Terminal List stands out from the current dense flow of Seal-Special Forces-militaristic thrillers. I believe Carr will only improve as a writer of adventure tales, and I’m eagerly looking forward to his future work. 

#theterminallist #jackcarr, @JackCarrUSA, @AtriaMysteryBus