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Ten Great Spy Thrillers

9th May 2023

Ten Great Spy Thrillers. Spy stories fascinate us. They pump our adrenaline and stretch our imagination. Dangerous missions are set all over the world. Actors ranging from MI5/MI6 to the CIA to the KGB – and other state security services – are all there.

Here are ten of our favourite reads in this exciting category.

Ten Great Spy ThrillersGazelle in The Shadows by Michelle Peach – SYRIA

In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University.

With some travel and work already under her belt, she excels at her studies and is sent to Damascus to immerse herself in the language.

Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend.

But things aren’t always what they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and even murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.

Our Man in Kuwait by Louise Burfitt-Dons – KUWAIT

A colonial-era thriller set against the background of big power conflict. The ultimate timepiece tinderbox of sun, sex and spies.

Kuwait 1960. With Soviet backing Iraq plans to invade.

Gordon Carlisle lives in the expat community of Ahmadi with little to worry about other than when to next don his dinner jacket.

Following contact by an MI6 agent everything changes.

Even marriage to his beautiful new wife Anita breaks down as he becomes a suspect in a chain of deaths in the Protectorate.

But only after he meets visiting author Ian Fleming does he fully understand the complex web of betrayal and murder at work as Iraq assembles its forces.

The Chase by Ava Glass – LONDON

These are the instructions sent to new operative Emma Makepeace.

She’s been assigned to track down a man wanted by the Russians and bring him into MI5.

It should be easy. But the Russians have eyes everywhere.

Emma knows that if spotted she and her target will be killed.

What follows is a perilous chase through London’s night-time streets.

But in a city full of cameras, where can you hide?

The m

Ten Great Spy ThrillersThe Man in The Corduroy Suit by James Wolff – LONDON, NORFOLK

British intelligence is in a state of panic. Cracks are appearing, or so a run of disciplinary cases would suggest. To cap it all, a retired MI5 officer collapses, the victim of what looks like a Russian poisoning.

Leonard Flood is ordered to investigate – and quickly. Notorious for his sharp elbows and blunt manner, Leonard’s only objective is to get the job done, whatever the cost. But when the trail leads him from the suburbs of London to a remote country hotel, he makes a startling discovery that will change his life forever.

The Old Enemy by Henry Porter – LONDON, ESTONIA, WASHINGTON

Ex-MI6 officer Paul Samson has been tasked with secretly guarding a gifted young woman, Zoe Freemantle. He is just beginning to tire of the job when he is attacked in the street by a freakish looking knifeman. It’s clear the target is on his back not hers. What he doesn’t know is who put it there.

At that moment, his mentor, the MI6 legend Robert Harland lies dead on a remote stretch of the Baltic coastline. Who needed to end the old spy’s life when he was, in any case, dying from a terminal illness? And what or who is Berlin Blue, the name scratched in the sketchbook beside his body?

A few hours later, Samson watches footage from the US Congress where billionaire philanthropist Denis Hisami is poisoned with a nerve agent while testifying – an attack that is as spectacular as it is lethal, but spares Anastasia Hisami, the love of Samson’s life.

Two things become clear. One, it was a big mistake to lose the mysterious Zoe Freemantle. And two, Robert Harland is making a final play from beyond the grave.

The Cover Wife by Dan Fesperman – HAMBURG, PARIS

The new high-stakes spy thriller from a master of the genre transports the reader to Paris and Hamburg, and deep into the conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks.

Paris, October 1999. CIA agent Claire Saylor is looking after low-level surveillance ops. Her career has stalled after a misguided dalliance with her handler Paul Bridger – so when Bridger asks Claire to join a team, she prepares herself for a stint on tea duties. But in fact, he’s finally put her back in the game. She’ll be going undercover as the wife of Professor Winston Armitage – an expert in the Quran and its translations. He’s presenting his controversial new theory on the fabled promise of 72 virgins for each martyr, and needs protection.

But when Claire arrives in Hamburg, it soon becomes clear that this is no routine protection job: she’s there to uncover a conspiracy that will lead to the 9/11 terror attacks. And if she blows her cover, she could lose her life…

Ten Great Spy ThrillersAwakening of Spies by Brian Landers – RIO DE JANEIRO

Thomas Dylan is an unlikely spy.

Rejected by MI6 he joins the Ministry of Defence where his first mission is a total failure. Unexpectedly he is then sent to Rio de Janeiro to recover a submarine interrogator stolen from the US Navy.

In Brazil he discovers that those supposedly on his side, MI6 and the CIA, have their own priorities and his life is not one of them.

A murderous game which began with the death of a British spy in Argentina is being played out in a city of sun, sea and secret police. When he comes face-to-face with the brutal realities of Brazil’s military dictatorship Dylan has to trust somebody. But who?

He knows for sure that the woman he wants to trust has been lying to him from the very beginning. But why?

This is a fast-paced thriller in the vein of John le Carré and Eric Ambler.

Emperor by John Fullerton – BEIJING

Can ex-NSA agent Ava stop the Emperor’s war plans before he kills millions – and her?

There’s a new Cold War…and it’s about to erupt into World War Three.

Emperor Qin – absolute ruler, dictator for life – has one task before he succumbs to brain cancer, and it means war. Can ex-spy Ava stop him in time to save millions – and survive?

Qin will ‘unify’ China by ordering the conquest of Taiwan, a democratic nation of 23 million people just 100 miles off the mainland, a pledge the Chinese Communist Party has made every year since the 1949 Revolution.

But there’s a leak, a flood of state secrets.

They land in the lap of the former NSA analyst in Washington DC. Ava Shute hasn’t sought the material. On the contrary, she’s a most reluctant recipient.

One thing keeps Ava going: the prospect of a nuclear Armageddon. The clock is ticking as Chinese agents hunt Ava down with orders to kill.

The Spy Across The Water by James Naughtie – UNITED STATES, SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS

From one of our most treasured BBC broadcasters, The Spy Across the Water is the third instalment in James Naughtie’s brilliant spy series, woven around three brothers bound together forever through espionage.

We live with our history, but it can kill us.

Faces from the past appear from nowhere at a family funeral, and Will Flemyng, spy-turned-ambassador, is drawn into twin mysteries that threaten everything he holds dear.

From Washington, he’s pitched back into the Troubles in Northern Ireland and an explosive secret hidden deep in the most dangerous but fulfilling friendship he has known.

And while he confronts shadowy adversaries in American streets, and looks for solace at home in the Scottish Highlands, he discovers that his government’s most precious Cold War agent is in mortal danger and needs his help to survive.

In an electric story of courage and betrayal, Flemyng learns the truth that his life has left him a man with many friends, but still alone.

‘A thoughtful and detailed novel of statecraft and spycraft, recommended for fans of le Carré’ Ian Rankin

Tómas Nevinson by Javier Marías and Margaret Jull Costa (translator) – SPAIN

Spain in the 1990s is beset by a simmering campaign of terror from Basque separatists ETA, with periodic atrocities shattering an illusory calm. Against this backdrop, retired British Secret Service member Tomás Nevinson – now living a quiet life in his hometown Madrid – is approached by his sinister former handler, Bertram Tupra, with an offer to bring him back in from the cold, for one last assignment: a favour for Tupra, for old times’ sake, which is also a favour for a powerful Spanish friend.

His mission: to go back undercover, in a small Spanish town, to find out which of three women who moved there a decade ago is in fact an ETA terrorist, on loan from the IRA, now on the run and living there incognito.

Everything about the assignment is shadowy – from who exactly Nevinson will be working for to the question of what ‘justice’ he may need to mete out if he is somehow able to unmask one of the three women. But, still in his forties and lured by the appeal of once again being on the inside, he accepts the job.

As he gets closer to the three women, his task becomes ever harder. How – or who – to choose between these three? Intimately involved with each of them, as lover, colleague or friend, he can find no firm clue to resolve the question. But under increasing pressure from his paymasters, choose – and act – he apparently must . . .

Charting a world where right and wrong, and good and evil, are irreparably blurred, Javier Marías takes us on a journey of rare and unforgettable suspense in this, the final novel written before his untimely passing in 2022.

Enjoy this wide selection of Spy Thrillers!

Tony for the TripFiction team

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