Ian Fleming’s James Bond; John Le Carre’s George Smiley; Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne: the espionage shelves are packed with male spies by male writers. Which makes the following gripping titles and series penned by women a welcome change of pace.
Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht.
A different sort of spy story full of anticipation with an almost sultry atmosphere as we wait along with Vera Kelly. Set in 1960’s Buenos Aires, Knecht captures the classic Cold War struggle between the CIA and revolutionary, nationalist communists that personified an entire era. Interwoven within the story is how Vera Kelly found herself as a lone spy observing a dangerous coup. An utterly compelling read that is hard to put down. Continue reading “Women Spy Writers!”
I foolishly tried to resist getting caught up in the fervor, but it’s no use: once again my attention has been totally dominated by the Olympic Games. Such is the case for many of our patrons if the small talk at our service desk is any indication. There’s also been a run on all of our books about the Games, but there are some great mysteries and thrillers out there that feature the Olympics in various ways. Here’s a taste:
- See Delphi and Die, by Lindsay Davis. One of the best entries in this excellent series featuring sardonic ancient Roman detective Didius Falco, who in his 17th case investigates the mysterious deaths of two tourists at the ancient games.
- A Game of Lies, by Rebecca Cantrell. In her third outing, journalist Hannah Vogel returns to Berlin under the guise of reporting on the 1936 Olympic Games, but in truth to smuggle a mysterious package out from under the Nazi’s noses. For other fine thrillers involving the Berlin games, see Jeffery Deaver’s Garden of Beasts, Jonathan Rabb’s The Second Son, and David John’s Flight from Berlin.
- Goldengirl, by Peter Lovesey. This curious early title of Lovesey’s about a physiologist who chemically engineers his adopted daughter into an Olympic champion anticipates the doping scandals and tiger mothers of today.
- Nice Try, by Shane Maloney. Called in to help manage Melbourne’s ill-fated bid for the 1990 Olympic Games, cynical arts minister Murray Whelan finds himself in the middle of a racially-charged murder investigation when a Black triathlete turns up dead.
- Private Games, by James Patterson. A crazed madman who will stop at nothing has a bizarre scheme to devastate the glitzy London Olympic ceremonies and restore the ancient glory of the Games. Private detective Peter Knight races the clock to foil his nefarious plans. This is Patterson’s second bid for Olympic gold, after his 1979 title See How They Run, aka The Jericho Commandment, in which Dr. David Strauss follows a trail of blood to the Moscow Olympics.
Come see #1 New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva in conversation with Warren Etheredge at the Central Library’s Microsoft Auditorium, at 7 p.m., Monday, July 23.
I love July for the warmth and light to read a good book in the evening on the porch, and the sure and certain knowledge that I’ll have another installment of Daniel Silva’s superlative series featuring Israeli spy and assassin cum art restorer Gabriel Allon. (This July The Fallen Angel takes us all inside the walls of the Vatican, where I expect a much more interesting and realistic experience than my last literary visit there – sorry Dan Brown). Whether he’s ferreting out art treasures stolen by the Nazis, facing off against Russian arms dealers, or infiltrating jihadist terrorists, Allon never fails to provide a convincing and compelling focus for beguiling and complex tales of international intrigue. Silva manages to combine all the fun of a series hero with the style and thought-provoking moral complexity that readers expect from literary fiction.
If you’ve never tried Silva, you’re in for a treat. If you have, and grow wearing of waiting for Allon’s next adventure, here are some other authors of stylish and complex espionage that may help you through the other ten months of the year.
- A Very Private Gentleman, by Martin Booth. He dreams of retirement, collecting butterflies and finding love in a small Italian town. The deadly assassins who are his clients have another plan.
- A Spy by Nature, by Charles Cummings. Promising young marketing consultant Alec Milius finds a novel way up the corporate ladder, by becoming a private sector spy.
- Requiem for an Assassin, by Barry Eisler. John Rain is a seasoned professional assassin, but don’t think he doesn’t have his doubts. This is Rain’s sixth adventure: will it be his last?
- The Good Son, by Michael Gruber. When a group of pacifists is kidnapped in Pakistan, psychologist Sonia tries to connect with her captors, while her son attempts to rescue her from without.
- Bloodmoney, by David Ignatius. This look at private sector spies infiltrating Pakistani terrorists has Ignatius’ hallmark: authentic detail and complex real world intrigue.
- Istanbul Passage, by Joseph Kanon. As World War II comes to a close, Leon Bauer is given one last job by the allies, to smuggle a refugee to safety. But is he a Nazi war criminal?
- The Silent Oligarch, by Chris Morgan Jones. As the man who launders the money for a corrupt Russian minister, Richard Lock likes to keep out of sight, but lately he’s started to attract attention.
- Timebomb, by Gerald Seymour. In Russia, everything’s for sale, so who was the highest bidder for a newly discovered suitcase nuke buried since the Cold War?
You’ll find more suggested titles right here in our catalog. Come join us on July 23 for Silva’s live interview with Warren Etheredge. Books will be for sale, and Silva will be signing. Oh, and here are some reading suggestions from Daniel Silva himself:
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Last week I talked about E.C. Bentley’s singular mystery Trent’s Last Case, which was dedicated to his old friend G.K. Chesterton; now that I’ve reached the C’s in my alphabet of crime, it seems only fitting to revisit Chesterton’s singular thriller, The Man Who Was Thursday, itself dedicated to Bentley. Although mystery fans will best know Chesterton for the his mystery stories featuring the quiet intuitive brilliance of Father Brown, this curious blend of dime novel thrills and playful, surreal paradox is my own favorite.
In the wake of an ominously brilliant sunset, poets Gabriel Syme and Lucian Gregory engage in a dialogue on merits of anarchy and order on a London park bench, and then retire to a pub to continue their discussion over some surprisingly luxurious food. Suddenly the bottom literally drops out beneath them, and the anarchist Gregory initiates Syme into a secret subterranean cabal – an anarchist council. Detective Syme swiftly and ingeniously turns the tables on his host, getting himself elected to the board – a weird group of phantasmagoric bogeymen right out of a James Ensor painting – where he is dubbed Thursday, according to their curious argot. (In 1908, “anarchism” was no joke, just as “terrorism” is not today. One has only to read Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, published the previous year, or Félix Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines to get a sense of how pervasive the threat of anarchism was felt to be at this time; three world leaders had been assassinated by self-proclaimed anarchists, including an American president).
Thus commences a headlong intercontinental chase something in the vein of John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps, conducted via car, balloon, horse and elephant, as the other days of the week are unmasked – all except the anarchist’s president Sunday, the enigmatic prime mover behind these obscure doings. In the end the joke may be on us, or then again not. Chesterton once wrote “The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange.” The Man Who Was Thursday achieves this; for all its playfulness, he gestures towards an ultimate mystery lying at the back of things that is all too real and ineffable.
Chesterton had a healthy respect for the pull of a good story; another of my favorite quotes of his (from an essay entitled In Defense of Penny Dreadfuls) is “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” What I enjoy most about the world of this strange and wonderful book is that for all its hints at the works of Kafka, Walser, and Borges to come, it never stops being an adventure. I love books that do that. Creating a world that is almost but not quite our own, in many ways it prefigures the magical realism and urban fantasy of today. It is quite a trip.