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Showing posts with the label spies

Reading journal: Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler

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Genre: Espionage Published: 1952 Date read: September 2018 Set in the years between WW1 and WW2, this is a chilling story. Josef Vadassy is a teacher living in France, but he is vulnerable because he is stateless, one of many people left adrift after the messy treaties following WW1. He is holidaying on the Riviera, but he becomes a suspect in a case of espionage and is blackmailed into helping the police solve the case. His confusion, his fear, and his feeble attempts to get out of the trap are exactly what anyone would feel. Life is not the movies, and we are all helpless in the merciless grasp of officialdom. No happy endings here. A brilliant book.

Reading journal: Once Burned, Twice Spy by Diane Henders

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Genre: Spies and espionage Published: 2018 Series: Never Say Spy Date read: June 2018 Aidan Kelly works for a Canadian secret agency. In this outing she must ride herd on a bunch of international scientists showing each other their secret weapons. Something goes wrong and Aidan is accused of stealing the weapon. Quite a good yarn. I particularly liked the beginning, where Aidan’s team must drive through heavy snow to a meeting in Calgary, and one of their vehicles slides off the road. There’s a lot of detail about how to survive atrocious road conditions and what not to do. As an Australian living in the inland plains this is not a hazard I have ever faced, nor am I likely to. I was reminded of Tim Taylor in the series Home Improvement , a man who received an award for safety training for showing realistic accidents and injuries on his TV handyman program. Of course, Tim was actually a total klutz. Aidan does much better. This is the thirteenth book in the series, and th

Reading journal: Pashazade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

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Genre: Science Fiction (alternate history/crime) Published: 2001 Series: Arabesk Trilogy Date read: March 2018 An extraordinary story, wonderfully written. Ashraf al-Mansur, known to his friends as ZeeZee, travels to the free city of El Iskandryia, part of the Ottoman Empire in this alternate future where power lies in the hands of Berlin, Istanbul and Moscow. He’s lived most of his life in institutions, boarding schools, hospitals and prisons, with a brief career working for Chinese triads in Seattle. So it’s a surprise to be broken out of prison and given a passport and ticket for Africa, where an aunt he didn’t know he had has brokered a marriage for him. The story weaves together crimes, culture clashes, and a cast of fascinating characters. The other books in the trilogy are Effendi , a brilliant and terrifying story about child soldiers and artificial intelligence, and Felaheen , in which Raf explores his biological heritage. Grimwood (who also writes under

Reading journal: A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin

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Genre: Science fiction/thriller/alternate history Published: 2014 Date read: April 2018 The story starts in 1955, with an assassination. OK, this is a cold war spy thriller. The German Reich still rules over Europe. Hmm. Not only a spy thriller, then, but an alternate time line. Flashbacks into the protagonist’s involvement in destroying a Norwegian heavy water plant. OK, also a WW2 war story. Later, a mysterious experiment involving an ultimate weapon, time travel. I give in! It’s science fiction as well. A great story told at tremendous pace. It’s mostly told in the first person and the present tense, something I usually find tedious, but Shimmin is a master. You really want the protagonists to succeed and every setback is terrible. The author said he was inspired by Robert Harris’s Fatherland but many other influences can be identified. However, this book is all Graeme Shimmin’s, and it’s a keeper. If you like thrillers spiced with flavours of other genres, this one is

Reading journal: Beauty Like the Night by Joanna Bourne

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Genre: Historical romance Published: 2017 Series: Spymaster Read: February 2018 After the French Revolution came the Napoleonic Wars, and after the wars came the wash-up of displaced people, resentment and revenge. But “spies never retire” . Séverine de Cabrillac, a French-born British spy, is working in London. When not busy helping the British service prevent an assassination attempt on Lord Wellington, she takes on a case helping jewel thief Raoul Deverney to find his missing daughter. I enjoyed this book, although not quite as much as earlier books in the series. Some favourite characters make a reappearance, including the deadly Adrian Hawkhurst — “Hawk lounged at his side of the table with all the noncommittal menace of one of the better breeds of cat.” I suggest starting with the first book in the series, The Forbidden Rose , which takes place in France during the French Revolution. It has a cracking beginning — the starving protagonist talks to the rabbit she

Reading journal: Cause for Alarm by Eric Ambler

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Genre: Espionage Published: 1938 Read: March 2018 Europe in 1938 was preparing for war. This story follows the adventures of Nick Marlow, a British engineer sent to work in Milan. He falls, unprepared, into a cauldron of spying, deception, surveillance, bribery, Fascists, Communists, and betrayals, ending with a tense escape across the border into the relative safety of Yugoslavia. Ambler is a great writer. Look at the wonderful use of language here to describe Marlow’s friend Zaleshoff He had a way of disconcerting you with a gesture, with the way he timed his phrases. Yet you could not quite discover why you had been disconcerted. You received the impression that you were watching a very competent actor using all the technical tricks in his repertoire in an effort to make something of a badly written part. There was something about him which cried out for analysis and yet defied it. I glanced sideways at him. His chin was tucked inside the thick grey muffler that he wore

Reading journal: The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan

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Genre: Thriller Published: 1915 Read: January 2018 I’ve read this many times. It’s still a very enjoyable story in spite of some dated prejudices against Germans, Jewish people and non-British foreigners. Richard Hannay, a mining engineer fresh from exploiting South Africa, returns to Britain in 1914, just before the start of the Great War. On the run from the police for a murder he didn’t commit, Hannay must foil a German spy plot and rediscover some kind of purpose in his life. Hannay is portrayed as a dimwit, and many of his choices are quite stupid, but his innate goodness and endurance let him triumph over his enemies. He is humble in a smug British way. It's slightly worrying that in later Richard Hannay stories he is promoted to the rank of general. A boys’ own adventure story, entirely lacking in women other than as suppliers of food, but utterly consistent in voice from start to finish, with plenty of pace and suspense. The book is much better t

The Spy Racket—Australian action

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The Spy Racket (originally published as The Adila Arrangement) was relaunched in 2021 as Book 5 of the Tender Spies series.