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Tag Archive for ‘CIA’

Going undercover for the CIA in ISIS

The Prisoner (John Wells #11), by Alex Berenson @@@@@ (5 out of 5) To uncover the identity of a mole in the CIA, John Wells must go undercover again. A long time earlier, he had spent years with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At the time, he was the CIA’s only source of first-hand… Read More ›

It’s hard to beat this political thriller

Briarpatch, by Ross Thomas @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Ross Thomas‘ first novel, The Cold War Swap, was published in 1967. It won the Edgar Allen Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best first novel of that year. As the crime writer Lawrence Block relates in his introduction to the Kindle… Read More ›

An entertaining if puzzling sci-fi novel

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1 of 2), by Sylvain Neuvel @@@@ (4 out of 5) Every once in a while you come across a work of fiction so puzzling that you simply can’t put it down. No matter that the story seems not just farfetched but downright silly. The narrative drive, the sheer suspense, keep… Read More ›

The 5 best books of 2016

I’d already written up my list of the 10 best books of the year when the editors of Berkeleyside asked me to supply them with a list of my five top picks. (I’ll post the longer list next week.) Picking just five is a tough assignment, to put it mildly. But here goes, gritting my… Read More ›

27 biographies worth reading

One of the very best ways to gain insight into history and the ways of the world around us is to read biographies. Which explains why I read them so frequently. Over the more than six years since I began writing this blog, I’ve read dozens. Here I’m listing 27 that stand out in my… Read More ›

An historical thriller that doesn’t thrill

A review of Black Water: A Novel, by Louise Doughty @@@ (3 out of 5) Imagine: you’re going to write a book about a man nearing the age of 60, who was born in 1942 in a Japanese concentration camp in Indonesia. (Yes, it’s 1998 now.) His mother was Dutch, his father a dark-skinned Dutch-Indonesian… Read More ›

Russian agents under cover in the UK

A review of Breaking Cover (Liz Carlyle #9), by Stella Rimington @@@@ (4 out of 5) A prominent civil liberties advocate named Jasminder Kapoor is saved from muggers on a London street late at night by a passerby. Within weeks, she has fallen in love with the man, a Norwegian banker. There is something a… Read More ›

Cold War espionage in search of the H-bomb

A review of The Whitehall Mandarin (William Catesby #4), by Edward Wilson @@@@ (4 out of 5) The Whitehall Mandarin, Edward Wilson’s complex and sophisticated novel of Cold War espionage, is the fourth book in a series that began with the The Envoy. That first book centered around the life of one Kit Fournier, an… Read More ›

15 good nonfiction books about espionage

For good or ill, a fair amount of what I’ve learned about espionage over the years has come from reading spy stories. A few authors are particularly diligent about research and accuracy, so most of what I’ve picked up is probably true. In fact, many of those authors are veterans of the intelligence game and… Read More ›

Rogue spies on the loose

A review of The Accident, by Chris Pavone @@@ (3 out of 5) An author’s second novel is all too frequently a disappointment. This one was. Chris Pavone gained widespread attention with his first novel, The Expats, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and became an international bestseller. I liked it a… Read More ›