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Tag Archive for ‘espionage’

Cocaine, the CIA, and a Central American revolution

Missionary Stew, by Ross Thomas @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Start with a hapless French-American journalist imprisoned by the Emperor-President of a small African country. The Emperor is a cannibal, which is admittedly worrisome, but the journalist is rescued by Amnesty International and returned to the United States. He’s penniless but makes his way to… Read More ›

A hard-boiled detective in Nazi Germany

A review of Prague Fatale (Bernie Gunther #8), by Philip Kerr @@@@@ (5 out of 5) I find historical fiction grounded in fact irresistible. When a plot rests on events that really took place and characters who really lived, I’m prepared to give the author a little slack if the writing style is less than… 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 ›

A harsh look at post-war British intelligence

A review of A Very British Ending (William Catesby #5), by Edward Wilson @@@@ (4 out of 5) Edward Wilson’s tale of collaboration and treachery among the British, American, and Russian intelligence services spans a series of five novels. A Very British Ending is, fittingly, the fifth. Though a large cast of characters comes into… Read More ›

Money-laundering and the Russian mob

A review of Single & Single: A Novel, by John le Carre @@@@ (4 out of 5) John le Carre established his well-deserved fame in the early 1960s on the basis of the espionage fiction that reflected his career in Britain’s Security Service (MI5) and Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Over the five decades since then,… Read More ›

A revisionist history of intelligence in World War II

A review of The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945, by Max Hastings @@@@@ (5 out of 5) Shelves-full of history books have been written about the triumphs of Allied intelligence in World War II. The Ultra Secret. The Man Who Never Was. Operation Mincemeat. Agent Zigag. Double Cross. A Man Called Intrepid. I’ve… Read More ›

An extraordinary episode in Israeli history

A review of The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, by Uri Bar-Joseph @@@@ (4 out of 5) The history of the state of Israel is one of continuous war punctuated by intermittent stretches of peace. The open military conflicts the young nation has experienced have always threatened its continuing existence, but none more… 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 ›

Gay life in 1950s Britain

A review of Exposure, by Helen Dunmore @@@@ (4 out of 5) Though marketed as an espionage thriller, this captivating novel is more precisely about the fragility of gay life in the UK half a century ago. It quickly becomes obvious that this will turn out to be a major underlying theme in the action… Read More ›

17 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 ›