George V. Reilly

Review: The Rhesus Chart

Title: The Rhesus Chart
Author: Charles Stross
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Ace
Copyright: 2014
Pages: 359
Keywords: Love­craft­ian spy thriller
Series: Laundry Files, vol. 5
Reading period: 27–29 January, 2017

“Don't be silly,” Bob, said Mo, “everyone knows vampires don't exist!” Thus opens The Rhesus Chart. We quickly come to realize that vampires do exist and we come to wonder why everyone in the Laundry is so dog­mat­i­cal­ly sure that they don't. One of the nest of baby vampires that sets the plot in motion is Bob's toxic ex-girlfriend, Mhari, who manages to convince the Laundry that they should recruit her clutch rather than ex­ter­mi­nate them. But there are old vampires who have continue.

Review: Above Suspicion

Title: Above Suspicion
Author: Helen MacInnes
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Titan Books
Copyright: 1941
Pages: 341
Keywords: spy thriller
Reading period: 23 July, 2016

In the summer of 1939, Richard and Frances Myles are approached at their Oxford college to do a simple-sounding spy-related task during their upcoming European vacation. One thing leads to another until eventually these amateur spies are on the run in the Tyrol. MacInnes had traveled in Europe in the 1930s and brings a strong sense of place to the locations she describes, as well as a strong dislike of the to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism that the Germans had fallen into.

Review: Spy Sinker

Title: Spy Sinker
Author: Len Deighton
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Harper­Collins
Copyright: 1991
Pages: 434
Keywords: spy
Reading period: 24 April–3 May, 2016

Spy Sinker, although it was written after Spy Hook and Spy Line as well as the previous Berlin Game, Mexico Set, London Match trilogy, tells the parallel story of how Fiona Samson came to be one of MI6's most effective double agents without her husband Bernard's knowledge. Told from the per­spec­tives of Fiona and of her case runner, Bret Rensselaer, we see her under increasing strain as the date of her “de­fec­tion” to East Germany draws near, which is compounded once she's alone in East Berlin. She never quite cracks continue.

Review: Spy Line

Title: Spy Line
Author: Len Deighton
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Ballantine
Copyright: 1989
Pages: 316
Keywords: spy
Reading period: 22–23 April, 2016

Spy Line is the sequel to Spy Hook. Bernard Samson is on the run from MI6 in East Berlin after asking unwelcome questions about a slush fund. Eventually they settle their dif­fer­ences and MI6 sends him on a mission to Vienna, where he learns that his wife Fiona, widely believed to be a traitor who had defected to the KGB, was in fact a double agent. Samson is world-weary but shocked to learn that the truth of his wife's supposed defection had been hidden from him by Fiona and by the handful continue.

Review: Spy Hook

Title: Spy Hook
Author: Len Deighton
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Ballantine
Copyright: 1988
Pages: 320
Keywords: spy
Reading period: 16–17 April, 2016

Three years ago, in the events that preceded Spy Hook, Bernard Samson's wife Fiona defected from MI6 to the KGB. His position at MI6 barely survived. He's picked up the pieces and moved out to the suburbs with his much younger girlfriend, who's barely older than his children. Now he's in­ves­ti­gat­ing a slush fund that's gone missing and it seems that his questions are un­wel­come—­so unwelcome that by the end of the book, he's on the run in Berlin from the British.

I preferred this book to Winter, which served as a distant prequel continue.

Review: The Fuller Memorandum

Title: The Fuller Memorandum
Author: Charles Stross
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Publisher: Ace
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 320
Keywords: Love­craft­ian spy thriller
Series: Laundry Files, vol. 3
Reading period: 16–18 January, 2016

Bob Howard is a com­pu­ta­tion­al de­mo­nolo­gist working for the secretive British agency known as the “Laundry”. Some very nasty people are trying to hasten the end of the world, there's a mole in the Laundry, and Bob's superior, the mys­te­ri­ous­ly ageless Angleton, is missing. Bob moves back and forth between vicious office politics and es­cha­to­log­i­cal terrors. The Fuller Memorandum is fast-paced and darkly humorous. Rec­om­mend­ed.

Sequel to The Jennifer Morgue. More at Charlie Stross's Crib Sheet and the Laundry Files Wiki.

Review: The Good German

Title: The Good German
Author: Joseph Kanon
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Picador
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 482
Keywords: historical fiction, spy, WWII
Reading period: 7 March–April 4, 2015

Jake Geismar is an American war cor­re­spon­dent who lived in Berlin before the war. He returns there in July 1945, ostensibly to cover the Potsdam Conference, but actually to find his lover, Lena. Before he finds Lena, he finds the body of a murdered American officer at Potsdam, which—s­trange­ly—no-one is interested in. Then he gets caught up in the race between the Americans and the Russians to take possession of Lena's estranged husband, a rocket scientist.

The war is barely over but already the Russians and Americans continue.

Review: Old Boys

Title: Old Boys
Author: Charles McCarry
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Orion Books
Copyright: 2004
Pages: 484
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 11–15 June, 2009

Paul Christo­pher, sep­tu­a­ge­nar­i­an and former superspy, was last seen in a remote Chinese province. His ashes are delivered to his cousin Horace, also a retired spy, who is not convinced that the ashes belong to Paul. Then he learns that Paul is on the trail of Ibn Awad, a mad sultan with nukes who covets a first-century manuscript (a Roman spy­mas­ter's report on Jesus) that is thought to be in the possession of Paul's 94-year-old mother, who hasn't seen since 1940, when she was abducted by the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich. So continue.

Review: Our Game

Title: Our Game
Author: John le Carré
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Ballantine
Copyright: 1995
Pages: 338
Keywords: spy, thriller
Reading period: 22–29 June, 2008

Timothy Cranmer is a former spy handler, put out to pasture at the end of the Cold War. Larry Pettifer, left-wing academic and Byronic espouser of lost causes, was not only Cranmer's best double agent but a friend and rival since childhood.

Now Larry has gone missing, as has 37 million pounds and Cranmer's young mistress, Emma. Cranmer is thought to be an accomplice. Cranmer must find Larry. The trail will take him deep in the Caucasus.

The book moves slowly through the first half, until Cranmer finally decides to take action and continue.

Review: Smiley's People

Title: Smiley's People
Author: John le Carré
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Scribner
Copyright: 1979
Pages: 439
Keywords: spy, thriller
Reading period: 23–29 September, 2007

Smiley's People is the last book in le Carré's Karla Trilogy, begun in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and continued in The Honourable Schoolboy.

George Smiley is called back from retirement when one of his former contacts, a Russian general turned emigré, is found murdered. Working alone and exercising his con­sid­er­able tradecraft, Smiley discovers a fatal chink in the armor of his old adversary, Karla, the Russian spymaster. He gets the go-ahead to execute a sting, which will ultimately lead to Karla's defection.

Once again, le Carré crafts a subtle and continue.

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