Rapid Reviews: strong female protagonists

The female of the species might be a police detective, a contract killer, a lawyer in the DA’s office or an analyst at MI6. But in modern crime fiction she’s likely to be smart, skilled and assertive, as these four thrillers demonstrate in fine style… The Late Show by Michael Connelly If you’ve somehow swerved…

Rapid reviews: six of the best

What have you been reading during lockdown? We’ve gone for a classic espionage thriller, a smattering of short sharp stabs, an angry, radical thriller and a masterclass in modern American literature. All of them turned out to be four- or five-star high fliers. Take your pick… SS-GB by Len Deighton This may be in the…

Hammer To Fall: a superb spy story

Where has author John Lawton been hiding all my life? This is, quite simply, the best spy story I’ve read for years. It’s been compared to Le Carre and Alan Furst – but those references aren’t entirely accurate. Hammer To Fall is far more fluid and a lot less pompous than Le Carre’s recent work.…

An American Spy: the Chinese connection

Although this was originally published back in 2012, it’s been given a new lease of life by the current political tensions between China and America. The story couldn’t be more timely – it’s a complex chess game between rival black ops agencies, a deadly competition which has gone far beyond data gathering and counter espionage.…

Rapid Reviews: short, sweet and savage

Cops, robbers, spies and killers: here’s half a dozen crime-thrillers with a little bit of everything – including a blood-soaked American roadtrip, top-notch Nordic noir, British political conspiracy, psychopathic siblings and the John Cardinal book they didn’t make into a TV series… ROBBERS by Christopher Cook One of those one-hit-wonder authors who delivered brilliance and…

Joe Country: English espionage

Brilliant but baffling. If you’re new to the Slough House series then that’s your likely reaction to this, the sixth in the sequence of modern-day spook stories. Joe Country is not one of those dip-in, dip-out, ‘can be read as a standalone’ novels. Each book in the Jackson Lamb series is a chapter in an…

The Righteous Spy: superb spy story

Maybe, like me, you had high hopes when Stella Rimington started writing espionage adventure novels. After all, she was the first female head honcho at MI5. Surely her spy stories would be brilliant? And maybe, like me, you were deeply disappointed by Rimington’s unremarkable early outings which fell far short of their tantalising potential. After…

Russian Roulette: Brit grit with a SovBloc scoundrel

Ex-KGB agent Konstantin – most definitely an international man of murky mystery – has somehow washed up on the shores of England’s seedy Kent coast, and he’s carving a niche for himself among the lowlives and street-scum of a dilapidated seaside town. This is effectively Konstantin’s origin story, told in a series of seven interlocking…