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Looking for your next literary adrenaline rush? Or to live vicariously through a thrill-seeking hero/heroine? Have a look at the titles in our Action/Adventure/Spy section for the latest danger and intrigue-filled novels.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | September 2017 Book of the Month Although unanimously heralded for featuring the return of spy master Smiley, this is more about his sidekick Peter Guillam, a sometimes melancholy tale revisiting the past and, more specifically, the operation and some of the characters detailed in the classic The Spy Who Came in from The Cold. Although Smiley is an ever present figure lurking in the shadows, as Guillam is forced to unravel complex threads of treachery, lies and deceit that have now come to roost, Smiley actually only makes a brief, if welcome, appearance at the conclusion of the tale, a meditation on the secret world and the damage done when the end always justified the means, not withstanding the human cost. Disillusioned, a bittersweet ballad about the morality of its characters and written, as ever, so beautifully and wittily, this is a perfect coda to the saga of the Circus, where so many much-loved, if dubious, characters we knew so well make fleeting passages on the scene. Le Carre at his best and you can’t get any better. Reminds us of what we lost when the series initially came to an end. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
1936 and the huge canvas of Europe in chaos is superbly portrayed by this renowned author of historical fiction. Previously writing about the spy world of the Tudor period we know we are in good hands here. If you have not read one of his John Shakespeare thrillers you should. (I understand TV is on the cards.) This new series introduces Tom Wilde, a Cambridge history don, a bit of a recluse who buries himself in his work and period spy novels. His next door neighbour is self-employed publisher Lydia whose best friend, Nancy, dies mysteriously. Lydia enlists Tom’s help. Then Nancy’s right-wing gentry parents are brutally murdered and a conspiracy seems afoot. Enter a reporter, Eaton, whom Tom believes works for MI5. Now the death toll mounts and so does the danger for Tom and Lydia. But it turns out the real plot is much higher up the international scene. Terrific. An excellent start to what promises to be a cracking series. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Absolutely thrilling… this is a fast-paced, firecracker of a read, set in Europe as the Second World War is brewing. Why is Luke Hamilton, intelligence officer at the British Embassy in Paris the target of an assassination attempt? As Luke tries to outrun his pursuers he begins to uncover the secret of his past. The words set the action so clearly in my mind, it didn't feel as though I was looking back in time, it actually felt as though I was there. Mark Mills allows you more knowledge than the characters, consequently, the tension skyrockets as the story constantly accelerates forward. An artful balance is maintained, at no point does this feel out of control as there are moments of stillness, of contemplation and anticipation. I reached the end and felt very satisfied indeed, ‘Where Dead Men Meet’ just begs to be continued as a series, please say it will be, please! ~ Liz Robinson
July 2017 Debut of the Month and eBook of the Month. A fascinating, intelligent and penetrating political thriller set in Belfast, Dublin and London. In 1991 Maire steps into the centre of a storm that will change her entire life when she is recruited as a honey trap for the IRA. In the present day DCI Carne, after an anonymous tip-off, discovers a body that will have huge repercussions for Anne-Marie who has just accepted the position as Minster of State for Security and Immigration. Layers upon intruiging layers are built throughout this story, it feels so incredibly realistic, as though you could be witnessing history. I didn't want to stop reading, this is an impressively stimulating read and I simply gobbled up the words while my mind whirred and deliberated. In ‘Woman of State’ Simon Berthon has created a contemporary thrilling tale with history ferociously snapping at its heels, ensuring one powerhouse of a read, I highly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson
A captivating, vibrant, and exciting tale of secret societies, death and disorder in the middle of Venice in the 1750’s. This is the second in the ‘Alvise Marangon Mystery series’, set after ‘Ascension’. Alvise finds himself investigating the murder of one of the members of the secret service he himself works for. I found myself sinking into the story, the intrigue settles over the pages as Alvise stumbles headlong into trouble. The vivid setting of 18th century Venice creates the most fascinating backdrop to this tale, I wandered the streets and canals alongside Alvise, simply gawping in wonder. I found the glossery of terms in the back really helpful. ’The Four Horsemen’ is so very readable, the mystery takes you by the hand and leads you into a web of chaotic deceit, what a thoroughly entertaining and striking tale this is. ~ Liz Robinson
Teeming with more brutal betrayal and conflict than you can shake an axe at, this first-rate historical fiction from the author of the epic Vespasian sequence recounts Rome’s monumental defeat in deep, dark Teutoburg Wald. Arminius of the Cherusci led six tribes to mercilessly massacre three Roman legions. A mere two hundred soldiers survived and, in a stroke of utter humiliation for the Empire, three sacred Eagles were lost in the battle. But Arminius is far from being a true, through-and-through Teutonic. As the rollicking story races along - through multiple episodes of brutality, and multiple perspectives - we learn how he came to betray the people who raised him: the Romans.The author is masterful at transforming historical detail into an imaginative feast of action and impulse - the battles scenes are viscerally evoked, and the sense of landscape is awe-inspiring. Highly recommended for Rome-buff-readers who like their fiction intense, and with an edge of grisly gore. ~ Joanne Owen
An absolutely riveting walk through time. The moment I heard about ‘The Outcasts of Time’ I knew I had to read it, the premise is just fascinating. In 1348, brothers John and William are informed they have only six days left to live, they can either return home to die, or wake up each of their remaining six mornings, 99 years after the last. I almost felt as though I was in a time machine as the days span through years, yet the brothers story keeps you centred. The huge swathe of history is brought into focus by the intimate and personal and I felt a connection to these two men as they floundered through time. Ian Mortimer encourages architecture and countryside to come alive with vibrant strokes of the pen. ‘The Outcasts of Time’ surprises, captivates and is an eye-opening foray into the past. ~ Liz Robinson June 2017 Debut of the Month. A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... From the author described by The Times as ‘the most remarkable historian of our time’, the publication of Ian Mortimer’s new work of historical fiction is a hugely exciting event. A stunningly high-concept story that is both as daring as it is gripping, it is perfect for fans of Conn Iggulden, SJ Parris and Kate Mosse.December 1348. With the country in the grip of the Black Death, brothers John and William fear that they will shortly die and go to Hell. But as the end draws near, they are given an unexpected choice: either to go home and spend their last six days in their familiar world, or to search for salvation across the forthcoming centuries – living each one of their remaining days ninety-nine years after the last.John and William choose the future and find themselves in 1447, ignorant of almost everything going on around them. The year 1546 brings no more comfort, and 1645 challenges them still further. It is not just that technology is changing: things they have taken for granted all their lives prove to be short-lived.As they find themselves in stranger and stranger times, the reader travels with them, seeing the world through their eyes as it shifts through disease, progress, enlightenment and war. But their time is running out – can they do something to redeem themselves before the six days are up? I found this novel to be an unforgettable read – richly layered, impeccably researched, clever and poignant. The sense of shock and bewilderment as the brothers see further and further into the future is palpable, and forces the reader to consider whether the march of time has left some crucial elements of humanity behind. I fervently hope this novel finds the wide readership it deserves, and I feel there are many important themes and issues in this story to be debated.Thank you for reading The Outcasts of Time.All best wishes,Joanne Dickinson, Publishing Director, Simon & Schuster
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Sadly missed US crime legend Westlake's books were often the object of many classic Hollywood adaptations, but he is also remembered as the screenwriter for The Grifters as a result of which he was once approached to pitch a James Bond story and treatment by the Bond producers for what could have become Bond 18. This was never used but, waste not want not, Westlake privately decided to write a novel based on it, which has only now come to light and been published, albeit with the character understandly given a new name. To take revenge on the Chinese after their take-over of Hong Kong, Richard Curtis, a sinister businessman plans to steal the city's gold by siphoning it out through a tunnel, and later detonating a terrible doomsday device to annihilate Hong Kong itself. Enter Manville, a Bond ersatz with an engineering background and all the charm, deadly skills of 007. Set partly on a luxury yacht, moving from the Great Barrier Reef to Singapore, the battle between fiend and hero is fast and epic, and ready-made for the big screen and offers thrills a go go. An afterword by a Bond movie producer sets the book in context. Fascinating and a fast, thrilling read. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Ex-American publisher Joe Kanon is a much underrated master of the classic espionage tale, best known for The Good German which was filmed with George Clooney in the eponymous part, but his other novels of spies and the Cold War are all similarly gripping. Defectors, set in the late 1950s and early 1960s introduces two brothers who took different political paths, one who worked for the OSS and then the CIA and has now become a publisher and the other who defected to Russia out of personal conviction following the Spanish Civil War. When the latter, now living in Moscow with his family, writes his memoirs, his brother plans to visit him and is soon confronted by an intricate web of spying, treachery, past sins, shifting truths and regrets. Kanon's strength lies in the realism of his characters rather than the rote exposition of shenanigans and by the numbers action scenes and the results are eminently rewarding. An intelligent chess game-like thriller with a solid foundation of human experience, just the sort of book that hooks you in with stealth and then never lets go. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
Shortlisted for the YA Book Prize 2018 | In a nutshell: tense, super-suspenseful novel based on harrowing real life events After the Fire was inspired by the Waco siege in Texas 1993 when 82 members of the Branch Davidian sect and four US government agents died in a fire fight after a long siege. It’s not a fictionalised version, but Hill imagines life in the camp and as a survivor. Moonbeam, his central character, is beginning to doubt the teaching of Father John and to comprehend the methods he uses to control his followers. A survivor, she’s being coaxed to tell the story of the events that led up to that deadly confrontation with ‘The Authorities’. The tension rarely abates, and Hill makes readers empathise with Moonbeam’s confusion and fear. He also makes us desperate to discover the secrets she’s keeping, and long for her to achieve the freedom that’s always been denied. One of the most gripping and suspenseful books you’ll read all year.
This third explosive political page-turner featuring Claymore Straker sees the justice-driven protagonist back in South Africa testifying before Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Gripping disclosures reveal why Clay was discharged as a paratrooper some fifteen years earlier, in 1980, when he was deployed to combat communist rebels who threatened to overthrow white apartheid. The depth of factual and descriptive detail respectively inform and embellish an exhilarating reading experience without ever curtailing the onward march of the riveting plot, and the author’s extraordinary personal experiences furnish his work with authenticity and integrity. Strikingly sophisticated, this top-notch thriller teems with conspiratorial intrigue and pulse-quickening action drawn from shocking real-life events. ~ Joanne Owen
A truly fascinating and totally engrossing read about the assassination plot against one of the most feared and hideous Nazi leaders of the Second World War. This may be classed as a work of fiction, yet it is seeped, in fact absolutely saturated in fact. Reinhard Heydrich was feared by his colleagues, known variously as the Butcher of Prague and The Hangman, and as reported heir to Hitler he became the target of Operation Anthropoid. Various quotes head each chapter, their authors range from Winston Churchill, to Hitler and Himmler, each made me stop and think before I continued with the tale. The authenticity of the work spills from the pages, the imagined dialogue becomes so real, I found myself alongside the men tasked with the assassination, and even by the side of the dreaded Heydrich himself. ‘Hunting the Hangman’, took me on a journey of unimaginable intensity, I felt total disbelief and horror, awe and admiration, in this convincing and gripping read. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion' from the author... 'Operation Anthropoid; the mission to assassinate Nazi General Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, has long been a personal obsession. Two astonishingly brave men, Joseph Gabcik and Jan Kubis, were trained by the British SOE to attempt to kill a man who had executed thousands and was personally tasked with implementing the holocaust for Adolf Hitler.Their courage and the enormous obstacles they faced inspired me to spend over three years researching and writing this book and even more striving to get it published. Now, finally, here is their incredible true story. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.' ~ Howard Linskey
Let Bernard Cornwell sweep you back to Arthurian times, or into the heat of battle with Richard Sharpe. Sail the high seas with Patrick O'Brian. Raise your pulse-rate with Michael Crichton. Experience the adrenaline of combat with Andy McNab. Feel the clear and present danger of Tom Clancy's thrilling Jack Ryan stories... Live on the edge with Lee Child's itinerant hero Jack Reacher? Navigating your way through all the twists and turns of this roller-coaster genre can be an adventure in itself.
So, let us help you find your next fuel-injected foray into the fields of battle, espionage, danger,heroism and even history rewritten. From Dan Brown, Tom Clancy and Ken Follett to Wilbur Smith, David Gibbins and Stieg Larsson, you’ll be over the waves, under the radar, up mountains, outside the law, beyond help, dicing with danger, battling monsters, rescuing the stricken, flying through flack, laying mines, playing political parlour-games, conning Congress, kidnapping commandos clashing with conquistadors and crossing swords with Crusaders … and all from the safety of your favourite chair.