Posts Tagged ‘Espionage’

Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver

October 31, 2014

Garden of BeastsMob button man Paul Schumann is sure he’s doomed when he’s caught by the feds, but he’s given a choice – the electric chair, or one last job. The catch – his target is Col. Reinhardt Ernst, a bigwig in Hitler’s organization, which means going undercover in Nazi Germany to achieve his goal. Paul has been wanting to get out of the mob anyway, and the feds promise he’ll be free of charges and given a cash bonus when he’s finished. Dreaming of a normal life with the girl of his dreams, he heads for Germany.

This is a fascinating time in history, when a culture of fear led neighbors to betray each other and paranoia reigned. It was a time when citizens were trapped between duty to country and their own consciences, and Deaver portrays them with sympathy and humanity. Watching Paul navigate this complicated time and place, you really feel like you’re in 1936 Germany with him. He’s undercover as a journalist covering the Berlin Olympics, but spies are everywhere. After uncovering one spy while still en route, he dispatches a second almost immediately after arrival and finds himself pursued by the police. This is cat and mouse at its best, with Paul playing both roles in his quest for Col. Ernst. Deaver is a master of the plot twist, and he doesn’t disappoint here. The beauty of his stories is, even knowing there will be a twist, it’s nearly impossible to guess. I challenge you to try!

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Meet popular fiction writer Jeffery Deaver at Cameron Village Regional Library on Sunday, November 9th at 2:30 pm. He will discuss his novels, characters, writing style, and more. Q & A to follow discussion. Registration requested.

Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst

October 28, 2014

Midnight in EuropeCristián Ferrar is a Spanish (or rather, Catalan) émigré who lives and works in Paris, France. His employer is the law firm Coudert Frères, and the firm does a good deal of international work. Recently, some international cases have become more complicated due to the Spanish Civil War, “now in its seventeenth month; individuals and corporations cut off from their money, families in hiding because they were trapped on the wrong side – whatever side that was – burnt homes, burnt factories, with no means of proving anything to insurance companies, or banks, or government bureaucracies.”

At the same time, the way of life of the French Republic, with its deep democratic roots, is seriously challenged. Right-wing extremists rule neighboring Germany and Italy, and now the Spanish Republic is about to fall into the hands of Franco’s fascists and his conservative supporters. The Republic does not have many allies in the world – Mexico and the Soviet Union give their support, but other than that the international aid mainly consists of volunteers from around the globe; mostly workers, anti-fascists, social democrats, socialists, communists, and anarchists. Ferrar is also willing to contribute to the cause, and when he is contacted by a general of the Republic he sees a chance to help out. German and Italian pilots have shown the world the future of warfare, and the Spanish Republic needs anti-aircraft guns to survive. Where to find them, though? The Soviet Union turns out to be the best option. But the U.S.S.R. will not sell the weaponry. The Soviets want to hold on to the firepower they have. So the equipment has to be stolen.

A small band of idealists and hired gangsters organize the job, and they will find opposition on every level: honey traps, harbor spies, and armed servants of the far right.

Again, Alan Furst creates a mosaic of a European midnight, where people who have never before met come to share path through life as a war of ideologies engulfs the continent.

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Baptism by Max Kinnings

October 16, 2014

BaptismA heart-pounding thriller taking place in the London Underground.

Religious fanatics commandeer a subway train and stop it between two major stations. Nobody knows what they want but they are prepared to kill without hesitation if anyone gets in their way. They may be religious fanatics wanting to make a statement. Bodies are falling right and left as ace negotiator Ed Mallory leads a team desperately attempting to head off this potential catastrophe. Caught in the middle is George Wakeham, the driver of the train. His family is being held hostage so that George will do whatever the leader of the fanatics, Tommy Denning, tells him to do.

But there is something more involved in this: somehow MI5 is entangled with the impending tragedy and they have kept important “intel” from Mallory. As the situation worsens, the London police must do anything and everything possible to stop this situation before hundreds perish.

This fast-paced thriller will keep you awake at night. Kinnings has written one heck of a page turner. I expect we will hear more from him in the future.

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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

February 10, 2014

Code Name Verity starts in the torture room of a Nazi occupied French hotel during World War II.  Beaten into submission by a cruel Nazi agent, a British agent known as Queenie writes down everything she knows about the allied war effort.  Queenie knows what will happen when she has revealed all her secrets.  Nacht und nebel, her captors call it, night and fog—an innocuous sounding term for the “disposal” of those no longer needed by the Third Reich.  So Queenie drags out her writing sessions, meting out Allied secrets piecemeal within the larger story of her best friend Maddie’s rise from working class motorcycle mechanic through the ranks of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

As each written word draws Queenie closer to her end, Maddie waits for her return near a secret landing strip in the French countryside.  Eventually, it becomes clear that her friend has been captured, and Maddie joins the group of Allied spies and couriers to rescue Queenie and salvage their mission.  But even in weakness, Queenie has not lost the craftiness that made her an ideal spy.  She may yet find a way to get her friends the information they need to complete their mission and to save her from her tormentors.

Elizabeth Wein’s well-researched novel arose out of the author’s curiosity about the options available to female pilots during World War II.  Though she admits to taking one or two liberties with the facts, Wein has created believable characters and a clever plot.  It is so clever, in fact, that when I reached the end of this book, I wanted to start at the beginning again to look for all the hidden secrets I had missed on my first time through.

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The Expats by Chris Pavone

November 5, 2013

Kate(Katherine) Moore and Dexter Moore are a happily married couple living near Washington, DC with their two little boys. But Kate has a problem because her background is quite complicated and she really can’t share it with Dexter. She is ex-CIA with an extensive history of ‘dirty ops’. Dexter is a banking security expert , who has just received a job offer in Luxembourg. And so the Moore family moves to Europe.
Getting settled in their new apartment isn’t too difficult. Kate even makes some new friends, Julia and Bill Maclean. But Kate has a problem with Dexter in that he really can’t explain his new job. He is doing some sort of security work for an international bank. Kate has three major difficulties as she tries to settle in to their new home. One is to make some new friends . Secondly, to understand a little better what Dexter does and lastly she worries that her past will catch up with her. Several times while out and about, she gets the feeling that someone may be watching her. And there is something suspicious about Julia and Bill–they just don’t seem to be what they appear to be the average tourist.
Will Kate’s CIA training come into play? Can she really settle down as a happily married woman or are bad things starting to come into focus? Maybe an old enemy from her CIA days is actually on her trail?
Pay attention as Chris Pavone weaves a fascinating tale of modern day espionage. His detail description of Kate’s concern will keep you focused as the story stays in the present while Kate’s mind often returns to her past.

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The Intercept by Dick Wolf

June 12, 2013

Jeremy Fisk is a detective in the NYPD, on special assignment with the Joint Terrorism Task Force or JTTF. JTTF is a joint operation consisting of most of the government agencies involved in foiling plots against the United States. It has been live since 09/11 and is concentrated in NYC because everyone thinks NYC is Al-Queda’s main target. And this is how we are introduced to Jeremy Fisk in Dick Wolf’s literary debut, The Intercept. Many of you are familiar with Wolf as the creator of all the ‘Law & Order‘ programs on TV.

Initially, Jeremy and the task force stop a plot by one terrorist to set off a bomb in a NY subway. On his team is Krina Gersten, also a NYC police officer with some special skills that Fisk feels will aid his team. It is now several years later and events are breaking fast because of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Bin Laden has been killed and the various agencies are trying to examine all the data that may have been hidden in his residence. Some of the computer experts discover what may be messages hidden in innocent looking pictures. The science of finding these messages is called Steganography. Now it becomes a race to decipher the hidden messages and perhaps prevent a new and larger attack.

An event aboard a SAS jet bound for NYC sets the team in motion. A single terrorist is foiled in his attempt to bring down the jet. The passengers and stewardess who helped stop the terrorist are being treated as celebrities in NYC, as well they should be. However, something doesn’t sit right with Fisk. The foiled incident was too easy and Fisk is sure that another passenger on the plane has bigger plans for NYC. He convinces the team that they must locate another passenger who has disappeared off the ‘grid.’

This fast paced novel created out of today’s headlines will keep your attention. Please enjoy The Intercept by Dick Wolf.

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Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

January 29, 2013

It’s the autumn of 1938. France is almost completely surrounded by fascist dictatorships and a Germany governed by NSDAP. The hounds of all-out war have not yet been unleashed, but Germany is waging political warfare against France. The Germans have allied themselves with French right-wingers who abhor and want to destroy democracy in the country, and who wish to replace it with an authoritarian government that will rid France of socialists, communists, and labor unions once and for all.

And now Frederic Stahl, a Hollywood star born in Vienna, Austria, with a Slovene father, sits in his Parisian hotel room. He’s in France to make a movie, loaned out by Warner Bros., and in the newspaper Le Matin he reads, “Hollywood Star Frederic Stahl Speaks Out for Rapprochement.” The quotes in the article are not inaccurate per se, but they are presented in a way that turns Stahl into something he is not. Forces he wants nothing to do with are using his name and public image to promote their ideas; they have him speak out against French re-armament and preparation for war.

Being a famous and important person from a powerful part of the world, people will listen to Stahl and perhaps even change their minds when they hear him share his opinions. He is an agent of sorts, an agent of influence. Stahl understands this and wants to do “something, anything, even a small thing,” to fight back, and he becomes part of an informal espionage service run out of the American embassy in Paris.

When the actor arrives in Berlin for a film festival, his worst fears are confirmed as Kristallnacht breaks out and destroys tens of thousands of Jewish lives – soon enough Frederic Stahl’s own life is in danger.

Like so many of Alan Furst’s heroes, Frederic Stahl is (to use a phrase from the novel) “a warm man in a cold world,” and in a time of fear and resignation he takes a stance for what he believes in – a world where dialogue and not violence shapes societies. Mission to Paris takes place just before World War II, but it has distinct contemporary resonance, and the novel asks the reader, “What do you want to do?”

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See previous blog posts of other Alan Furst titles, Red Gold and Dark Star.

The Double Game by Dan Fesperman

November 6, 2012

The time has arrived when we can do a more balanced review of the spy activities of the United States and it’s enemies, post-WWII. And Dan Fesperman is up to the task in his latest thriller The Double Game, the perfect mixture of fact and fiction. Journalist Bill Cage wants to know about master spy Edwin Lemaster who turned into a master writer of spy novels after he left ” The Company”. Since his interview of Lemaster, years ago, he is more intrigued than ever. Bill’s Dad, Warfield, worked for the State department and during his years of service came in contact with people working for the CIA.

As a child, Bill read all the best spy novels which his Dad had accumulated, and he knew them backwards and forwards. John Le Carre, Len Deighton, Graham Greene, Ian Fleming. But now someone seems to be sending Bill cryptic notes that reference some of these books and the time period when he was growing up in Berlin. Is someone playing a game with Cage or are these clues supposed to lead him to some answers about the “spy game”? One thing he knows almost immediately is that the clues seem to be pulling him back to Vienna, where his Dad still lives.

So off he goes in search of some answers to these clues. One of the first persons he sees in Vienna is his first love, Litzi Strauss. Remember, it is now 37 years later, but he has never lost his infatuation with Litzi. But things are getting more complicated as Bill tries to figure where Litzi figures in all this intrigue and his Dad is petrified that Bill is about to involve himself in some very bad things.

For the lover of spy novels, Fesperman has found the perfect blend of old and new, cold war intrigue and buried secrets. It’s the perfect mixture for all you fans of foreign intrigue. With one additional feature–Fesperman has also included just the right mixture of mystery and humor.

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Shake Off by Mischa Hiller

August 31, 2012

This is an international thriller with a different perspective. Michel Khoury is an intelligence operative looking for peace in the Middle East but he is not your typical agent. He was not brought up in the West. His family was killed with a lot of other Christian and Arab Palestinians in Lebanon and his trainers were Russian. His handler, Abu Leila, also comes from a similar background as Michel. This story is not, however, a story of East versus West but a story of secretive agents working for some sort of true detente in the Middle East.

Michel’s major talent is the ease with which he learns languages.He has handled many assignments for Abu Leila , where his language skills helped him move freely between England, Germany(both East and West), and Russia. But now his life is about to become more complicated. He meets Helen, the first young woman who truly pulls at his heart strings. How can he balance his operative assignment and still have a normal relationship with a woman? The balancing act requires more than Michel has anticipated and now he may have endangered Helen’s life.

Agents from Israel seem to have materialized in London and are shadowing Michel. Michel and Helen’s lives may be in danger. The pace of the story which for awhile had been leisurely is now about to reach full speed. How will Michel protect himself and Helen? Mischa Hiller’s second book shows his knowledge of world affairs and he presents a different slant on the problems that have plagued the Middle East since 1948.

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Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

June 28, 2012

After his father died, Stewart Dubinsky found a batch of papers that related to things about his father that Stewart had never known. So Stewart sets out to find out his father’s story in an effort to know him better. This premise sounds so familiar you might think that the book would be boring or formulaic, but that is far from the truth. The secret that Stewart’s father, David, was hiding is that he was court martialed and sentenced to prison in 1945 after serving in Europe for more than a year. Stewart is so shocked by this revelation that he is determined to find the whole story.

David was a lawyer serving in the Army’s judge advocate general office during the army’s march across Europe after D-Day. He spent most of his time prosecuting or defending soldiers accused of crimes against French citizens; but in 1944 he was assigned to the case of Robert Martin, an OSS officer who had either become a spy or gone rogue. When David met Martin he became involved in one of Martin’s covert operations. He also became involved with Martin’s companion Gita, a woman who may or may not have still been Martin’s lover. Shortly after that, Martin and Gita both disappeared.

After the German surrender, Martin was finally recaptured and David was sent to bring him to trial. Instead, Martin disappeared again David was accused of letting Martin go. Shortly after his conviction, though, David is released without serving any time. Why would they suddenly drop all charges? This is the mystery Stewart is searching for the answer to, as well as the question of whether his father released the man he spent so much time searching for and if so, why.

The story of Stewart’s father’s service in WWII is a fascinating one. He becomes involved in the Battle of the Bulge and other fighting simply because he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is privy to some of the secrets of OSS and not to others. Turow’s novel is very different from his usual courtroom thrillers, but it is just as compelling. Even more interesting to me is the fact that many episodes of the book were based on stories Turow heard from his own father, who served as a medic in WWII.

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