About Us | Contact Us | E-Paper
Title :    Text :    Source : 

Ten best spy novels of all time

Post by on Sunday, February 6, 2022

First slide

 Spy fiction is one of the most loved and sought-after genres of literature. The best spy novels are universally loved, read and have been turned into the biggest blockbusters such as the James Bond movie franchise. What is especially true of spy fiction is that everyone loves to read a thriller. 

In this Sunday Special Edition, Rising Kashmir's sub-editor Irfan Mehraj lists some of the best spy novels that you can read and immerse yourself in the engaging thrillers. 

1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre

John Le Carre is a genius and his craft of spy fiction is unparalleled. The novel is a definitive Le Carre book gripping with tension and intrigue. The book takes place in the same fictional realm imagined and set up by Le Carre in his previous novels. As tensions continue to simmer between Soviet powers and the west, the novel follows the retired agent of The Circus, George Smiley. He is brought back into action and is on a hunt to find a traitor in their ranks. The novel builds a great deal of suspicion where Smiley has to question everyone around him, including people loyal to him in order to weed out the mole that has cost The Circus a lot. The novel is considered one of Le Carre's best novels to date and is in fact one of the greatest spy fiction ever written. The novel captures paranoia and betrayal to a great deal. 

2. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

This novel set off a global fascination for spy fiction and perhaps spy movies as well. It is author Ian Fleming's first book and marks the birth of the world’s favourite and adventurous secret agent: 007 aka James Bond. The book set off a movie franchise that is going on till now. In the novel, Bond is a British spy and he is up against the Russian Secret Service. He is on assignment and Baccarat is the game he is playing. His sole aim in the book is to bankrupt Le Chiffre and the stake is in millions. However, when the attempts to settle these scores are off the table and into the real, the stakes become life and death. Throughout the film Bond is flirting with death and is driven into the arms of a female agent but is she who she says she is? That is the question. To start off your adventure of the saga that the Bond franchise is, this is your start. And it is the best place to start. 

3. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

The novel by Joseph Conrad is perhaps the oldest in the list. Published in 1907, The Secret Agent has been regarded as the most timeless spy fiction of all time. The novel takes place in London in 1886. At the beginning of the novel, we are learning about a character named Adolf Verloc. The man is an ordinary person living a banal life as a shopkeeper. But he has more to him than meets the eye. Verloc is putting up a facade. He is a secret agent working for an unnamed country. When Verloc is summoned to carry out an attack on the Greenwich Observatory, he has a decision to make and ends up betraying his family. This decision sets off in motion a sequence of events that is the undoing of all that he has done. Conrad is brilliant and imaginative in his prose. 


4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The thriller-spy novel by Steig Larsson is an international best-seller whose spin-off movie adaptation is an international blockbuster as well. The novel is about a wealthy young woman, who has disappeared from her family’s estate on a private island forty years ago and the suspects are members of the family. It is after several decades without any progress that an uncle of hers hires a disgraced journalist to reopen the case. The journalist's partner is the girl with the dragon tattoo. The novel is a tour-de-force suspense, espionage thriller and is truly astonishing to read. What the two discover at the family's estate is remarkable and wonderful to read. The book is a must-read suspense and espionage thriller. 


5. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carré

John le Carre is at it again in this novel which is as brilliant as his previous book. Le Carre has earned quite a bit of fame as a spy novelist and this novel is a testament to that fame. The novel is considered to have propelled Le Carre to international acclaim. It is the third of Le Carre's spy novels centred on the activities of a British Intelligence unit known as ‘The Circus.' It is inspired by Le Carre's own experiences working in intelligence services during the fifties and the sixties. The novel is set against the backdrop of the Cold War and follows the story of Agent Leamas, who is called to complete one final mission. The mission is that he has to go undercover to East Germany in order to bring down the German Intelligence Unit. What follows is spy fiction at its best. Read it for its sheer brilliant storytelling. 


6. The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Graham Greene is a very well-known British novelist and journalist. This novel follows British journalist Thomas Fowler, who is world-weary. Fowler has lived many years in Saigon, Vietnam and has chronicled the conflict there. The experience has left him a pessimist. When a young CIA agent Alden Pyle enters the scene, things become interesting. Pyle is idealistic and a devout patriot. He attempts to covertly propagate American-style democracy but these have disastrous consequences for the locals. Bodies pile up and Fowler is unable to continue to sit back and watch it and he has to intervene. Why he intervenes is the novel's tipping point and its moral compass and its examination of Fowler. Read the novel for its examination of American exceptionalism and colonialism. 


7. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Jason Matthews is an American novelist who wrote some of the best contemporary spy fiction. He died last year when only he was beginning to be noted for his work. He was a former CIA operative. The story of Red Sparrow follows the story of a ballerina named Dominika Egorova, who finds herself an unwilling student of Russia's top-secret Sparrow School—after an unfortunate injury. What she learns there is the art of seducing your enemies and extracts from them. Her target is a CIA handler. What follows is the story of seduction, deception, and a brilliant portrayal of the world of espionage. The book was turned into a movie picture starring Jennifer Lawrence. 


8. An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

Robert Harris is known as the jack of all trades in the world of fiction. He has written fourteen bestsellers, in genres that include techno-thrillers, historical fiction and even political fiction. But this novel by Harris is an espionage novel and one that is regarded as one of his best. The novel is a story of intrigue and suspicion set within the ranks of the 19th century French Army. When you read it, the novel seems like an open and shut case: military officer Alfred Dreyfus has been accused of espionage, convicted of treason, and sentenced to life imprisonment. It is when Georges Picquart, a fellow soldier who witnessed Dreyfus' fall from grace, has suspicion that they may have got the wrong man. Read it for its thrill. 


9. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American novelist. The Sympathizer is his debut novel that was so well-regarded that it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The story follows a nameless protagonist, who is a captain in the South Vietnamese army. The caption is fleeing to the United States during the fall of Saigon in 1975. Once he is in America, he and his companions discover that American life is not quite what they expected. The protagonist is a communist informant and feeds information to Vietnam on anti-communist activities in America. It is a very well written novel and should be enjoyed by anyone who loves well-written spy fiction. 



10. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

The book by Robert Ludlum has been so popular that it sparked off a sensation. The book set off a popular movie franchise and is still read and watched by people across the world. The novel revolves around Jason Bourne, a survivor of an attack at sea. He is suffering from amnesia and is unable to remember anything about himself or his past life outside of the intermittent flashback. Why the novel makes for a gripping account is that Bourne is setting off to discover his own identity, of who he really is. Slowly, as the truth comes to the fore, he discovers that his life was not ordinary. 


Latest Post