A Brief History of Superheroes by Brian J. Robb (2014)

Robb has previously written biographies of Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt. This volume is one of a series titled ‘A brief guide to [or A history of] …’ which includes guides to Stephen King, ghost-hunting, the Roman Empire, Star Wars and any other topics they thought would sell. Written for a popular audience, […]

Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst (2000)

Furst’s sixth novel follows the adventures of Nicholas Morath, an aristocratic Hungarian who has secured a French passport and lives in Furst’s favourite city, Paris, where he has a half share in an advertising company, the Agence Courtmain. His uncle, Count Janos Polanyi de Nemeszvar, also lives a very comfortable life in Paris. In the […]

Absolute Friends John le Carré (2004)

‘Everyone in Berlin knows Sasha.’ (p.58) For three quarters of its length this is the best, the most compelling, gripping and psychologically rewarding le Carré novel for years: for excitement and plausibility I would recommend this one over all its predecessors as far back as A Perfect Spy. It is a return to the full-blown […]

Charity by Len Deighton (1996)

‘You don’t like any of your old friends these days, Bernie. What’s happened to you? Why are you so caustic? Why so suspicious of everything and everyone?’ ‘Am I? Well I’m not the only one afflicted with that,’ I said. ‘There is an epidemic of suspicion and distrust. It’s contagious. We are all in its […]

Hope by Len Deighton (1995)

‘There are more important things in life than money, Bernard,’ she said. ‘Prove it,’ I told her. (p.301) This is a cracking book: by turns complex, puzzling, full of pungent local colour, humorous and touching. Spying as soap opera / Espionage as sitcom From the previous seven novels about the 40-something MI6 agent, Bernard Samson, […]

Faith by Len Deighton (1994)

‘If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s being able to sort out complicated technical material so it can be understood by the layman.’ ‘Yes, you have a mechanical mind, Dicky, I said. ‘So why don’t you wind it up this week? Yes, I’ve heard that joke, Bernard. It’s time you got some new […]

Violent Ward by Len Deighton (1993)

I had a bad feeling about this one – books set in America by British writers are often duff – but this is Deighton’s most enjoyable novel for years. Mickey Murphy It’s a first-person narrative in the voice of Mickey Murphy, a street-wise, fast-talking, unscrupulous Los Angeles lawyer. Inevitably, he’s divorced – the novel opens […]

City of Gold by Len Deighton (1992)

Part one – Plot summary Cairo during the war Because of the chameleon on the book cover I thought this might be another novel set in South America, the setting of MAMista, but in fact this one is set in wartime Cairo – apparently known back then as the ‘city of gold’ – in January 1942, as […]

MAMista by Len Deighton (1991)

In The Night Manager we saw how John le Carré reacted to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War – the subjects which had provided his fictional bread and butter for nearly thirty years. He reacted by moving the same organisation – British Intelligence […]

Red Square by Martin Cruz Smith (1992)

Sometimes Arkady had the feeling that while he was away, God had lifted Moscow and turned it upside down. It was a nether-Moscow he had returned to, no longer under the grey hand of the Party. (p.41) The third in the Arkady Renko series is the longest so far, at 472 pages. Like the first […]