Wednesday, September 2, 2015

SPY BOOKS: UNDERCOVER READING


Spy fiction began in the early twentieth century and especially after World War I when borders were rapidly changing and countries wanted to know what their enemies and friends were doing.  Practitioners of espionage act as spies, secret agents, sleepers, moles and operatives. Spy novels share much in common with reality, including plots that unravel, thrills and main characters who are always about to be discovered. Visit the Monrovia Public Library for some of the newest spy fiction.

In Ha Jin’s novel A Map of Betrayal a college professor investigates the life of her late father, a Chinese spy living underground in the United States. In the process she learns how her father, who became a US citizen and worked for years as a translator for the CIA, continued to be loyal to China and even had a second family there. This spy story is also a family saga that uncovers many secrets.

Joseph Kanon’s historical fiction spy novels recall a time gone by. In Leaving Berlin the cold war has begun and the book’s writer hero is a Jewish socialist who escaped the Nazis and lives in 1949 Los Angeles. About to be deported to Germany because of his beliefs, he strikes a deal to become a spy in post WW II Berlin and hopes that the information he delivers will allow him to return to his family in the U.S. Kanon is a terrific writer who captures the shadowy era and setting and delivers a highly readable and suspenseful book.

Though not represented nearly enough, women make some of the very best spies (yes, a bit of bias here). With language skills and a math degree that makes her a first rate code breaker, Maggie Hope finds that the only job she can get in 1940s England is as a government typist. Susan Elia MacNeal delivers a first rate intelligence story with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, in which the intrepid Maggie foils a plot to kill the prime minister. Vintage and fast-moving espionage fun.


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