Tag Archives: Books

What are the best spy novels ever written?

I had originally written this post on Quora, as the answer top the question “What are the best spy novels ever written?”

You can check out the original post here.

Here are two novels, written by former spies, that couldn’t be more different from each other, but rank among the greatest in the spy genre.

From Russia,with Love-Ian Fleming

In the fifth novel to feature the legendary Secret Service agent,Bond is marked for assassination by Soviet Counterintelligence agency SMERSH, and young clerk Tatiana Romanova, along with a Russian decoding device, is the bait to lure Bond into a trap, orchestrated by the ruthless Colonel Rosa Klebb.

From Russia, with Love is everything we love about Agent 007- edge-of-your-seat drama, femme fatales and powerful villains.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold– John le Carré

Regarded as a masterpiece in the spy genre, this novel is as far as it gets from Bond-esque tropes.Set during the height of the Cold War, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is about the core principle of spycraft- the flow of information. The tension is slowly and meticulously built up through an intricate plot, full of twists and turns. This is a must-read for all lovers of the spy genre.

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The Safehouse

RED FOUR

0137 HOURS

Red Five was driving the car, while Red Four was riding shotgun. The safehouse came into sight, one of many cottages that lined the street. It was well past midnight, and the lights were out. Their orders were to sweep the house, and if no threat was identified, they were to give the all clear. Red Four spoke into his communications unit, ”Red One, this is Red Four. We’ve reached the safehouse.  Wait for the all clear. Do you copy? ”

“Copy”, said a voice at the other end.

They stepped out of the car, and gave the front gate a slight push. It swung open on well oiled hinges. They walked across the well-manicured lawn and stepped onto the front porch. Red Four held a semi-machine gun, and was prepared to storm into the house. Red Five took a key out from his pocket , inserted it into the keyhole, and turned it. The door swung open, and they found themselves facing the barrels of two machine guns.

RED ONE

0143 HOURS

Red One heard a volley of shots at his end of the communications unit, which continued for about three seconds. That was followed by silence.Red One shouted into his communication unit,” Red Four! Red Five! Acknowledge! ”There was no answer. “Can anyone hear me, dammit! Acknowledge!”The response remained unchanged.

“Red One! This is Red Two! What are our orders?”came a voice from the communications unit.

Assuming the worst, Red One said,” Red Two! Red Three! We’re burned! Abort the mission, I repeat, abort the mission! Regroup at 0400 hours.  Rendezvous point Delta-Four-Two. Acknowledge!”

“Roger!”, answered two voices.

*

Red One was the first to reach the rendezvous point. It was a small, dingy room in a run-down, decrepit hotel. He sat down on the bed, waiting for his comrades, or what was left of them. He was the leader of the Red Company, a band of well-trained , ruthless mercenaries. This was their 27th mission, and their reputation for efficiency had spread far and beyond. Their missions were covert operations, which meant they did all the dirty work for the government. They had been chosen for the mission not only for their efficiency, but also for their discretion. Names were dangerous. To each other, they were simply Red brothers. They took their payment via discreet offshore accounts which were never traced back to them.

They had never failed at a mission before. However, this mission was of a far larger magnitude than any of their previous ones, and was equalled by the cash reward offered. Their target was the head of the largest organized crime syndicate in the country, who had eluded capture for the better part of two decades. Their plan was to stay put at the safe house, where a defector from the syndicate, who had made contact with the government, would be waiting for them. Following the standard protocol, Red One had sent two of his comrades as scouts, to give the all clear signal, and they had been ambushed. Either they were being spied upon, or someone, probably the defector, had sold them out. Red One spoke into the comm. unit ,”What’s the status?”

“ETA two minutes”, came the reply.

RED THREE

0400 HOURS

Two minutes later, Red Two and Red Three entered the room. Red Two shut the door behind him, and said,” What the hell just happened? That bastard sold us out! I swear, he will come to regret this day! I shall hunt him down and kill him! ”

Red Three said calmly,” It wasn’t him”, and took out his Beretta. He fired two shots. The first one hit Red One in the head, and the second one took Red Two in the stomach. Red One crumpled to the floor instantly, landing with a dull thud. Red Two was clutching his stomach, still reeling from the shock. He said ,”You -“ but before he could finish, Red Three shot him in the head.

An hour later, Red Three heard a knock on the door. He stood up and opened the door ever so slightly, and saw The Don, as he was popularly known, standing outside. He opened the door, and was frisked by The Don’s bodyguards. They took his Beretta, and strode over to the two corpses, taking possession of their weapons as well.

“Are they dead at the safehouse?”asked Red Three.

The Don entered the room and shook his hand, saying,” They were tough. Took my men along with them.  Good job, lad. Knew you had it in you! It was a pleasure doing business-”, but was cut-off.

“Cut the bullshit and give me my money. You said it would be double that of what my original employers were paying.”, said Red Three.

“”It has been wired to the account number you gave us.”

Red Three took out his cellphone and dialled a number. “Status?”, he spoke.”Its done”, came the reply. He turned it off and put it into his pocket.

“I guess we’re done here. Please show yourself out.”

One of The Don’s bodyguards strode over to the door and opened it. As the door swung open, the sound of machine gun fire rang out. The bodyguards and The Don were riddled with bullets. Splattered with blood , they fell face down. Red Three had taken a bullet to the chest, and directed his gaze at the door.

Red Four was standing at the door, his gun pointed at Red Three . Red Three heard a loud bang, and his vision went black.

RED FOUR

0140 HOURS

Red Four was standing on full alert as Red Five swung the key. They opened the door to find themselves facing the barrel of two AK-47s. One of the enemy shooters fired at Red Five. Before the other one could shoot, Red Four took him down with his semi-machine gun. Red Five was down, but Red Four took a well-aimed swing at the other shooter, who at the same time swung the muzzle of his gun at him. Both dropped their guns. The enemy combatant knocked him onto the floor, and pressed his hand to his throat. Red Four could hear the voice of Red One coming from the communication unit, but could scarcely make a sound. Red Four was pressing his left hand to his assailant’s face, and at the same time was trying to reach his back pocket with his right, where he had kept a pocket knife. His breathing was becoming laboured, and he knew he was running out of time. He finally managed to reach his back pocket. He took out the knife and drove it into his combatant’s neck. His enemy lost his grip, keeled over, and lay still. Red Four stood up, and he could hear Red One’s voice calling a mission abort. He started to speak, but he saw another body in the middle of the room. It was that of the defector. The defector himself was dead.  That meant that he wasn’t the one who had sold them out, which left one, very disturbing conclusion.

Red Four knew that The Don would send somebody to confirm the kill if his henchmen didn’t reply, and he would have to play dead in order for the ruse to be successful. He heard the sound of a car coming from a distance, and he quickly lay down on the floor. He was already covered in blood. The Don’s men entered the house and prodded at their bodies. Red Four held his breath, silently praying to every God he knew. The men, apparently satisfied, left the house, and Red Four breathed a sigh of relief. He decided to not inform his comrades about his situation, instead opting to shadow them and ferret out the traitor.

0400 HOURS

He was in the corridor leading up to the hotel room, when he heard the shots. He ran towards and adjoining room and lay waiting. If there was one thing he hated, it was treachery. He was too late to save his comrades, but he could avenge them. An hour later, he heard footsteps, and voices .He recognized one of them as that of Red Three.

Rage boiled inside him, and he came out of the room. He had taken the machine gun from his assailant, and he stood outside the room occupied by the Don. He heard the doorknob turning, and when the door fully opened, he fired.