Spies Among Us

Spy thrillers – books and movies – are compelling, entertaining, and spine-tingling. The genre is extremely popular and has gained numerous fans. If you are among them or just curious why other people find the genre so captivating and enjoyable, try some of the titles from this list of suggestions.

If you have a subscription to Prime Video, you may have seen The Americans, a spy series released by FX Network that ran for six seasons. It’s a spy thriller about two KGB agents – a married couple – posing as Americans during the peak of the Cold War in the early 1980s. Although watching all six seasons of the show is a serious commitment, the series is well-written and masterfully done, keeping the viewer’s unabated interest up until the very last scene. 

The story is very realistic, and there are no James Bond-esque characters or elements. There are no cartoonish villains or superheroes either; the characters are complex and multilayered. Even though the struggle between the good and evil is definitely present, it all makes the series a very compelling and gripping affair to watch. 

If you enjoyed this series, try the following items from Abbot Public Library’s digital collection.

On the book front, let us introduce the works by the British historian, biographer, and author Ben Macintyre. His books about espionage in the 20th century – all of them superb – made various bestseller lists and collected numerous literary awards.

Though he writes nonfiction, his true-life spy stories read like fictional spy thrillers: written in a suspenseful tone, they are fast-paced, captivating, and impossible to put down until the end.  

Deep and thorough research is the foundation of Macintyre’s writing, and enables him to put characters in full social context, providing many real-life details pertaining to the time and place of the event, and making his stories fascinating and compelling.

The Spy and The Traitor is a thrilling real-life spy story about the events that took place in the USSR at the peak of the Cold War (the same as the setting for The Americans, mentioned above).

The story is about a high-ranking KGB operative (and double agent) Oleg Gordievsky, who not only successfully worked for MI6 for many years, but also managed to successfully escape to London right on the brink of his exposure.

Macintyre’s amazing sharp eye for detail and talent for observation help him describe thrilling scenes, such as spy’s escape route, and capture a reader’s interest even further.

Another story about a double agent, this time the narrative centers around the famous Kim Philby, a high-ranking MI6 operative also secretly working for the KGB for over 30 years, and who managed to safely escape to Moscow at the last moment.

The author finds ways to make the familiar story of Kim Philby captivating, and tries to answer some questions that were not previously researched. One of the questions that the author ponders is what makes people become spies or double agents. What personal qualities does a person possess to enjoy this vocation?

Popular fiction author Daniel Silva has written quite a few spy thrillers. His The Other Woman is a mesmerizing and highly imaginative fictional spy story, based on real people and relationships in the spy world. It also has a connection to one of Macintyre’s books, but it would not do to give away a plot twist.

A couple more true-life spy stories from Ben Macintyre; this time, about WWII-era spies: 

If you are fascinated by the spy thriller genre, Overdrive/Libby and hoopla have a multitude of true-life, as well as fictional, spy stories for you. They are all available with your library card.

And if you enjoy Macintyre’s works in particular, you have something to look forward to: his new spy story, Agent Sonya, will be released in September 2020.