Short Review: A FOREIGN COUNTRY by Charles Cumming (Harper)

CummingC-TK1-AForeignCountryUKAn excellent spy thriller

On the vacation of a lifetime in Egypt, an elderly French couple are brutally murdered. Days later, a meticulously-planned kidnapping takes place on the streets of Paris.

Amelia Levene, the first female Chief of MI6, has disappeared without a trace, six weeks before she is due to take over as the most influential spy in Europe. It is the gravest crisis MI6 has faced in more than a decade. Desperate not only to find her, but to keep her disappearance a secret, Britain’s top intelligence agents turn to one of their own: disgraced MI6 officer Thomas Kell.

Tossed out of the Service only months before, Kell is given one final chance to redeem himself – find Amelia Levene, at any cost. The trail leads Kell to France and Tunisia, where he uncovers a shocking secret and a conspiracy that could have unimaginable repercussions for Britain and its allies. Only Kell stands in the way of personal and political catastrophe.

Charles Cumming is one of my favourite authors – in the thriller genre or otherwise. He writes tightly-plotted, gripping espionage thrillers in the tradition of John le Carré and others of that era. [It is, perhaps somewhat cliché to now compare Cumming to le Carré, but it really is apt.] Cumming’s novels are decidedly British, in that they are devoid of melodrama or the dick-swinging swagger that can characterise American-authored espionage thrillers (see, for example, Vince Flynn and Brad Thor). They are, however, just as gripping. Continue reading