The 10 top espionage novels reviewed on this site (plus lots of runners-up)

A Coffin for Dimitrios is one of my 10 top espionage novels reviewed.Over the past ten years, I’ve read and reviewed more than 100 espionage novels (not counting a great many more I decided not to read or never finished). My 10 favorites are listed immediately below. Though my preliminary list included multiple titles by several of the authors included here, I’ve arbitrarily limited myself to a single title from every writer. And I gave every one of these 10 titles a score of @@@@@ (5 out of 5) on its review. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names.

Below the list of my 10 favorites, you’ll find reviews of the full list of top espionage novels I’ve reviewed with ratings of at least @@@@ (4 out of 5). Those titles, too, are listed in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. There, you’ll find multiple titles by a number of the authors featured here: Alex Berenson, Charles Cumming, Alan Furst, Mick Herron, Joseph Kanon, John le Carré, Jason Matthews, Stella Rimington, Ross Thomas, and Edward Wilson.

As you’ll see below, a great many of the books listed here are in series. And for the most part you’ll find all the novels in each series listed below. There are some exceptions for titles I read before I began reviewing books, others for those I rated below @@@@, and still others that I simply haven’t read yet.

Updated October 6, 2020.

10 top espionage novels

A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler – Still a lively read among classic spy novels

The Trinity Six by Charles Cumming – A stellar new spy story by Charles Cumming

The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett – The 40th anniversary edition of Ken Follett’s classic WWII spy novel

Kingdom of Shadows (Night Soldiers #6) by Alan Furst – One of the best spy novels of recent years

The Quiet American by Graham Greene—The classic Vietnam novel by Graham Greene

The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins – A classic espionage thriller that’s well worth rereading

Siro by David Ignatius – The most intelligent spy novel I’ve read in many years

Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon – One of the best of today’s spy novels

Red Sparrow (Red Sparrow Trilogy #1) by Jason Matthews – Authentic espionage tradecraft in this gripping novel by a CIA veteran

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – The Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes

All the top espionage novels I’ve reviewed

A Coffin for Dimitrios – Still a lively read among classic spy novels

Transcription by Kate Atkinson – A beautifully written spy story

Alex Berenson’s John Wells series

The Hot Country (Christopher Marlowe Cobb #1) by Robert Olen Butler—American vs German spies in the Mexican Revolution

The Star of Istanbul (Christopher Marlowe Cobb #2) by Robert Olen Butler—An American spy in World War I takes on the German Empire

A Single Spy by William Christie – A Soviet spy in Nazi Germany

Charles Cumming’s suspenseful spy thrillers

Berlin Game (Bernard Samson #1) by Len Deighton—A classic novel of Cold War espionage reminiscent of John le Carré

Mexico Set (Bernard Samson #2) by Len Deighton—In Len Deighton’s classic spy series, Bernard Samson goes to Mexico

A Prisoner in Malta (Christopher Marlowe #1) by Phillip DePoy – A delightful historical mystery novel starring Christopher Marlowe

Moscow Sting (Anna Resnikov #2) by Alex Dryden—A former British intelligence officer imagines a female Russian superspy

Exposure by Helen Dunmore – Gay life in Britain in a suspenseful thriller

Espionage thrillers from Joseph Finder

The Eye of the NeedleThe 40th anniversary edition of Ken Follett’s classic WWII spy novel

The Fox by Frederick Forsyth – A great new spy novel from the author of “The Day of the Jackal”

The historical Night Soldiers series by Alan Furst

Alex Gerlis’s outstanding wartime spy novels

The Ways of the World (James Maxted #1) by Robert Goddard – A superb novel of espionage set in 1919 Paris

The Quiet American by Graham Greene—The classic Vietnam novel by Graham Greene

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris – The Dreyfus Affair, reenacted in a suspenseful spy novel

Intelligence: A Tale of Terror and Uncivil Service by Susan Hasler – A satirical take on the dysfunctional CIA under George W Bush

Mick Herron’s clever Slough House novels

Classic espionage novels by Jack Higgins

Clean Hands by Patrick Hoffman—A diabolically clever thriller about corporate espionage

Spy stories by David Ignatius

A Map of Betrayal by Ha Jin – Betrayal is in the eye of the beholder

Joseph Kanon’s superb spy stories

Who Is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht – A puzzling spy story set in Argentina in the time of the generals

John le Carré’s classic novels of espionage

The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes — Nazis, Communists, and Western spies clash in this classic spy novel

Too Bad to Die by Francine Mathews – Ian Fleming stars in this delightful spy story worthy of James Bond

The brilliant Red Sparrow Trilogy by Jason Matthews

Prague Spring by Simon Mawer – A tale of love and espionage during Prague Spring

An Expensive Education by Nick McDonell—Special Forces are up to no good in Somalia

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen – The Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes

The Strivers’ Row Spy (Renaissance #1) by Jason Overstreet—African-American history comes to life in this engaging spy novel

Heresy (Giordano Bruno #1) by S. J. Parris—An historical spy thriller in the Elizabethan Age

Chris Pavone’s engaging espionage novels

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott—Doctor Zhivago and the women in the CIA typing pool

East of Hounslow (Jay Qasim #1) by Khurrum Rahman—Undercover, a small-time drug dealer becomes an accidental jihadist for MI5

The well-crafted Liz Carlyle novels by Stella Rimington

Provisionally Yours by Antanas Sileika—A fascinating spy story set in Lithuania following World War I

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer – A complex spy novel worthy of John Le Carre

All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer – A terrorist hijacking, the CIA, and two former lovers at dinner

Ross Thomas’s witty spy stories

Spymaster (Scot Horvath #18) by Brad Thor—Brad Thor showcases his anti-Russian perspective in this novel

Paul Vidich’s historical spy novels

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson – An African-American spy in the maelstrom of Cold War rivalry in Africa

The William Catesby novels by Edward Wilson

For additional reading

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