“Professor Wang Kaixuan emerged from the waters of the South China Sea shortly before dawn,” and so begins this well-constructed tale of high-stakes espionage, betrayal, and unforeseen consequences set in modern-day China. The story revolves around an improbably capable young MI6 agent, his flamboyant CIA counterpart, the young woman they both lust after, and a right-wing Washington cabal and the corporation that does its bidding. The book is well-researched, cogently written, and expertly plotted. If your taste runs to spy thrillers, this is one of the best of recent years.
Typhoon by Charles Cumming @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Amazon describes the novel as follows: “With the CIA plotting to use an Islamic group to destabilize China, the SIS seeking to thwart them and his old asset the key to all of this, Joe Lennox, Miles Coolidge, and the girlfriend they shared are all hopelessly intertwined in a plot where trust is impossible and truth is unknowable.”
About the author
Charles Cumming is sometimes referred to as the successor to John Le Carre, but I’d like to see him write about a more believable protagonist before I go along with that judgment. However, as I wrote in my review of Cumming’s The Hidden Man, his “flawed heroes, Alec Milius and Thomas Kell, resemble John Le Carre’s George Smiley more closely than James Bond, and their adversaries are real-world spy agencies rather than such fantasies as Spectre. Cumming’s work doesn’t attain the literary heights of The Spy Who Came In From the Cold or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but few writers working today in the genre have mastered the craft as well as he. (Joseph Kanon and Olen Steinhauer are among the few I’ve read recently.)”
For further reading
This is just one of Charles Cumming’s first-rate spy thrillers.
You might also enjoy my posts:
- The 10 top espionage novels reviewed on this site;
- 20 good nonfiction books about espionage; and
- Top 10 mystery and thriller series.
If you enjoy reading history in fictional form, check out 20 most enlightening historical novels (plus dozens of runners-up). And if you’re looking for exciting historical novels, check out Top 10 historical mysteries and thrillers reviewed here (plus 100 others).
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