Audio, Fiction, Spies

Novel: A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming

March 18, 2013

I’ve sung the praises of Charles Cumming numerous times, and his latest, A Foreign Country (2012), isn’t going to change my tune.  It’s yet another memorable, deftly plotted espionage mystery that escalates assuredly from subtle investigation to explosive thriller.

The intrigue begins when Amelia Levene, an MI6 officer slated to become the service’s first female “C,” takes a sudden vacation shortly before her appointment — and  mysteriously disappears.  Her superiors and rivals in SIS are alarmed, and hire Thomas Kell, a disgraced former operative and colleague familiar with Levene, to track her down off the books. Sensing ulterior motives from the chauvanistic MI6 old guard, who would love to see Levene ousted, Kell nonetheless carries out his assignment…and then digs a little deeper. In the process of uncovering the mystery of Levene’s past, he hits upon a possible conspiracy against the SIS that may be his ticket to redemption, prompting him to launch a private sector operation to save Levene’s career, and revive his own.

A Foreign Country is a brisk, entertaining adventure, and Cumming’s storytelling is as surehanded as ever.  His knack for memorable, well defined characters is again on display, from his roguish protagonist right down to the minor supporting characters.  I was particularly impressed, late in the game, by unexpected glimpses into the psychology of some of the villains. The narrative flows effortlessly as it carries the reader across Tunisia, France, and England, left-turning multiple times into new phases. Another terrific outing from one of the genre’s most consistent and compelling storytellers.

UPDATE:  A Foreign Country is also available as an audiobook! Check out the clip below, courtesy of Macmillan Audio: 

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