Three Shades of Spy Story


Brad Thor’s “Black List” is a typical thriller in that a brave, strong, and clever secret agent fights against (and of course eventually prevails over) the forces of evil.  The black list of the title is a list of Americans slated for elimination by a sinister outfit that operates with the assistance of parts of their own government.  Not so typical is the extremely detailed and realistic description of how big brother is in fact watching you.  Thor makes the point that the almost unimaginable technology that is already available can easily be abused.

Stella Rimington’s “The Geneva Trap” is a recent offering by a former head of the British MI5, and like her other books records the cases of MI5 agent Liz Carlyle.  Restricted as she is by her hands-on acquaintance with the spy business, Rimington’s books have fewer spectacular shootouts and massacres than your average thriller and also provide a more realistic picture of behind the scenes research and international cooperation.  Even though there is less gore, there is plenty of excitement and suspense after an apparent Russian defector reveals the presence of a mole inside a company developing military technology for a joint British and American project.

“Mossad”, by Michael Bar-Zohar and Nissim Mishal, is naturally the most realistic of these three books.  This book gives the background, operational details, and eventual results of a series of operations of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service.  It’s fascinating to learn more about incidents that were partially reported in the news at various times.  These accounts also show that secret operations are similar to battles in that the winning side is just the side that made fewer mistakes.



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