I loved The Trinity Six, Charles Cumming’s last thriller, and now am just as taken with A Foreign Country, faultlessly performed by Jot Davies. With le Carré-esque finesse, Cumming weaves a suspenseful, intricate tale filled with spies using their well-honed tradecraft, rogue agents bending rules, “old-boy” Secret Service bureaucrats trying to keep a woman from taking over and an appealing “turfed-out” MI6 operative who wants to come in from the cold. When Amelia Levene, soon to be chief of MI6, goes missing in Nice, the powers that be turn to Thomas Kell, a former colleague and close friend of Amelia’s, now in the no-man’s-land of disgrace and dismissal. What he finds is a secret buried in Amelia’s past that has caused two murders and a kidnapping and now threatens her future. Kell, wanting to prove himself again, begins to work through the layers of an audacious scheme to entrap and coerce Amelia. Cumming knows the spook world and knows how to create plausible characters enmeshed in a tantalizing plot.
THE HEART OF DARKNESS
Julian Wells slit his wrists and died in a small boat on a Montauk pond. He’d been a brilliant true crime writer, true crime so dark it had become its own subgenre. Why he killed himself is the question that drives Thomas H. Cook’s elegantly written new novel, The Crime of Julian Wells. And with Traber Burns’ emotionally nuanced narration, it becomes an irresistibly engrossing audio. Julian’s sister and his best friend, searching for what haunted him, dig into his past, his restless traveling and the heinous criminals he chronicled. Moving from Paris to Budapest, Rostov and Argentina, where he’d traveled as a young man, they uncover Julian’s obsession with a woman he had known in Buenos Aires who was disappeared during Argentina’s “dirty war.” Was there a “crime of Julian Wells”? Had he experienced the human evil he was so drawn to? Or did a naïve game collide with cruel reality? Keep listening!
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
A stale marriage, a dashing stranger, a passionate affair that can’t last—the stuff of many memorable books, but not nearly enough for David Gillham. City of Women, his dazzling debut novel set in 1943 Berlin, is so authentically atmospheric that you taste the ersatz coffee and feel the Gestapo’s eyes on you. And you understand Sigrid Schröder, living with her nasty, meddling mother-in-law while her husband is at the Russian front, when she falls wildly in love with a man she meets in the cinema, a man who is an enigma and a Jew. He’s there and then he isn’t, and Sigrid, stingingly aware of the moral complexities of her world, gets involved with a young woman helping Jews escape, thus becoming one of those ordinary people forced to make extraordinary choices and to live with the consequences. Reading with just the shadow of a German accent, Suzanne Bertish gives this complex tapestry of love, lies, betrayal, fear and hope the texture of real life in a time of total war.