The 20 Best Spy Novels You Won’t Be Able To Put Down

The 20 Best Spy Novels You Won’t Be Able To Put Down

1

Casino Royale (1953)

On Sale

Casino Royale (1953)

1

Casino Royale (1953)

Now 43% Off

Credit: William Morris Paperbacks

The book that started it all, Casino Royale is the first in the James Bond series. Fleming’s first book featuring the now culturally significant spy character follows Bond as he attempts to bankrupt a member of the Russian Secret Service in a game of baccarat. Suffice to say, a lot more goes on than a simple betting game.

2

The Hunt for Red October (1984)

The Hunt for Red October (1984)

2

The Hunt for Red October (1984)

Now 10% Off

Credit: Berkley

Tom Clancy’s books have launched multiple media franchises. His debut, The Hunt for Red October follows one of his most well-known characters, Jack Ryan, as an analyst who works to prove a Soviet operative is defecting to the US after he steals a ballistic missile submarine.

3

The Human Factor (1978)

On Sale

The Human Factor (1978)

3

The Human Factor (1978)

Now 26% Off

Credit: Penguin Classics

Graham Greene’s The Human Factor doesn’t follow a young, dashing spy, but an aging bureaucrat in MI6. Happy to live a now quiet life, Maurice Castle finds himself thrust back into political chaos when a leak is traced back to his division, and his loyalty is tested.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

4

The IPCRESS File (1962)

On Sale

The IPCRESS File (1962)

4

The IPCRESS File (1962)

Now 24% Off

Credit: Grove Press

Len Deighton is another well-known spy novelist, and much praise is given to his debut spy novel, The IPCRESS File. Structured as a report to the Ministry of Defence, the book follows an unnamed protagonist as he tries to rescue a captured scientist, but finds violent opposition to his mission.

5

Soho Crime Slow Horses (2010)

On Sale

Slow Horses (2010)

5

Soho Crime Slow Horses (2010)

Now 35% Off

Credit: Soho Crime

If you’re a fan of Apple TV+’s Slow Horses, you should check out the book series it’s based on. Mick Herron currently has 13 books in the Slough House series, detailing the adventures of a group of defunct MI5 operatives who are all desperate to prove themselves again.

6

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)

On Sale

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)

6

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974)

Now 27% Off

Credit: Penguin Books

If there’s any one book that’s considered a “classic” in the spy genre, it’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It follows an aging spymaster who works to uncover a Soviet mole. It’s since been adapted into both a TV series and a film.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

7

The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)

The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)

7

The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)

Credit: Birlinn

John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps has since been adapted into a famed Hitchcock film of the same name. A classic “man-on-the-run” story, the book follows protagonist Richard Hannay who becomes wrapped up in an assassination attempt and is framed for murder.

8

The Sympathizer

On Sale

The Sympathizer

8

The Sympathizer

Now 39% Off

Credit: Grove Press

Modern spy novels are alive and well, and The Sympathizer proves it. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it follows an unnamed protagonist who served as a North Vietnamese mole in the South Vietnamese army. He then lives in a South Vietnamese community in the United States, while working on an American film. The book has been adapted into a limited series (from director Park Chan-wook and featuring Robert Downey Jr.) and is now airing on HBO.

9

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005)

On Sale

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005)

9

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005)

Now 15% Off

Credit: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Another modern classic in the crime/spy genre, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo is the first in a famed trilogy. It follows a journalist and a private investigator who team up to uncover the truth behind a woman’s disappearance.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

10

Eye of the Needle: A Novel (1978)

On Sale

Eye of the Needle: A Novel (1978)

10

Eye of the Needle: A Novel (1978)

Now 28% Off

Credit: Penguin Books

Prolific writer Ken Follett pens this Edgar Award-winning book. The book follows a German spy and the men assigned by MI5 to catch him. If you like the book, Follett has an impressive output that will surely keep you busy for a while.

11

The Day of the Jackal (1971)

On Sale

The Day of the Jackal (1971)

11

The Day of the Jackal (1971)

Now 25% Off

Credit: Courtesy of Retailer

Part political thriller and part spy novel, The Day of the Jackal will still hit all the notes spy fans are looking for. It follows a professional assassin (so, spy-adjacent) who’s hired to kill the President of France, Charles de Gaulle.

12

American Spy: A Novel (2019)

On Sale

American Spy: A Novel (2019)

12

American Spy: A Novel (2019)

Now 50% Off

Credit: Random House

This book came out to much fanfare in 2019, even making it on former President Barack Obama’s annual reading list. It follows Marie, an African American woman who recounts her time working in the FBI.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

13

The Night of Wenceslas (1960)

The Night of Wenceslas (1960)

13

The Night of Wenceslas (1960)

Credit: Faber and Faber

The debut novel of Lionel Davidson, a celebrated crime writer, The Night of Wenceslas follows a bored young man who becomes embroiled in debt and to get out of it, he has to involve himself in espionage. Naturally, the job goes south quick.

14

Berkley The Mark of the Assassin (1998)

On Sale

The Mark of the Assassin (1998)

14

Berkley The Mark of the Assassin (1998)

Now 21% Off

Credit: Berkley

Daniel Silva is another author whose books are a tentpole in the spy genre. One of his first is The Mark of the Assassin, which follows CIA operative Michael Douglas as he works to stop a terrorist plot reminiscent of a previous attack that killed the woman he loved.

15

Native Speaker (1995)

On Sale

Native Speaker (1995)

15

Native Speaker (1995)

Now 19% Off

Credit: Riverhead Books

In Chang-Rae Lee’s debut novel, a Korean-American industrial spy iasked with infiltrating the mayoral campaign of a Korean-American politician. But through the course of his work, protagonist Henry Park must grapple with his relationship to both the U.S. and Korea, and how his actions could impact others in his community.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

16

Berkley Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) (1997)

On Sale

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) (1997)

16

Berkley Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) (1997)

Now 25% Off

Credit: Berkley

If you’re a Men’s Health reader, you know we love Reacher. So there’s no question why Lee Child’s popular thriller series is on our spy novel list. Starting with Killing Floor, Child introduces Jack Reacher, a former military police officer turned nomad who travels the country solving crimes. Usually, that means things get violent.

17

The Mask of Dimitrios (1939)

The Mask of Dimitrios (1939)

17

The Mask of Dimitrios (1939)

Credit: Penguin Books

This 1939 spy novel follows a mystery writer who finds inspiration from talking to a Turkish police officer about a now dead career criminal. But in investigating the late man’s life, the writer soon finds himself in unexpected danger.

18

The Untouchable (1997)

The Untouchable (1997)

18

The Untouchable (1997)

Credit: Vintage

Genre novels can be literary too! The Untouchable follows an aging, retired spy, who is revealed to be a Russian double agent. He recounts his life, starting with his recruitment, and reveals the personal and professional obstacles he’s faced in his career.

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

19

A Map of Betrayal: A Novel (2015)

A Map of Betrayal: A Novel (2015)

19

A Map of Betrayal: A Novel (2015)

Now 15% Off

Credit: Vintage International

This espionage novel is an emotional one, and follows a woman who goes back through her father’s diary–he’s the most important Chinese spy ever caught by the U.S.–and traces his career, secrets, and complex loyalty to his home country.

20

The Informer (2003)

The Informer (2003)

20

The Informer (2003)

Credit: Soho Crime

Jobless after the stock market crashes, a man takes a job as an industrial spy. The job? Seduce his ex-girlfriend and steal a chemical formula from her husband. But when his ex’s husband turns up dead, our protagonist is the prime suspect.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *