Espionage in April

Spy fiction, a sub-genre of mystery and thriller, grew out of a time when world powers and their modern intelligence agencies were heavily involved in intrigue and rivalry. While older works featured spies in various circumstances, it wasn't until the early twentieth century that the spy novel became a recognized sub-genre. Spy fiction became very popular during World War II and the Cold War, and has gained new traction with the rise of global terrorism, technological sabotage, and rogue states.

Very action-packed, spy fiction tends to lead its reader through the twists and turns of political intrigue, often following a particular spy who, we hope, is the good guy (but might be a double agent!) The reader typically receives all the information necessary to figure out what is going on, but must approach it as a puzzle, trying, along with the main character, to see the whole picture before it's too late.

Our Main Read this month was chosen by John Watson, who has quite a bit of experience with espionage. (He says he's had more than enough experience with it, really - although Sherlock only laughed when he heard that.) Check it out:

The Cairo Affair

http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/857897892

On February 19, 2011, two days after the Day of Revolt, the first kidnapping occurred in London, and over the following seventy-two hours similar scenes occurred in Brussels, Paris, and New York. In only three days, five politically active Libyan exiles vanished from the face of the earth: Yousef al-Juwali, Abdurrahim Zargoun, Waled Belhadj, Abdel Jalil, and Mohammed el-Keib.

As The Cairo Affair begins, Sophie Kohl, a diplomat's wife in Hungary, has just been confronted by her husband, who has learned of an affair she had in Cairo. Minutes later, she sits in shock, after her husband is shot and killed in front of her. How are her affair in Cairo, her husband's murder in Hungary, their honeymoon in Yugoslavia twenty years earlier, and the disappearance of several Libyan activists connected? Sophie is convinced they are - and determined to find out how. The first step: returning to Egypt and asking her former lover, a Cairo-based CIA operative, for help.

While the point of view shifts between characters, the story remains intimate. Each of the characters is a fully realized individual, and each is drawn into the intrigue and danger of the central plot in very specific ways. Throughout the story, we learn all the bits and pieces to leave us entirely aware of what has happened and why, although few, if any, of the characters, in the end, knows the full story. Beautifully written, evoking the crowded streets of Cairo and the fierce Libyan desert with equal clarity, The Cairo Affair is highly recommended to anyone looking for a bit of espionage in their lives - preferably without the actual danger.


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Watson has picked a gorgeously illustrated comic book for this month's Quick Read:


Moriarty: The Dark Chamber
  
http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/751738176




1894. Reichenbach Falls, Switzerland.
We all create small rooms for ourselves--dark places where we curl up and hide like little children, seeking solace from the outside world.
Despite our best efforts, it is there that our personal dragons prey on us.
Never content to be a victim, I chose to venture into the unknown.
My name is Professor James Moriarty.

Moriarty: The Dark Chamber  opens up on the brink of World War I, twenty years after the death of Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty, once the world's greatest criminal mastermind and ruler of a vast underground network, has lost everything. With nothing to drive him, he is reduced to conducting investigations for petty criminals. It is in this state that MI5 contacts him, blackmailing him into looking for the missing Mycroft Holmes, and drawing him into confrontation with a new villain that may be greater than Moriarty ever was - too great, perhaps, to thwart. Who is Tartarus, and what is the real power and threat of the Dark Chamber of the Mind?

Interested in further spy fiction reading recommendations? Have any questions about the genre? Let me know, and I'll check with John Watson as soon as he's back from wherever Sherlock Holmes sent him off to this time.

Try to avoid any international incidents, folks, and we'll see you next month for another genre introduction and reading recommendation from another member of my Readers Advisory Committee!

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