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A Colder War Hardcover – August 5, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Over several novels, Cumming has established himself, along with Olen Steinhauer, as one of the best of today’s old-school espionage novelists. His latest, a follow-up to A Foreign Country (2012), finds disgraced agent Tom Kell still out in the cold after being scapegoated in the wake of a torture scandal. That changes quickly when his former colleague, Amanda Levene, now head of MI6, drafts Kell to find out whether the airplane crash that killed her lover, Paul Wallinger, head of station in Turkey, was an accident or the work of a suspected mole. Or moles—Wallinger himself may have been a traitor driven to suicide. We’re in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy territory here, of course, but there are also hints of later le Carré, as Kell falls in love with Rachel Wallinger, Paul’s daughter, and quickly finds himself in that treacherous demilitarized zone between the personal and the political. Cumming is a master at describing the details of spy tradecraft, from electronic wizardry to tailing a suspect on the street, and one of the great pleasures of this novel is watching Kell and his team do their work. But is the price of doing that work—and living the clandestine life it requires—too high? Are ideals as deadly as bombs? Those are the fundamental questions of the spy novel, and Cumming asks them with great eloquence, revealing a contemporary twist or two in the way his characters frame their uncertain answers, but coming round in the end to the abiding melancholy that still shrouds all but the most heartless of spies. Superb espionage fiction in the grand tradition. --Bill Ott

Review

'The levels of psychological insight are married to genuine narrative acumen - but anyone who has read his earlier books will expect no less' Independent 'For those hungering for a new John le Carre, Charles Cumming has inherited the master's mantle. His new book, A Colder War, features sinister goings-on in spook-infested Istanbul' Sunday Times 'Edgily elegant ... perfect for those wanting a contemporary spy thriller in the vein of Le Carre and even for those who don't' Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Praise for A Foreign Country: 'We are in Smiley country, but with extra 21st century nuance ... Cumming has an exquisite touch and we should treasure him' Daily Mail 'A thriller that has everything you could ask for - a twisty, sexy plot, topical themes, memorable characters and plentiful spy lore' Sunday Times, Books of the Year 'Refreshing, plausible and effective ... Best of all is the sheer pace of the narrative' Spectator 'You are likely to be up for most of the night to find out how this novel ends. It grips from the first page ... A fast-moving treat' The Scotsman Praise for Charles Cumming: 'Charles Cumming is a man put on this earth to perpetuate the spy thriller' Daily Telegraph 'From the first page to the last it has the ring of absolute authenticity. Tautly written, cleverly plotted...it reminded me strongly of the early books of John le Carre' Robert Harris --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (August 5, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250020611
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250020611
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Cumming is a British writer of spy fiction. He was educated at Eton College (1985-1989) and the University of Edinburgh (1990-1994), where he graduated with 1st Class Honours in English Literature. The Observer has described him as "the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off".

In 1995, Charles Cumming was approached for recruitment by the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). A Spy By Nature, a novel partly based on his experiences with MI6, was published in 2001. The novel's hero, Alec Milius, is a flawed loner in his early 20s who is recruited by MI6 to sell doctored research data on oil exploration in the Caspian Sea to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In 2001, Charles Cumming moved to Madrid. His second novel, The Hidden Man (2003), tells the story of two brothers investigating the murder of their father, a former SIS officer, at the hands of the Russian mafia. The Hidden Man also examines the clandestine role played by SIS and the CIA during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Charles Cumming's third novel, The Spanish Game (2006), marks the return of anti-hero Alec Milius, who becomes involved in a plot by the paramilitary Basque nationalist organization ETA to bring down the Spanish government. The Spanish Game was described by The Times as one of the six finest spy novels of all time, alongside Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Funeral in Berlin and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Typhoon, published in 2008, is a political thriller about a CIA plot to destabilise China on the eve of the Beijing Olympics. The story spans the decade from the transfer of the sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997 to present-day Shanghai. In particular, the author highlights the plight of the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, a semi-autonomous region of The People's Republic of China. The acclaimed novelist William Boyd described Typhoon as "a wholly compelling and sophisticated spy novel - vivid and disturbing - immaculately researched and full of harrowing contemporary relevance."

In March 2008, Charles Cumming published an interactive online story, The 21 Steps, as part of a Penguin We Tell Stories project. Readers follow the protagonist's travels through Google Maps. Cumming's novels have been translated into six languages. His work is published in the United States by St Martin's Press. In 2009, Cumming left Penguin to join Harper Collins. His fifth novel, The Trinity Six, a thriller about the Cambridge spies, is published in the United States in March 2011.

Customer Reviews

I could not put this book down - it was a great read!
Barbara McArthur
A wonderful spy and intrigue story, with a complex plot, very believable characters and beautifully written.
Saul Rosenthal
A Colder War is a good tale, interesting without being compelling.
Ken C.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Sid Nuncius TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I thought this was a good, entertaining and in places very gripping spy thriller. It is well written and paced with a pretty decent plot and a good sense of place.

The plot has been well summarized elsewhere on this page, but it involves a disgraced British spy, Thomas Kell, being brought back into the Intelligence fold to help to investigate some suspicious deaths of agents and to find the source of apparent leaks of information. We get a classic mole-hunt set in London and Turkey, and it's pretty well done. It is at its best when there is real tradecraft being described – surveillance, counter-surveillance, interpretation of detail in evidence and so on – which has led to comparisons with John le Carré.

Such comparisons are premature, to say the least. The story is a perfectly decent one, but neither the plot nor the characters have anything like the depth and subtlety of le Carré. The, to me, rather overblown aspects of Kell's emotional life and the introduction of a somewhat cliché-ed This Time It's Personal element would have no place in a le Carré novel, for example. It's noticeable, too, that Cumming has a penchant for male lead characters of roughly his own forty-something age and for sensationally beautiful, sexy, intelligent and significantly younger women to fall in love - and lust - with them (see also Trinity Six, for example). Bless! I wouldn't dream of accusing him of using his books for wish-fulfilment, of course, but I do find it all a little credibility-stretching.

I don't want to carp too much. I think we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves with the Great Spy Novel stuff, but I enjoyed the book. I found it very readable and in parts very exciting. Overall, I thought it was a very decent, engrossing spy thriller which would make an excellent holiday read.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Vital Spark VINE VOICE on June 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Another action-packed spy thriller from Mr. Cummings. His writing is intelligent and assured; his characters are realistic, and the Turkish and Ukrainian settings interesting.I have read a couple of his earlier novels and enjoyed both of them, and I enjoyed about three-quarters of this one. At almost four-hundred pages, it is far too long. It's like trying to sit through a James Bond movie of five or six hours duration. There is too much dialogue, too much explaining, too much detail. I got bored with it and had to skim the last eighty or so pages just to get through it. What's the deal with so many thriller writers churning out Dickens-length novels?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ian Kaplan VINE VOICE on May 31, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Charles Cumming's first book was "A Spy By Nature". Here are some of the things that I wrote in the two star review I gave the book:

I am happy to say that I bought this book used, so at least I wasted only a little money along with my time. The pace of the plot in "A Spy By Nature" moves with the speed of a glacier before global warming set in. [...] In keeping with the glacial pace of the book, conversations go on and on adding little to the plot. By the time the reader is two thirds of the way through the book, not much has happened. At this point it is difficult to care about Alec Milius or what finally happens.

Since I didn't like Cumming's first book, I didn't read any of his later books. What I didn't know is that Cumming has worked on his craft and has become a skilled novelist. "A Colder War" is a much better book than "A Spy by Nature". The plot is carefully crafted and difficult to put down. I only have a little time each day to read and I kept finding that I was staying up late to finish a chapter.

"A Colder War" is, apparently, a sequel to "A Foreign Country", which also features the central character of "A Colder War", Ryan Kell. There are some references to Kell's back story and his relationship with Amelia, who is "C", the head of MI6. Having not read the earlier novel, I found that "A Colder War" stood well on its own.

Kell's character has some depth. He is still employed by British Intelligence, but he's been sidelined. He is close to "C" (Amelia Levene) who heads MI6 (also known as the SIS). When one of the top operatives of SIS, Paul Wallinger dies in a small plane crash, Kell is pulled in to investigate the death and the presence of a possible mole.

Much of the book takes place in Istanbul and Ankara.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A mole is spilling the goods on the Middle Eastern operations of the British and American secret services. Two defectors are dead as a result. An MI6 agent of MI6 is too though it’s not clear if his death was an accident or not. Whatever the case, the timing is too coincidental to ignore. The head of MI6, “C”, brings disgraced agent Tom Kell out of retirement to find the mole. She’s using him because the dead MI6 agent was her lover --she has to play her cards close to the vest. Besides, she doesn’t trust her Cousins in the CIA not to screw it up if they get word and intervene with their big guns and little discretion.

The plot premise isn’t unique. How many times have we read about the hunt for a mole inside a secret service in the West? But seldom is it done this well, making such a compelling read, as in this gripping spy thriller about Life In The Grey World. Cumming’s narration moves along with no drop in interest from Kell’s initial investigations until the final, pulse-stirring chase. The ending is bitter-sweet –more bitter than sweet, but that too matches the world Cummings has described: a world where honesty and loyalty have little room to grow but rather, suspicion and betrayal are served up daily with the midday meal.

Cumming’s is a masterful storyteller at both extremes. He is a master of the small details --how do you run a multi-person tail of a suspicious and wily foreign agent? how close dare you get to a suspect before he, or she, suspects you?—but of the large picture too, including –and this is a definite plus—empathy for his hero, who is a flawed but ultimately decent, feeling individual.

A Colder War is a really fine specimen of the genre, on a par with the best of John LeCarre, Charles McCarry or Olen Steinhauer, and you can’t do any better than that.
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