Spy Thrillers

Here is a list of must read spy thrillers.  Snap shot details are provided by NoveList Plus.  To access more information such as read alikes, please login to NoveList Plus through our eSources page before clicking NoveList Links.  If you prefer movies instead you're in luck!  Some of these books have been made into movies which I've provided links to as well.


Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
NoveList link

  • Genre: Adventure stories; Books to movies; Spy fiction
  • Storyline: Plot-driven
  • Pace: Fast-paced
  • Tone: Steamy; Suspenseful
  • Writing Style: Gritty

In the first James Bond novel, originally published in 1953, 007 takes on Le Chiffre, a French communist and paymaster of the Soviet murder organization SMERSH, as the suave agent becomes involved in a high-stakes game of baccarat, enjoys a fiery love affair with a sexy female spy, and endures torture at the hands of a master sadist. - (Baker & Taylor)
Prefer the movie instead?  There are 2 versions.  Check out each movie preview on YouTube then place your hold through our catalog.
YouTube 1967 version link 
YouTube 2006 version link
Casino Royale [1967 version] [Comedy]
Casino Royale [2006 version] [Drama]


The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
NoveList Link

  • Genre: Books to movies; Historical thrillers
  • Storyline: Plot-driven
  • Pace: Fast-paced
  • Tone: Suspenseful
  • Writing Style: Compelling; Richly detailed

"The Day of the Jackal makes such comparable books such as The Manchurian Candidate and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold seem like Hardy Boy mysteries."—The New York Times
The Jackal. A tall, blond Englishman with opaque, gray eyes. A killer at the top of his profession. A man unknown to any secret service in the world. An assassin with a contract to kill the world's most heavily guarded man.
One man with a rifle who can change the course of history. One man whose mission is so secretive not even his employers know his name. And as the minutes count down to the final act of execution, it seems that there is no power on earth that can stop the Jackal.
Prefer the movie?  We have that too!
The Day of the Jackal [DVD Drama]


Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré
NoveList Link

  • Genre: Spy fiction
  • Tone: Reflective
  • Writing Style: Richly detailed
  • Media Mentions: CBC Radio (Canada): The Next Chapter (Dec 2019); CBS: Sunday Morning (Nov 2019); NPR: Weekend Edition (Oct 2019)

Nat, a 47 year-old veteran of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him. Nat is to take over The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is young Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie.
Nat is not only a spy, he is a passionate badminton player. His regular Monday evening opponent is half his age: the introspective and solitary Ed. Ed hates Brexit, hates Trump and hates his job at some soulless media agency. And it is Ed, of all unlikely people, who will take Prue, Florence and Nat himself down the path of political anger that will ensnare them all. Agent Running in the Field is a chilling portrait of our time, now heartbreaking, now darkly humorous, told to us with unflagging tension by the greatest chronicler of our age.


The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
NoveList Link

  • Genre: Books to movies; Thrillers and suspense
  • Themes: Missing memories
  • Storyline: Action-packed; Intricately plotted; Plot-driven
  • Pace: Fast-paced
  • Tone: Suspenseful; Violent
  • Writing Style: Gritty

His memory is a blank. His bullet-ridden body was fished from the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery. A frame of microfilm has been surgically implanted in his hip. Even his name is a mystery. Marked for death, he is racing for survival through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators--led by Carlos, the world's most dangerous assassin. Who is Jason Bourne? The answer may kill him.
Prefer the movie? We have that too!
The Bourne Identity [DVD Drama]


An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
NoveList Link

  • Genre: Historical thrillers
  • Storyline: Intricately plotted
  • Tone: Atmospheric; Suspenseful
  • Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction
  • Winner of the American Library in Paris Book Award

A whistle-blower. A witch hunt. A cover-up. Secret tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, and government corruption. Welcome to 1890s Paris.
Alfred Dreyfus has been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment on a far-off island, and publicly stripped of his rank. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, an ambitious military officer who believes in Dreyfus's guilt as staunchly as any member of the public. But when he is promoted to head of the French counter-espionage agency, Picquart finds evidence that a spy still remains at large in the military—indicating that Dreyfus is innocent. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself.
YouTube interview with the author.
YouTube movie trailer. [DVD release date not announced]


The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
NoveList Link

  • Genre: Books to movies; Classics; Spy fiction
  • Themes: On the run; Shadow organizations
  • Storyline: Plot-driven
  • Pace: Fast-paced
  • Tone: Dramatic; Suspenseful

British writer John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps is the first of five adventure novels to star Richard Hannay, a man with a remarkable knack for getting out of sticky situations, and indeed getting into them in the first place. In May of 1914, Europe draws close to war. Hannay has just returned to London when approached by a freelance spy called Franklin P. Scudder, who asks for his help. Scudder claims he has unmasked a German plot to pilfer British war plans and assassinate the Greek Premier, but Scudder himself is murdered in Hannay's appartment, leaving Hannay on the run and attempting to foil the Germans on his own.
Did you know Alfred Hitcock made a movie version in 1935? Prefer something newer?  We also have the BBC version!
The 39 Steps [1935 version] [DVD Drama]
The 39 Steps [2008 made-for-TV version]


The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
NoveList Link

  • Genre: Books to movies; Sea stories; Techno-thrillers; Thrillers and suspense
  • Storyline: Intricately plotted; Plot-driven
  • Pace: Fast-paced
  • Tone: Suspenseful

Somewhere under the freezing Atlantic, a Soviet sub commander has just made a fateful decision. The Red October is heading west. The Americans want her. The Russians want her back. The chase for the highly advanced nuclear submarine is on—and there's only one man who can find her...
Brilliant CIA analyst Jack Ryan has little interest in fieldwork, but when covert photographs of Red October land on his desk, Ryan soon finds himself in the middle of a high-stakes game of hide-and-seek played by two world powers—a game that could end in all-out war.
Have you seen the Sean Connery version yet?
The Hunt for Red October [1998] [DVD Drama]


I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
NoveList Link

  • Genre: Spy fiction; Thrillers and suspense
  • Themes: Race against time
  • Storyline: Action-packed
  • Pace: Fast-paced
  • Tone: Dramatic
  • Writing Style: Compelling

A breakneck race against time...and an implacable enemy.
An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid.
A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square.
A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard.
Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan.
A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.
One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey.


At Risk by Stella Rimington
NoveList Link

  • Genre: Spy fiction
  • Storyline: Plot-driven
  • Pace: Fast-paced
  • Tone: Suspenseful
  • Writing Style: Descriptive

A terrorist is targeting Britain. And to make matters worse it's an "invisible"--someone traveling under a British passport. Virtually impossible to find before it's too late. The job falls to Liz Carlyle, the most resourceful counter terror agent in British intelligence. Tracking down this invisible is a challenge like none she has faced before. It will require all her hard-won experience, to say nothing of her intelligence and courage. Drawing on her own years as Britain's highest-ranking spy, Stella Rimington gives us a story that is smart, tautly drawn, and suspenseful from first to last.

By VictoriaR on June 27, 2021