Putting this list together got me thinking about why readers love a good spy story. Is it the intrigue? The suspense? The action? I think it’s some or all of that. But mostly I think it’s because they give us a peek into the dark world of espionage and double agents and counterterrorism. There is much that happens in the shadows that we average folk know little to nothing about. Spy novels give us a glimpse into that clandestine world. Here is a list of the most memorable and captivating novels featuring agents of the CIA.
Vince Flynn introduces his readers to a new hero, Mitch Rapp. The White House has been violently infiltrated by terrorists and sealed off. Hundreds are killed. Hostages are taken. The president is hurried off to his underground bunker. The terrorists want to negotiate. Panic ensues. But one man—you guessed it: Rapp—is sent to break into the mansion, navigate its many corridors and hallways, and prove why Flynn created him. Fast-paced, politically charged, top-notch.
Here we find Mitch Rapp, the CIA’s top counterterrorism operative, on a mission to take out a German industrialist who has been selling equipment used in developing nuclear arms to one of the world’s most notorious sponsors of terrorism. But the plot is much thicker than that. Rapp is also being used by his own government to destroy the president and replace the CIA director with a pawn. This is the kind of book that gets fans of espionage/political intrigue excited. Lots of action, insider details.
Our first introduction to the mysterious Jason Bourne. We meet him confused, injured, and totally oblivious to his own identity and capabilities. Ludlum has created a character who immediately grabs the reader’s interest. In this first book, Jason is hunted by a group of conspirators led by Carlos, “the world’s most dangerous assassin.”
In this book, we find Bourne still on the run but now forced to hunt down an impostor. A ruthless killer has taken on Bourne’s identity and only Jason can stop him. To do so, he must navigate a world of CIA operatives, spies, and double agents, all tasked with finding him. And during it all, Jason wrestles with his increasingly disturbing memories.
This is Tom Clancy’s first book and the one that put him on the map. It’s also our first introduction to Jack Ryan, an analyst for the CIA. A Russian nuclear sub is en route to America and no one knows the intentions of its commander, Marko Ramius. Ryan believes he is trying to defect. The U.S. government doesn’t believe him. What follows is about as intense a story as one will find.
In this snapshot of Jack Ryan’s life before the events of The Hunt for Red October, Ryan and his family are visiting London when they stumble upon an attempt by an Irish terrorist group to kidnap the Prince and Princess of Wales. Ryan intercedes and foils the attack but in doing so becomes the target of the terrorist organization. Now he and his family are in danger. This is one of the most personal stories Clancy has told about Ryan and, in my opinion, one of his best.
Ivan the Terrible’s mysterious Library of Gold has been spoken of but never found. Now, one of the library’s gold-gilded books turns up, The Book of Spies, and has everyone looking for the library. The CIA enlists rare-book curator Eva Blake to help them. When an attempt is made on her life, Eva turns to her friend, Judd Ryder, ex-CIA intelligence officer. Together they embark on a mission that covers most of Europe. Lynds has written more books with the team of Blake and Ryder at the helm but this is the one that started it all.
In this first of the Camel Club books, we meet the major players—four misfits with checkered pasts who form a watchdog organization of sorts, investigating conspiracy theories. When they witness the murder of a Secret Service agent, things begin to ramp up. Baldacci is a master of writing page-turning conspiracy thrillers. There’s a bunch of other stuff that goes on in this story that complicates the plot and adds to the twists and turns.
An American soldier goes rogue and joins a terrorist network. His mission is to destroy the United States. Here, Britton introduces us to Ryan Kealey, ex-Special Forces, ex-CIA. Kealey knows this rogue soldier as a man who once served under him in the Army. Now, he must hunt him down and kill him. In Kealey, Britton has created a character who is flawed but you just have to root for him. A gripping story for anyone who loves a good political thriller.
Three bullet holes to the face: the mark of the world’s most dangerous and elusive assassin. This is Silva’s introduction of CIA operative Michael Osbourne. Osbourne is sent to investigate an airplane crash and discovers the handiwork of the assassin. He has a personal grievance with this particular assassin, and the hunt soon becomes very personal. Osbourne will risk everything to put himself in the assassin’s sights. Silva’s books are popular for a reason. Tight twists and turns make for a harrowing journey.
Mike Dellosso is the author of several novels of suspense, an adjunct professor of creative writing and popular conference teacher, a husband, and a father. Born in Baltimore, Mike now resides in southern Pennsylvania with his wife and four daughters. His latest novel is Kill Devil. Visit him at mikedellossobooks.com.