A Quick Snapshot

Spy Thrillers usually take place on an international stage, and feature spies actively involved in espionage who are often trained assassins as well. The plots are complex and well researched, and usually revolve around current political and world issues or events.

Typically these thrillers are riddled with intrigue, betrayal, deception, expert cat-and-mouse games, and double agents, and often contain an element of romance. Usually they involve some globe-hopping, and feature a large cast of characters that in addition to spies may include U.S. political figures, foreign dignitaries and diplomats, terrorists, etc. Plots often revolve around weapons of mass destruction, terrorist plots, assassinations, or the theft of state secrets.

Frederick Forsyth’s unputdownable THE DAY OF THE JACKAL was a trailblazer in this sub-genre. And John Le Carré’s THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD and his other novels are not to be missed. Other standouts include spy thrillers by Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, and Daniel Silva.

THE DAY OF THE JACKAL by Frederick Forsyth

The Jackal. A tall, blond Englishman with opaque gray eyes. A unimaginably skilled killer at the top of his profession. A man who’s not on the radar of any secret service anywhere around the globe. An assassin with a contract to kill one of the most powerful men in the world, and the most heavily guarded.

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 real name.

And as the minutes count down to the final act, it looks like there’s no power on earth that can catch the Jackal and prevent a heinous assassination that will rock the world.


In the shadow of the newly constructed Berlin Wall, Berlin Station head Alec Leamas watches as his last agent is shot dead by East German sentries. For Leamas, the Cold War is now over.

Staring down the barrel of retirement or worse yet a desk job, when Control offers him a tantalizing opportunity for revenge, he quickly accepts. And a complex plot is set in motion to trap Mundt, deputy director of the East German Intelligence Service, with Leamas – playing the role of a dissolute, embittered former agent – as the bait.

In the background is George Smiley, ready to make the game play out just as Control wants.

OUR MAN IN HAVANA by Graham Greene

James Wormold, a financially challenged vacuum cleaner salesman in Havana, considers it a dream come true when British Intelligence offers him a lucrative job as an undercover agent.

To keep the moolah rolling in, Wormold has to at least pretend he’s providing something of value. Soon he’s apparently deciphering incomprehensible codes, passing along sketches of secret weapons that look suspiciously like vacuum parts, and claiming to recruit fellow operatives from his country club – all to create the perfect illusion of intrigue.

When MI6 dispatches someone to oversee Wormold’s efforts, he fears his fabricated world will fall apart and he’ll be exposed as a fraud. But instead Her Majesty’s “man in Havana” finds his playacting has somehow turned into reality. A real assassin is targeting him, and it’s going to take more than a fib – maybe actual spying – to get out of Cuba alive.

RED SPARROW by Jason Matthews

Book #1 of the Red Sparrow trilogy. Made into a major motion picture.

In contemporary Russia, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova has been drafted to become a “Sparrow” – a spy trained in the art of seduction to elicit information from unsuspecting targets. And she’s been assigned to work against Nathaniel Nash, a CIA officer who handles the agency’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence.

Operating in a highly charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and danger, Egorova and Nash find themselves drawn to each other by a forbidden carnal attraction. Which leads to unexpected consequences.

Seeking revenge on her soulless masters, Egorova begins to lead a life as a double agent, recruited by the CIA to complete several assignments for them, then return to Moscow and report back from the inside on Putin’s intelligence service.

But it looks like Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and convoluted spy game can only end one way. And it’s not a happy ending…


One enemy spy knows the secret to the Allies’ greatest deception and holds the key to Nazi victory. A brilliant aristocrat and ruthless assassin, code name “The Needle.”

Only one person stands in his way. A lonely Englishwoman on an isolated island, who’s beginning to fall in love with the killer who so mysteriously entered her world.

All will come to a chilling conclusion in this unforgettable masterwork of suspense, intrigue, and the dangerous machinations of the human heart.

THE ENGLISH SPY by Daniel Silva

Part of the Gabriel Allon series.

When a beloved and iconic member of the British Royal Family is killed by a bomb explosion on her holiday yacht, British intelligence turns to legendary spy and assassin Gabriel Allon to track down the killer.

Allon’s target is Eamon Quinn, a master bomb maker and dispenser of death who sells his services to the highest bidder. And Christopher Keller, a British commando turned professional assassin who’s all too familiar with Quinn’s murderous handiwork, aids in the pursuit.

But as it turns out, although Allon doesn’t realize it, he’s stalking an old enemy whose fondest wish is to see him dead…

THE IPCRESS FILE by Len Deighton

The mysterious disappearance of a number of scientists in Berlin at first appears to be a straightforward case, but soon turns into a wild ride through the dark labyrinth of a deadly conspiracy.

In order to solve this dangerous, convoluted case, the working-class hero will have to call on strengths and skills he never knew he possessed, and an unshakable resolve.


The first book in the Jason Bourne series.

His bullet-riddled body was pulled out of the Mediterranean Sea. His face has been altered by plastic surgery, and there’s a piece of microfilm surgically implanted in his hip. His memory is nothing but a Black Hole. And even his name is a mystery.

Now, marked for death, he’s doing his best to survive as he races through a bizarre world of murderous conspirators – led by Carlos, the most dangerous assassin on earth.

Who is Jason Bourne? The answer just may kill him.



Part of the Jack Ryan series.

Two men possess crucial information on Russia’s Star Wars missile defense system.

One of them is Cardinal, America’s top agent in the Kremlin – and he’s about to be terminated by the KGB.

The other is the American who can save Cardinal and lead the world to the brink of peace… or war.

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming

Book #1 of the James Bond series.

In this pulse-pounding thriller, suave, debonair James Bond, British Secret Service Agent 007, is sent to a French casino in Royale-les-Eaux. His mission: to bankrupt a ruthless Russian SMERSH agent who’s been having a run of bad luck at the baccarat table.

One of the agency’s deadliest operatives, the man known only as “Le Chiffre” has been a prime target of the British Secret Service for years. And they believe that If Bond can wipe out his bankroll, he’ll be “retired” by his paymasters in Moscow.

Bond does his best at the gaming tables – but what if the cards simply won’t cooperate?

Soon Bond finds himself fighting off brutal torturers, dodging would-be assassins, and risking everything to save the life of his beautiful female counterpart, Vesper Lynd.


In 1939 Richard and Frances Myles are preparing for their annual European summer vacation when they are visited at their Oxford college by old friend Peter Galt, who has a seemingly simple job for them.

But in the heightened atmosphere of pre-war Europe, nobody is above suspicion. And in fact the seemingly innocent husband and wife are being carefully monitored by shadowy figures…

“Hide and seek with death – in the shadow of terror… The hallmarks of a MacInnes novel of suspense are as individual and as clearly stamped as a Hitchcock thriller.” -The New York Times

A bestseller and major motion picture.



See other types of thrillers

Please feel free to share your comments or questions below. I’m always happy to hear from you!

Thrillingly yours,

Kristy Dark


Hey, check out my suspenseful thriller novel…

    • Thanks, Michael! You have excellent taste… Ludlum, Grisham, and Ian Fleming are true masters!

      Recently I created a directory of thriller writers, for those who would like to connect with their favorite authors: https://topthrillernovels.com/connect-with-your-favorite-thriller-writers/ I love your suggestion of a Xreference of author names with book titles, and will plan to add that in the future.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I’ll be adding lots more reviews and articles in the future, so please stop by again. And thanks again for your great suggestion!

      Thrillingly yours,

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