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A Foreign Country [Hardcover]

Charles Cumming
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)

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Book Description

29 Mar 2012

Winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2012 for Best Thriller of the Year. Selected by Sunday Times Books of the Year and The Guardian as Best Thriller of the Year. Perfect for fans of John le Carré, a gripping and suspenseful spy thriller from ‘the master of the modern spy thriller’ (Mail on Sunday)

Six weeks before she is due to take up her position as the first female head of MI6, Amelia Levene vanishes without a trace.

Her disappearance is the gravest crisis MI6 has faced for more than a decade. There has been no ransom demand, no word from foreign intelligence services, no hint of a defection.

Should news of Levene’s disappearance leak out, the consequences would be catastrophic. But for disgraced MI6 officer Thomas Kell, the crisis offers a chance for redemption. He is approached by his former employers and ordered to find her.

Kell’s search takes him first to France, then North Africa, where he discovers an extraordinary secret hidden deep in Levene’s past. it is a secret that could fatally compromise Britain’s national security - and for which Kell could pay with his life.

This is another first-rate intelligent thriller which will cement Cumming's reputation as one of the most engaging British novelists writing today.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (29 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007337868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007337866
  • Product Dimensions: 24.2 x 16.4 x 4.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (213 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 264,261 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, will be published in February 2011.

Product Description

Review

‘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 Carré’ Robert Harris

About the Author

Charles Cumming was born in Scotland in 1971. He was educated at Eton and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1994 with First Class Honours in English Literature. In the summer of 1995, Charles was approached for recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). A year later he moved to Montreal where he began working on a novel based on his experiences with MI6. A Spy By Nature was published in the UK in 2001. This is his sixth novel.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
81 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Foreign Country -Excellent spy thriller 9 April 2012
By Champollion VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Spy fiction has an impressive list of luminaries, John Buchan, Erskine Childers, Len Deighton, John Le Carre and so on to which I feel you can add, Charles Cumming.

Tom Kell is an MI6 agent who has left the department under a cloud and finding life tedious, outside the service, is enticed back to working for the department.

The task he is given is no ordinary one. The new head of MI6 Amelia Levene has gone missing and he must investigate and find her. There are lots of twists and surprises along the way and nothing is quite as it seems.

"A Foreign Country" is a supremely structured story, impressively written, with sharp dialogue and an authentic, gripping plot-line, which I found to be a page turner. It is an engaging tale with credible characters and one which will hold your attention from the first page to the last.

Will this be the last story involving British agent Tom Kell? There is scope for more and it would be well worth another run. This book may not have the complex, analytical depth of Le Carre, but it is an entertaining read.

If spy thrillers are to your taste, then look no further, this is top drawer. Recommended.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sexy plot, good dialogue - great spy thriller 27 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Charles Cunning is one of my favourite British spy fiction writers of today. His novels are beginning to surpass some of my all time British spy fiction favourites like Desmond Cory's Dead Man Falling which share many similarities such as a sexy plot, good dialogue, and a certain English charm about the main characters. Cunning's novels are perhaps more serious in their nature, and they are all the better for it. I strongly recommend his novels, and A Foreign Country is among his best.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 4 April 2013
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. I thought the storytelling was crisp and the plot moved along at a snappy pace making it a page turner. A few years ago I read Cumming's first book - A Spy by Nature - and didn't really rated it, this book is different and well worth reading. OK there are some plot points you feel that wouldn't happen but are other spy books that different? Thoroughly recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick easy read 2 May 2013
Format:Paperback
Saw this book in Tesco for £1.95 and read the back cover, recommendations and the first page and thought it would be a good 24 hour read. It proved to be just that. Ingredients good especially in the first half. Mixed and cooked well. Characters all right. Up to date on the spy industry issues. After the middle twist in the story it became more run of the mill. Enjoyed the read but will not read again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as spy fiction gets 30 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Charles Cumming has written at least five spy stories. I know that because this was the first of his that I had read and, as soon as I had finished it, I ordered the other four. The standard of writing is breathtakingly good. The plotting is faultless. The characters are brought completely to life. Discovering Charles Cumming was like reading John Le Carre or Len Deighton again for the first time after all these years. If you like spy fiction, you'll love this. Even if you're not a spy fiction fan, but do like well-plotted, well-written novels, this is for you. If you've never read anything by Charles Cumming, I envy you the pleasure you have in store.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good pace but not Le Carre 14 April 2013
By Dougie
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bout this because it has been likened to Le Carre. True, it does involve espionage. Nothing like the slow-burning intrigue that Le Carre creates. Saying that, I really enjoyed it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent spy thriller 28 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover
Charles Cumming is a writer whose spy novels (apart from the rather disappointing "Typhoon") rank with the very best in the genre. If you like the novels of Charles McCarry, David Ignatius, Alan Judd, Alan Furst or David Downing you will certainly enjoy this latest one by Mr Cumming.

One minor niggle, though. Would someone please tell Mr Cumming and his proof-reader that people who have made their home in a foreign country are expatriates, not ex-patriots. They may indeed no longer be patriotic, and so be ex-patriots, but this is not the meaning he was trying to convey when writing of the "ex-patriot community" and referring frequently to "ex-pats".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece 5 Jun 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I had been waiting for another Charles Cumming book for months; having read all his previous works and really enjoyed them, particularly Typhoon. This is another great story that reveals itself to the reader with perfect pace.

The story has a contemporary backdrop in modern Europe with the Arab Spring as a co-protagonist. It deals with sympathy, clarity and understanding the very real issues facing modern intelligence officers who aim to do their jobs under the spotlight of sensationalist press, media-weakened politicians against an enemy that is prepared to exploit these societal weaknesses.

In common with Le Carre Cumming has a knack of introducing characters that have sufficient depth to carry the story. His characters are well-rounded, not extreme in any sense, who respond to events exactly in the way well-rounded characters do. It would be easier and somewhat lazy to create characters with personality flaws rather than real people facing difficult circumstances.

Well done again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Vg
Published 2 days ago by royker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant novel from this master of the 'spy genre'.
Published 3 days ago by rafferty
4.0 out of 5 stars not sure
I still give it Four star despite my doubts. The pacing of the story could have been more dimensional as it is after all a spy thriller. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Peter Manousakos
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent plot
Good plot well developed , characters lifelike , timeline appropriate. Forms basis for follow on book or series. We'll done
Published 1 month ago by janet nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine display of Cummings' honest serving men: who, what, when, why,...
This is the third of Cumming's books that I have read. Touting him as the new Le Carre seemed to be over-egging previously but he has definitely grown into Le Carre's shoes with... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Judi Moore
4.0 out of 5 stars exciting but a bit far fetched
Good, easy read.
Not sure the head of MI6 could really do as the main character here but what it lacks in believability it makes up in excitement
Published 1 month ago by Mark Knowles
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Another book I got right into - kept me interest though out the story.
Published 1 month ago by Tom
4.0 out of 5 stars A Well Planned Ending !
I enjoyed the book, but at times thought that I would pick another book to read as it was a little slow and detailed (in the beginning); and, I had no idea of what direction the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bruce Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars an enjoyable thriller
A woman, Amelia Levene, is about to be named head of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA. Some of her colleagues aren't happy, and apparently there are elements of the French... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Stanley Crowe
4.0 out of 5 stars an excellent page turner
A compelling story with oodles of tradecraft and international travel. an excellent page turner.
Published 1 month ago by Mr JH Pinder
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