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VINE VOICEon 9 April 2012
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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on 27 May 2013
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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on 18 October 2014
The opening chapter is to nicely written that my hopes were bounding. Sadly, I was a little disappointed. I have always found Cummings a good read, but never breathtaking; never utterly compelling. A Foreign Country was a decent thriller, but felt contrived – the background to the lead protagonist, Thomas Kell, never really feels fully realised and the extra matter in the back of the book speaks to an author who didn't want to write a story about the events he details (well known to anyone who has any knowledge of Human Rights law and/or the UK intelligence apparatus), but needed to weave it into his character somehow in order to make a point. The plot, the reason Amelia Levine (the new head of SIS) has disappeared, is a curious one. A little too much like Robert Harris's far superior Ghost for my tastes. The final sequence is far too bland for a book which one the Ian Fleming CWA Steel Dagger for Best Thriller. Kell never really feels in danger – never really feels under threat. A Spy By Nature conversely features a character way out of his depth and so much is held back, Cummings keeps us glued to the edge of our seats. Here, Kell seems to saunter through everything thrown at him, totally comfortable except for the uncomfortable past which seems to be a tacked-on contrivance. Cummings has written better.
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on 4 April 2013
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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on 13 January 2014
Charles Cumming's best to date. The main characters from his previous book-'Typhoon' are all present and the
story develops naturally from their earlier relationships. one has to admire the skill with which Cumming fleshes out his characters
and their habitats in great detail whilst still maintaining a good pace in this topical, realistic and complex story. SUPERB.
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on 2 May 2013
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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on 28 November 2012
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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on 14 November 2014
Anti-hero Thomas Kell's childless marriage was on the rocks even before he was dismissed from MI-6. Eight months later, and much to his surprise, he is rehired as a consultant. To do what? To find out why the MI-6 next C, not yet confirmed, a woman, has gone off the radar while in France. He acts fast and competently throughout within a rather wacky plot based on speculative outcomes. This is his sixth novel and my first acquaintance with his work. It has been reviewed sparingly on and, but warmly on with an average rating of 4 stars. Are the rave reviews from UK newspapers on the back cover justified and is Charles Cumming (CC) the new Len Deighton or John Le Carré? It is well-paced with 80 chapters in <400 pages. The action is situated in the UK, France, Tunisia and (briefly) Egypt, much of it after the 2012 start of the Arab Spring. Its locations are well described and it excels in matters of contemporary spy tradecraft.
But today its plot seems farfetched. Surely, there is rivalry, perhaps even mutual loathing between the intelligence services of France and the UK. Surely, over decades the UK has made some minor inroads into France's traditional sphere of influence in Africa, e.g. in Rwanda. But CC took a huge gamble on the outcome of the Arab Spring, which he may regret because his triumphant ending now looks ridiculous. However, CC has protected himself from worse by casting the evil characters as rogue elements from one service and the hero as an outcast from the other.
CC creates lots of thrills and tension but cannot (yet) characterize someone with a single damning remark, sentence or paragraph. Also, why such a vague book title? Then a rarity, a mistake in the opening sentence: surely, the call to dawn prayers in Tunis starts much earlier than 7:00 am? Also, writing about expats is ok, but calling them ex-patriots (p. 8) is unfortunate. Hope CC will in future focus on more acute and dangerous enemies than France.
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VINE VOICEon 13 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
After the demise of the Ottoman Empire, who had joined the losing side during the First World War, both France and Britain carved out slices of Middle East and North Africa for themselves. So begins a long history of control and influence in the region by these nations. The Latest manifestations show the almost central role these countries still play, by their involvement to varying degrees in the so called `Arab Spring'. It is apt then Mr Cumming latest novel seems very up to date with current events being played out today.
This is a sophisticated spy thriller which is cleverly constructed with attention to detail. There is an interesting and intriguing back story of disgraced intelligence officer - Thomas Kell. Mr Kell for those who have read Mr Cumming's other books is our main protagonist here, and from the beginning, he does not disappoint, and we soon became immersed in his thrilling quest to find the missing female chief of MI6 Ms Amelia Levene. Our Ms Levene has disappeared while on holiday in France before taking up her new post. For if she has been compromised then the consequences for MI6 are too terrible to imagine. Please note Kell is no James Bond but a flawed character with his troubles and demons, `to boot' his methods of work are outside what may be considered the norm, and that makes this novel all the more realistic in my eyes. From the opening sequence in Tunisia, through to the thrilling final conclusion, the story evolves at a furious pace, with enough twists, turns and red herrings in the plot to gratify the most demanding of bibliophiles. The combination of good characterisation, a plausible narrative and a nail biting finish, make this a book a must on your reading list.
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on 1 April 2012
I have read all of Charles Cummings' novels and he is a fine writer. His latest - A Foreign Country - is another really top notch read. The comparison to John Le Carre is, I think, wrong. Cummings' books develop into the fast paced thriller and he is one of the best writers who do this. But he does not have the literary style, depth and sophistication of Le Carre - what another reviewer complained of as 'over indulgent and boring'. My only complaint about this book is that the ending was too predictable. But the 'fundamental idea' of the book was brilliant - but it would have needed John Le Carre to have really exposed the complete ruthlessness that must lie at the heart of any country's Secret Service.
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