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A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming

A Foreign Country (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Charles Cumming

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3013237,236 (3.75)18
Title:A Foreign Country
Authors:Charles Cumming
Info:St. Martin's Press (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:fiction, thriller, espionage

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A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming (2012)


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One of the pleasures of Cumming's fiction is that his characters often show a certain literary flair. The subtle characterization is also a hallmark of Cumming's work. You get to know the characters intimately.

"A Foreign Country" is one of those very rare books that from its first page demonstrates that it’s something out of the ordinary, one of those tales that the reader hopes will never end.

At the same time it's always an added bonus when the main character, Thomas Kell, reads the poetry of Seamus Heaney and the prose of E.M. Forster, and even the book's villain has the good taste to
prefer the crime fiction of Michael Dibdin... I know, it's an acquired taste, but for me, this kind of reference-dropping, make my day when reading a book.

Definitely on my 2012 favourites' list. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
The principal protagonist is Thomas Kell, a recently ‘retired’ officer in MI6 who is currently awaiting subpoena as a witness in a prosecution arising from alleged incidents of ‘extraordinary rendition’. Out of the blue he receives a call from a former colleague asking for help tracing the woman who has been chosen by the powers that be as the next head of MI6, who appears to have disappeared while on a holiday visit to the south of France.

Having nothing better to do, Kell agrees to help, flying down to Nice to try to pick up her trail. Cumming gives a fascinating insight into low level spycraft, all of which will certainly lead me to change my own habits when staying in a hotel!

The novel has constant twists and turns, but never loses its basic plausibility. It did, however, keep taking me by surprise, and I found it an immensely enjoyable read. There is a more serious element to the novel though, with Kell’s departure from the Service allowing for detailed consideration of the various sides of the argument around extraordinary rendition.

Cumming isn’t John le Carre – he may have the detailed knowledge of the field but he doesn’t have le Carre’s masterful prose (but then who else has?) ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jul 4, 2016 |
If you like spy novels, you'll really enjoy this one. It has everything: great writing, a tricky story, good tradecraft, and a satisfying ending. The plot moved along at a good clip and the characters were developed well enough- I particularly liked the fact that the resolution of the story wasn't dependent upon a Rambo-type figure, just great thinking and operational excellence. I am bothered only by one detail toward the end that contributed to the conclusion, but I'll continue to think on that point.

In addition to the list of 'successors to LeCarre' anointed by reviewers over the years (ie. Seymour, Littell, etc.), I think Cumming may also need to be named. He seems to have the background, ideas, and facility with the language that puts him among the best.

I loved this book, almost as much as I love 'discovering' writers in my favorite genre who happen to have a back catalog I can explore! On to more from this author for me.... ( )
  gmmartz | Jun 21, 2016 |
I, too, am a fan of Charles Cumming, and I, too, think that fell short of his best work. Lots of good stuff about trade craft for us espionage devotees; but, for me, it falls down through a gaping hole in its own plot, which I won't describe for non-spoiling reasons.
I can only hope that he digs himself out of that hole in time for books 2 and 3 of this projected trilogy. ( )
  johnwbeha | Nov 18, 2015 |
When the woman who is about to take over as head of SIS, formerly known as MI6, goes missing from her vacation in France, Tom Kell, a former agent who recently left the service under a cloud of allegations, is unofficially assigned to find her quietly, without anyone learning that she is gone.
Well constructed, with a lot of humorous turns of phrase. “Nice was an antiseptic playground for rich foreigners who didn't have the imagination to spend their money properly.” Not that this is a funny book, but it at times has an attitude that I appreciate. I would have liked more of this. ( )
  BillPilgrim | Jul 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
“A Foreign Country” is silkily written, and more cool than hot. Cumming, whose earlier novels include the enthusiastically received “Trinity Six,” describes exotic locales with detail and affection, and is relatively sparing in his use of bang-bang, at least until a big, gory ­Hollywood-ready finish.
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When Amelie Levene, who in six weeks is due to take over as the first female Chief of MI6, disappears without a trace while in the south of France, it is the gravest crisis MI6 has faced in more than a decade. Britain's top intelligence agents turn to one of their own: disgraced former MI6 officer Thomas Kell. The trail leads Kell to France and Tunisia, where he uncovers a shocking secret and a conspiracy that could have unimaginable repercussions for Britain and its allies.… (more)

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