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Think of spy novels from the Cold War and you'll invariably think of Ian Flemming's flamboyant James Bond or John LeCarré's discreet George Smiley. There was another fantastic writer from this era: Helen McInnes.
Born in Scotland, McInnes was an academic leading up to World War II. During the war, her scholarly husband, George Highet, was an agent with MI6 and provided her a close-hand look at real espionage.
Above Suspicion" is McInnes's semi-autobiographical debut. Oxford professor Richard Myles and his wife, Frances, take one last holiday across the continent before Europe is engulfed by war. Their travels are merely a cover as they must locate the whereabouts of a missing spy. Along the way these amateurs snoops must evade an ambitious Nazi intent on breaking up the spy ring. The story telling is standard and dated, and there were too many friendly coincidences for my tastes, but it's easy to see why McInnes would go on to become the great dame of spy thrillers. Her writing is relaxed and casual and her characters are easy to love. They are not as outrageous as Bond nor as cold as Smiley.
"Pray For A Brave Heart" is set in 1953. Bill Denning is about to leave the army and return to the U.S. when a former colleague asks him to do one last mission: recover one of the largest diamond hauls ever before it leaves Europe. Set in the Swiss Alps, this hunt for Nazi loot quickly turns into a classic story of espionage in which you can trust no one.
Both titles have been re-released by Titan Books.