Books that Inspired Kris Calvin’s All That Fall

Author Kris Calvin discusses the mysteries, crime fiction, and thrillers she read during the pandemic that helped inspire her newest thriller, All That Fall.

During this strange, pandemic-induced homebound year, my reading habits have changed. I still love mysteries, crime fiction, and thrillers, especially those that incorporate a political motive or occur against a political background. But I have a new appreciation for authors able to transport me to distant places across the globe, through their vibrant prose and detailed imagery. Here are five of my “recently-read” favorite international political thrillers. I’d love to hear from you which you like (or don’t like) and any you think I might have missed. 

Three Hours in Paris (France)

By Cara Black 

A young Parisian in a brightly-colored, floral dress pedals her bicycle down the Rue Cardinal, her wicker basket filled with baguettes fresh from the local boulangerie. But in Three Hours In Paris, nothing is what it seems, and no one is who they say are. The woman in the floral dress is actually Kate Rees, an American sharpshooter, who has come to occupied Paris in 1940 to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Many thrillers entertain through heart-pounding action alone. While Three Hours in Paris has plenty of that, it is enriched by the beauty and charm of the City of Lights, and, most of all, by the unforeseen twists in the story that just keep on coming. (2020)

The Last Agent (Russia)

By Robert Dugoni

Having just finished reading The Last Agent, I feel chilled to my bones, as though I’d traveled in winter to Moscow and found myself barely able to hold on as I pushed the snowmobile on which I rode to faster and faster speeds, my only hope for escape and survival!  In this action-packed, exciting story, former CIA agent, Charles Jenkins, goes to Russia to verify whether a woman he believes died to save his life has, in fact, survived, only to be imprisoned and tortured, perhaps soon to be executed. If Jenkins finds her, he plans to do whatever it takes to secure her freedom from an infamous, high-security, Russian prison. With crisp and powerful language and imagery, in The Last Agent Robert Dugoni offers up a superb, modern-day, international political espionage thriller. (2020)

Perfect Hatred (Brazil)

By Leighton Gage 

A suicide bombing at the American Consulate in Brazil and the assassination of a Brazilian political candidate are followed by a terrorist bombing of a Jewish Temple in Argentina. Chief Inspector Matio Silva and his diverse team of federal agents must determine whether the three are related, while at the same time dealing with a threat to Silva’s life. Perfect Hatred has action to spare, but what makes Gage’s work stand out is the dialogue, which dominates almost every page. Though the political framework could not be more serious (including scenes of violent terrorism), banter and humor provide a welcome balance to the story. Perfect Hatred is energetic and sharp-witted, sure to please those who like character-driven, police procedural thrillers. (2013)

The Quiet American (Vietnam)

By Graham Greene

In 1950s Saigon, an older British journalist and a young American soldier each want to possess the same woman.  Central to the story is the question of which one the strikingly beautiful, 20-year-old Phuong will choose. The plot is propelled forward by undercurrents of clandestine political violence, a murder investigation, and a key character who is not what they seem. The Quiet American is hypnotic, and Green’s writing, spare and direct, took my breath away.  (1955)

Hour of The Red God (Kenya)

By Richard Crompton 

Maasai legend warns of the “Hour of the Red God,” when people turn against each other, and anger is the only human instinct.  In Richard Compton’s rich and detailed political thriller, some worry that hour has arrived. A Maasai prostitute is stabbed and mutilated in a Nairobi park. The only witness to her midnight death is a blind man who swears hundreds of soldiers were engaged in drills at the scene. The country is bracing itself for violence in two days time, when a hotly-contested presidential election will occur.  At the core of the story is the question of who is “asipani,” or “trustworthy.” The themes are painful and the plot challenging, both in its complexity and in how it stretches, at times, plausibility, but Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, and its diverse people come to life through the author’s powerful prose and use of folklore. Hour of the Red God is an entirely engrossing read. (2013)

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