Damascus Station by David McCloskey (Swift £9.99, 432 pp)

Damascus Station

by David McCloskey (Swift £9.99, 432 pp)

This superb debut from a former CIA Analyst is one of the most striking spy novels since Mick Herron’s magnificent Slow Horses in 2010.

Not only does it ooze authenticity, with the details of what it takes to recruit someone to spy against their country, it also includes a love story to pierce the heart.

This is not the dark, anguished world of Greene or Le Carre, this is a brilliant evocation of the perils espionage poses to a young man who is not afraid to show emotion, set against the civil war in Syria.

CIA officer Sam Joseph is sent to Paris in the hope of recruiting Mariam Haddad, an official in the Palace of President Assad, with access to many secrets. When the two meet, they fall in love, which brings the treacherous world of espionage into the highest relief. Who is to be trusted and by whom?

Painstakingly detailed, yet told with exceptional flair, it identifies McCloskey as an exciting new voice in espionage. Relish every page, the story demands it.

CIA officer Sam Joseph is sent to Paris in the hope of recruiting Mariam Haddad, an official in the Palace of President Assad, with access to many secrets

The Hiking Trip by Jenny Blackhurs t (Canelo £8.99, 304pp)

The Hiking Trip

by Jenny Blackhurst (Canelo £8.99, 304pp)

On the surface this is the straightforward story of a young woman who takes herself off for the trip of a lifetime along the West Coast Trail in Canada, but it quickly becomes far more subtle and multi-layered.

In 1999, 19-year-old Maisie leaves her demanding mother and sets off to find freedom. She meets the charismatic Sera and Ric and so begins Maisie’s adventure — which proves to have a darker side.

Flash forward 20 years to 2019 when Maisie is now called Laura and is married to Rob with two small children.

The remains of a body are found on the remote Canadian trail, and the police suspect it belongs to Sera, who has been missing for two decades. What happened? And what did Maisie/Laura have to do with it? A horrifying secret that she has been endeavouring to conceal for years is about to emerge, but what exactly is it?

Fast-moving and laced with suspense, it buzzes from first page to last.

The Drift by C.J. Tudor (Michael Joseph £14.99, 400pp)

The Drift

by C.J. Tudor (Michael Joseph £14.99, 400pp)

Tudor’s spine-tingling debut, The Chalk Man, erupted onto the scene in 2018 and was rapidly followed by four other fine thrillers.

This, her sixth book, was conceived before the Covid pandemic. It envisages a world gripped by a deadly disease, but that is only revealed during the three incidents that launch the story. A coach full of students on their way to a shadowy institution up a mountain, known as The Retreat, overturns in a blizzard and a number are killed.

The survivors are trapped on the coach, and it emerges that one of them may be infected.

At the same time, a cable car ascending the mountain is suddenly stranded when the power fails, and one of the passengers is found dead.

Meanwhile, in the chalet that houses The Retreat, gripped by the same blizzard, a group of apparent friends also contains a killer.

Sublimely executed, this is a dystopian thriller of real class.

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