Help me find a good book for my father.
June 15, 2013 8:01 AM   Subscribe

I just learned that my dad already has the 2 spy/crime novels I was planning to get him for Father's Day. Can you offer me some alternative suggestions?

My dad really likes historical-type spy books--I often see him reading Alan Furst. (I originally planned to get him Alan Furst's new book and Chris Pavone's The Expats for Father's Day.) He also likes some more classic detective and thrillerish books. He is always telling me to read Rex Stout, and he's enjoyed Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker. He will probably not appreciate something extremely dense and literary since he has a tough work schedule and doesn't have a lot of free time to read. Do you have any suggestions for me, particularly more recent novels I might not have heard of?

Thank you from a last-minute flake!
posted by mlle valentine to Shopping (33 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Just read The City and the City on a Mefi recommendation - it was great. If he likes spy / noir novels I think he would enjoy it.
posted by rossination at 8:03 AM on June 15, 2013

I like Rex Stout and love Robert B Parker. I also like Jo Nesbo [the Harry Hole series] and Dennis Lehane [Kenzie and Gennaro series].
posted by the twistinside at 8:12 AM on June 15, 2013

Saints of New York was one of the better detective stories I read recently (it' gets pretty dark though).
posted by pyro979 at 8:30 AM on June 15, 2013

My father, who also likes historical spy books, has liked Ken Follett's stuff, was incredibly taken by Anna Quindlen's Every Last One -- he's asked for both authors specifically, which is rare. Dennis Lehane he probably knows about. I'd look at Edgar Award nominees, too. Lyndsey Faye's The Gods of Gotham is a fun mystery, though not too spy-heavy.
posted by jeather at 8:31 AM on June 15, 2013

posted by BibiRose at 8:40 AM on June 15, 2013

I'm a big fan of John le Carré, who worked in British Intelligence during the Cold War. Le Carré claims his four best novels are:
- The Spy Who Came In from the Cold
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
- The Tailor of Panama
- The Constant Gardener

I'll also suggest Frederick Forsyth, although the only novel of his that I have read is "Day of the Jackal", which I like a lot. I recommend his book of short stories, called "No Comebacks", if your father has only limited amounts of time.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing he's read Len Deighton but if not-great spy novels!
Frank Tallis has a good historical detective series with a psychologist as a main character.
posted by Snazzy67 at 8:50 AM on June 15, 2013

Three authors worth considering: Elmore Leonard, Thomas Perry, Charles McCarry.
posted by CincyBlues at 8:55 AM on June 15, 2013

Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson would meet your needs, plus it would have 1893 World Fair Chicago history as a nice added bonus. Not too dense, either. Just well written and awesome. Read it before Leo makes a movie out of it and spoils the fun.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:10 AM on June 15, 2013

Not recent, but lots of folks missed out. Unique perspectives on both world wars.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:13 AM on June 15, 2013

Anything by Ken Follett.
posted by myselfasme at 9:29 AM on June 15, 2013

You're getting a lot of classic suggestions, which have the disadvantage that he may already have them. I'm seconding Jo Nesbo as some recent, great stuff, and I also recommend John Hart. Start with the first one, King of Lies.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:33 AM on June 15, 2013

John Francome is the only author of racing mysteries besides Dick Francis that I know of. It seems moderately difficult to find his books in the US, though. They're not bad, though I think Dick Francis is superior. (It's worth noting that I'm not particularly interested in racing. Your dad may be, in which case they're a better idea. John Dunning also wrote a book that had some racing in it.)

If my grandad and I have generally similar reading patterns to your dad (which is possible, given how few people you run across who read Dick Francis), police procedurals are worth a go. I was a big fan of Inspector Morse, though I've not read one in a long time (Colin Dexter finished writing them ten plus years ago at this point). Peter Robinson and Ian Rankin both write police procedurals he may be interested in. (As does PD James, but for some reason I've never read her stuff, though my grandad has.) My grandad notably hates Robert Ludlum, though his books might be an obvious suggestion.

The Regeneration Trilogy mentioned above is ridiculously good, but it's probably not what you're looking for.

It's a stretch, but he might like The Daughter of Time if he's not read it. (I never know whether this is a book people are likely to have read.)
posted by hoyland at 9:43 AM on June 15, 2013

The Cadfael books are amusing and I adore Chesterton's Father Brown.
posted by BenPens at 9:46 AM on June 15, 2013

The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Espionage by Erskine Childers is considered one of the early classics of the spy-novel genre, written in 1903. It is also considered a very prescient book in view of later events of the 20th century.

It does have 5 maps of various detail levels of the German Frisian Islands (north coast of Germany) and the Baltic Coast as well, but the book is primarily set among the Frisians. I found it helpful to copy the maps out of the the book and have them available for reference while I read, but only because the nautical aspect was what brought me to the book. Marking the maps would be a good substitute. The book is also in the public domain, so while you can buy a published edition, you can also put one together yourself for not too much trouble.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:48 AM on June 15, 2013

Ditto the Le Carre and Len Deighton if he's not read them.
Adam Hall's "Quiller" series
Charles McCarry's Paul Christopher series

non spy, but historical detective: Phillip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series.

If I had to pick one to recommend, it'd be that last one. The "lightest" one of the lot is probably the Quiller.
posted by juv3nal at 9:51 AM on June 15, 2013

Oh forgot. Another contemporary spy novelist that's pretty ok is Robert Littel.
posted by juv3nal at 9:55 AM on June 15, 2013

Don Winslow recently wrote a sort-of-prequel to Trevanian's 70's classic "Shibumi". It's pretty good.
posted by dersins at 10:09 AM on June 15, 2013

Anything by David Ignatius. "The Company" by Robert Littell is fantastic.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:13 AM on June 15, 2013

Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. Inspector Espinosa is different.
posted by adamvasco at 10:14 AM on June 15, 2013

Don Winslow's other novels are good, too. And seconding Thomas Perry. James Lee Burke is excellent, if a bit florid. And check out Joseph Kanon for spy-ishness.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 10:17 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

seconding the recommendation for Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series. I think the two best are probably The One from the Other and A Quiet Flame.
posted by scody at 10:24 AM on June 15, 2013

Thirding Don Winslow's The Dawn Patrol and The Gentlemen's Hour.

If he somehow hasn't read Lee Child's Reacher books, or John D MacDonald's Travis McGee books, those are very like Robert B Parker (except better written and a little less formulaic).
posted by nicwolff at 10:31 AM on June 15, 2013

Two Western writers he might like are Peter Bowen (his Gabriel Du Pre series is set in Montana; the first one is "Coyote Wind"), and Craig Johnson (his Longmire series, set in Wyoming, is the basis for the Longmire TV series --- the first book is "The Cold Dish").

Also try Lawrence Block's 'The Burglar Who...' series; the protagonist is a burglar (duh) in NYC who keeps getting mixed up in other crimes while minding his own burglarious business.
posted by easily confused at 11:04 AM on June 15, 2013

Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. Amazingly delightful and engrossing. It has something for everyone. Well, I think it has everything for everyone. He'll thank you on bended knee. And because Stephenson doesn't generally fall into this genre, there's every likelihood he hasn't read this one.
posted by janey47 at 11:48 AM on June 15, 2013

oooo, if he likes historical mysteries, he might enjoy this as much as I did: Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, which happens to be on sale For Cheap.

The very cool thing is that this is a true strory, not a novel -- the original, real, English country house murder mystery. So there's the underlying mystery of "who is the killer?" along with the historical detective work of tracing and interpreting evidence that's 100 years old. It has a lot of fascinating perspective on the history of attitudes toward criminal investigation. I absolutely loved it.
posted by Corvid at 11:52 AM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Newer suggestions he might not have read:

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer; Trinity Six by Charles Cumming; Daniel Silva's novels.

Also, does he like history? The last book of the WWII liberation trilogy by Rick Atkinson just came out- they are all excellent works.

An Army at Dawn

The Day of Battle

The Guns at Last Light
posted by lyra4 at 11:54 AM on June 15, 2013

I really enjoyed Mark Mills' The Information Officer; it should appeal to fans of Furst, I think.
posted by thelonius at 12:46 PM on June 15, 2013

I like the kinds of books your dad likes and I love Martin Cruz Smith, especially the Arkady Renko books.
posted by thinkpiece at 12:47 PM on June 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

ken follett
robert ludlum
the eight by katherine neville
the boy in the suitcase by lene kaaberbol. while not historical it is a real page turner as even the title makes you go "what?!"
posted by wildflower at 2:42 PM on June 15, 2013

The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva and Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett are similar in many ways (WWII, England, Nazi spies, lots of true historical facts) but I never felt like I was reading the same story. I recommend them both although neither book could be considered new.
posted by kbar1 at 12:35 AM on June 16, 2013

Kind of a no-brainer, but Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. Sure he's seen the movies, but has he read the books? They're dated to the postwar mid-century, whereas the movies updated everything for the age in which they were released. Early cold war, no computer tech. Moonraker was a ballistic missile, not a shuttle program. Casino Royale's Le Chiffre was gambling money belonging to the an East German Labor Union, not purveyors of conflict diamonds, which he exploited to pay SMERSH, not "Quantum." The Bond series was re-published in trade paperback not too long ago.

Check that he's read through Furst's back catalog-- his Night Soldiers series has about 10 books in it now, all gems. I'd pay real money if I could somehow read "The Polish Officer" for the first time, again.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:00 PM on June 17, 2013

So many great answers I can't choose just one!
I showed my dad this thread and he is going to pick out some books and I will get them for him. Will try to update the thread with what he chooses.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:43 PM on July 15, 2013

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