North by Northwest, the Novel
August 17, 2017 8:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm in search of stories of ordinary people caught up in espionage, conspiracies, and the like, and somehow managing to pull through despite the forces arrayed against them. I've read most of Robert Ludlum's oeuvre, Six Days of the Condor, among others.

I love a lot of Ludlum's work because "good," for a certain definition of it, manages to triumph most of the time. I'd really like stories of people who manage to do well, perhaps outsmarting the "professionals," based on instinct or just luck. A romantic subplot is a bonus. Anyone who mentions Dan Brown will be summarily dealt with. ;) Despite the title, I'm not really up for films at the moment.
posted by Alensin to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The Man Who Was Thursday contains no trace of Dan Brown whatsoever.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 8:58 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan (Project Gutenberg link) is a fairly classic example.
posted by Azara at 12:57 AM on August 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Christopher Brookmyre has a few novels along these lines, but especially 'All Fun and Games until Somebody Loses an Eye', which is about a middle aged family woman who is pushed into undercover shenanigans after her son gets into trouble with international criminals.
posted by biffa at 1:47 AM on August 18, 2017

Possibly Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
posted by glasseyes at 2:32 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (PG link) is another classic of this genre.
posted by genesta at 2:39 AM on August 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Thity-Nine Steps. It's a pretty enjoyable read.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:17 AM on August 18, 2017

Michael Innes' From London Far is a very nice WW II professor-gets-mixed-up with Nazi art thieves, with all the ensuing bloodhounds, guano-mining operations, and insane American billionaire art savants you'd expect.
posted by LizardBreath at 4:20 AM on August 18, 2017

Burning Bright by Nick Petrie
posted by chocolatetiara at 5:03 AM on August 18, 2017

A Coffin For Dimitrios by Eric Ambler. Also other novels by Ambler.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:42 AM on August 18, 2017

The Pelican Brief, by John Grisham.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:53 AM on August 18, 2017

What about some Eric Ambler, like maybe A Passage of Arms?

Whoops, on preview, seconding Ambler!
posted by saladin at 6:19 AM on August 18, 2017

Thanks, all :) I've already read Buchan and Childers, but the rest are new to me. Anything involving Nazis seems appropriate at the moment, so may very well decide to check out the mentioned Michael Innes.
posted by Alensin at 9:46 AM on August 18, 2017

The Laundry Files by mefi's own cstross is both about an ordinary person caught up in a vast conspiracy, and a loving pastiche of many of the authors mentioned above.

It's also a frikkin' riot
posted by lalochezia at 10:10 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

These are a little older, written largely in the 1970s, and with perhaps a different audience in mind: the Mrs. Pollifax series written by Dorothy Gilman. They are about a little old lady who gets caught up with the CIA and involved in many foreign intrigues. I really loved them, they are well written and humorous, but genuinely suspenseful.
posted by primate moon at 11:27 AM on August 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I just read Six Days of the Condor and was surprised to find out there were a couple other books written with the Condor character.
From Wikipedia: a second novel by James Grady titled Shadow of the Condor, released in 1978. Two recent sequels, Last Days of the Condor and Next Day of the Condor came out in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
posted by drinkmaildave at 12:54 PM on August 18, 2017

Shining Through!
posted by Violet Hour at 3:33 PM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Man in the Brown Suit? It has an ordinary person who gets caught up in espionage and romance, so maybe.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:08 PM on August 18, 2017

Almost any of the novels by Alan Furst have situations like this. Nazis, too. Since he has reoccurring characters, I've been compiling a cross-reference of his books, for a while now.
posted by Rash at 9:38 PM on August 18, 2017

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