Historical Spy Thrillers: The 20 Best Books Like The Alice Network

The name’s thriller, espionage thriller. If you liked the Alice Network or the spy thriller genre in general, here is a list of 20 mystery-packed, double-crossing deceptive magic that is the espionage genre. 

Espionage Thrillers: The 20 Best Books Like The Alice Network

The spy thriller genre has been beloved by many because of its combination of crime fiction, mystery, historical fiction, and of course, spies. Who hasn’t wanted to be a spy as a kid? These books are like a lifelong fantasy for many readers but set in the real world. A deadly combination. 

In no particular order, check out below some of the most loved and awarded books and authors that have been the pillar for the genre, as well as some lesser-known books that are still worth checking out.

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel)

This book brought us one of Clancy’s most famous characters, Jack Ryan. This book was Tom Clancy’s first and it was a major success, for good reason. 

Published in 1984, it’s about the captain of the top-of-the-line soviet submarine Red October, Marko Ramius as he plans to complete a rogue mission. Jack Ryan, an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, must prove his theory that Marko Ramius plans to defect to the United States.

Famously enjoyed by President Ronald Regan, this is a great one to read for any spy thriller reader and you can pick one up right here.

For Love and Country by Candace Waters

For Love and Country: A Novel

First published on March 24, 2020. This powerful, romantic, and historical book is set during World War 2. It follows Lottie Palmer who leaves her fiance on her wedding day because of an extreme desire to serve her country. 

Follow Lottie as she fights to become the best airplane mechanic in her division as she goes from Detroit to New York, and then to Pearl Harbor. This book of love and tragedy in the midst of war. Grab a copy here and enjoy.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre

From Russia, With Love (The James Bond Classic Library)

Often said to be John le Carre’s masterpiece, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold follows British agent Alec Leamas as he pretends to defect to East Germany during the cold war.

This book goes deep into the western espionage methods and how they are morally inconsistent with western ethics and values, the book often portrays Leamas using questionable methods and actions to achieve his goals. 

The book was recognized by Time Magazine in its list of 100 Best English Language Novels published since 1923. It is a must-read in the genre. You can check it out here.

Moonraker by Ian Fleming

Moonraker: A James Bond Novel (James Bond, 3)

Moonraker, written in 1955, was Ian Fleming’s third novel that brought the world the most famous British Service Agent ever, James Bond. It may not be his most famous movie adaptation of 007 but it was one of the best books. 

It follows the mysterious Industrialist, Hugo Drax, and James Bond as Bond goes undercover on Drax’s staff while a prototype missile is being built, supposedly to defend the British from attack. 

This was Fleming’s only novel set entirely in Britain and is packed with espionage, thrill, and excitement. Get it here.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) (The Sympathizer, 1)

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen was published in 2015 and is set in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It became a bestseller and was a 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner. 

It is a spy novel with layers of historical and war fiction mixed in. It’s a great read for anyone looking for espionage during the War in Vietnam. Grab your copy of this great novel here.

The Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek 

The Verdun Affair: A Novel

The book description reads, “Across a continent still reeling from World War I, a “ravishingly beautiful” (Paula McClain) story about a love affair between two Americans and the lie that changes everything.” 

This book is quite the page-turner and would make an outstanding next read for all spy novel fans. You can get this spy mystery book here.

The Secrets We Kept by Laura Prescott

The Secrets We Kept: A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick

This outstanding book released in 2020 uses secretaries for a CIA mission that is based on true events. These secretaries were sent to Russia to charm powerful men in order for them to get the book Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR and to the west to be published. 

Here’s where to get it.

From Russia, with Love by Ian Fleming

From Russia With Love (Marathi Edition)

Ian Fleming definitely deserves at least two spots on this list, as the genre owes much of its success to Ian, and for obvious reasons. 

Released in 1957, the 5th book in the bond series has Bond fighting against SMERSH, a Soviet counterintelligence agency. This book is said to be the poster boy for what the spy genre became. Grab your copy. 

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

Bourne Identity

You’ve most likely seen the movie, but the book is great too. Follow along as Jason Bourne tries to remember who he is, and what he’s done, which was anything but ordinary. 

This one is a page-turner and you can buy it right here

The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

The Secret Agent

The Secret Agent was published in 1907, making it the oldest book on this list. But don’t let that fool you, like most works by Conrad, it’s a timeless classic. 

The book follows Adolf Verloc in 1886 London where he fakes a life of a shop owner but is really a bonafide secret agent for an unknown country. If you haven’t read this, go do that now and you can find it right here, it won’t disappoint.

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

The Day of the Jackal

Published in 1971, this race-against-the-clock action-packed spy thriller follows the Jackal, a deadly assassin who has been hired to take out the French President after a previous failed assassination attempt. 

This great book inspired by real events can be bought here, you won’t be able to put it down.

The Innocent by Ian McEwan

The Innocent: A Novel

This one is not only a great spy thriller, but it has many psychological thriller aspects as well. Set in Berlin during the Cold War, it introduces Leonard Marnham, a British post office engineer who helps America intercept Soviet phone lines.

But then he meets a woman named Maria Eckdorf and things get even more intense. This one will have you on the edge of your seat. You can go here to get a copy.

Restless by William Boyd


An original spy thriller that was written about a mother who was once a Russian spy during world war 2.

She asks the help of her own daughter to complete one final assignment by tracking down her original recruiter. You won’t forget you read this one, get it here.

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

An Officer and a Spy: A Spy Thriller

This book, which is based on real events, was published in 2013. It’s about the story of Alfred Dreyfus and the French officer Georges Picquart. Picquart feels Dreyfus may not be the man the French army has accused him of being, a spy. 

This is Robert Harris’s first go at espionage fiction and it knocked it out of the park. Pick up a paperback, hardback, or kindle copy here.

The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva 

The Kill Artist

The Kill Artist was published in 2000 and is an excellent read for people who love sinking their teeth in the world of spies and deception. Daniel Silva is a spy novel author you need to read.

It is Silva’s first book that introduced Gabriel Allon, where he’s left behind the wild world of espionage for a simple life of restoring art. But typically of retired spies, he’s being brought back for one last job. Grab your copy here and dive in.

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

The Quiet American (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Graham Greene is one of the few spy novelists that also had literary success. This is not the crazy thrill ride most readers of the spy thriller genre expect but a more toned-down espionage novel.

 Don’t let that discourage you, it is a great read with a mystery mission in Vietnam as well as a love story. It’s a short read but worth your time. Check it out.

Agent Running in the Field by John le Carre

Agent Running in the Field: A Novel

Couldn’t have this list without two books from one of the kings of spy thrillers, John le Carre. Published in 2019, Agent Running in the Field introduces a British intelligence officer named Nat and his friend, Ed. 

This one is a special one for spy novel fans because this was John le Carre’s last book before he died in 2020. It was also special because it shed light on modern spy methods. Get a copy of it and enjoy. 

Kill Shot by Vince Flynn

Kill Shot: An American Assassin Thriller (2) (A Mitch Rapp Novel)

Vince Flynn’s one of the greats in the genre and his first novel in the Rapp series gets the credit because of the movie adaptation but Kill Shot is well worth a read. 

This book has a wild ride of a mission for Rapp in Paris for an assignment for assassination but he begins to wonder if the entire thing was a setup, and he has a feeling it’s by someone very close to him. You can get a copy here.

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

Red Sparrow: A Novel (1) (The Red Sparrow Trilogy)

In post-soviet union Russia we meet a female spy, Dominika Egorova as she becomes a Sparrow, which is a spy trained to seduce enemy agents. Dominika has a great ability to read people and there are many twists and turns in this great book.

This is a fun and romantic spy book that should be on every spy book list and it is well worth reading. Here’s where to get it.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Transcription: A Novel

This book takes you back to 1940 when the main character, Juliet, is having memories of her time as a spy when she was just 18 years old. Juliet is recruited by m15 to transcribe recordings of fascist sympathizers but things take a twist, surprise surprise. 

Juliet thought she left the past behind, but it has come back to her in a major way. Get your copy of this espionage thriller over here

There you have it. A well-rounded list of 20 spy thrillers to read if you’re a fan of The Alice Network or just the spy thriller genre in general, most of the authors on this list have many other spectacular espionage books to read as well, but this list should work great to get you started. 


What are the best spy books for teens?

Warcross by Marie LU
Scorpia by Anthony Horowitz
Cherub: The Recruit by Robert Muchamore
A Spy in the House by Y.S Lee

What are the best non-fiction spy books?

Night of the Assassins by Howard Blum
Code Name by Larry Loftis
Agent Sonya by Ben MacIntyre

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Chase Copeland
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