Review: Thomas Kell #1-3

Well guys, I’m trying something new with this one. I was recently offered the opportunity from Minotaur Books to review all 3 of Charles Cumming’s Thomas Kell series;  I felt instead of doing 3 separate reviews I would do a mini review of each book and close it out with my thoughts on the series as a whole. Feel free to scroll around to find the parts you are interested in or read all three if you’re new to this fantastic spy thriller series! I can’t thank Martin enough for sending these!


Book Title: A Foreign Country
Author: Charles Cumming
Series: Thomas Kell #1
Genres: Spy Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Fiction

On the vacation of a lifetime in Egypt, an elderly French couple are brutally murdered. Days later, a meticulously-planned kidnapping takes place on the streets of Paris. Amelia Levene, the first female Chief of MI6, has disappeared without a trace, six weeks before she is due to take over as the most influential spy in Europe. It is the gravest crisis MI6 has faced in more than a decade. Desperate not only to find her, but to keep her disappearance a secret, Britain’s top intelligence agents turn to one of their own: disgraced MI6 officer Thomas Kell. Tossed out of the Service only months before, Kell is given one final chance to redeem himself – find Amelia Levene at any cost. The trail leads Kell to France and Tunisia, where he uncovers a shocking secret and a conspiracy that could have unimaginable repercussions for Britain and its allies. Only Kell stands in the way of personal and political catastrophe.

As the first in the series, A Foreign Country does a near perfect job of introducing us to Thomas Kell and setting up a continuous plot line. I had heard so many fantastic things about this series that I knew I had to jump in and catch up. While this installment does focus on giving us some background and setting up the storyline for future books, it isn’t dull or boring. This novel doesn’t rely on the constant action of a James Bond thriller, yet is just as compulsive of a page turner. The characters were set nicely, the action scenes were of breakneck speed, and the descriptions of setting were flawless. All in all, this was a fantastic intro to the series that had me hooked enough to start book #2 immediately upon finishing this one.

Book Title: A Colder War
Author: Charles Cumming
Series: Thomas Kell #2
Genres: Spy Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

A top-ranking Iranian military official is blown up while trying to defect to the West. An investigative journalist is arrested and imprisoned for writing an article critical of the Turkish government. An Iranian nuclear scientist is assassinated on the streets of Tehran. These three incidents, seemingly unrelated, have one crucial link. Each of the three had been recently recruited by Western intelligence, before being removed or killed.

Then Paul Wallinger, MI6’s most senior agent in Turkey, dies in a puzzling plane crash. Fearing the worst, MI6 bypasses the usual protocol and brings disgraced agent Tom Kell in from the cold to investigate. Kell soon discovers what Wallinger had already begun to suspect—that there’s a mole somewhere in the Western intelligence, a traitor who has been systematically sabotaging scores of joint intelligence operations in the Middle East.

Out of the three I’ve read, I think A Colder War was my absolute favorite! While all the covers are beautiful, this one just takes your breath away with the way that light hits the cobblestone road. Once again we find Thomas Kell caught in the middle of the action of three seemingly unrelated events that, of course, are connected in secret ways. I really enjoyed how there is a side of romantic relationship for our main character which gave it a truly Bond feel! The author does a fantastic job of writing Kell’s character as rugged yet dreamy; I think this tender aspect is what makes this series appeal to women as well as men. Once again, excitement and intrigue follow our lead throughout as we ride along on this fast paced journey.

Book Title: A Divided Spy
Author: Charles Cumming
Series: Thomas Kell #3
Genres: Spy Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Fiction

Thomas Kell thought he was done with spying. A former MI6 officer, he devoted his life to the Service, but it has left him with nothing but grief and a simmering anger against the Kremlin. Then Kell is offered an unexpected chance at revenge. Taking the law into his own hands, he embarks on a mission to recruit a top Russian spy who is in possession of a terrifying secret. As Kell tracks his man from Moscow to London, he finds himself in a high stakes game of cat and mouse in which it becomes increasingly difficult to know who is playing whom.

As the mission reaches boiling point, the threat of a catastrophic terrorist attack looms over Britain. Kell is faced with an impossible choice. Loyalty to MI6 – or to his own conscience?

If I were to continue the James Bond comparisons, this book would be the equivalent of Skyfall. Emotional, sensitive, and more character/feelings driven, this is the book that, as I read more reviews, is praised more highly from the female audience than the male side. While there is still quite a bit of action, it’s not the main focus and it really pleased me to see the depth the author went to in displaying the suspense driven, feeling oriented plot line in this installment. This truly is a versatile series which is what has driven me to become so attached to it. I was pleased with how this one ended and think it will resonate well with a majority of readers who are following the series. While there are certain nuances a reader of the series can appreciate by following in order, these books can also be read as standalones.

Overall, I felt the series as a whole is very strong. As a reader you always have your favorite books along the way, but I’ve equally enjoyed the ride along all three novels. I think the covers are stunning in both the US and UK editions and portray the feel of the books well. These are the type of books to appeal to a wide variety of readers; I’m not particularly fond of spy thrillers, but  Charles Cumming’s books are great for those who shy away from the genre due to its mainstream feel. Those who follow the genre closely and are tied intricately with it will enjoy these as well; I’ve read multiple reviews of readers who knocked other series out of their top spot to place this one in that slot of honor. If you are on the fence because you don’t want to start yet ANOTHER new series, fear not; I’ve been there too. These books read so quickly that you’ll blaze through them in no time. Highly recommend to lovers of spy thrillers, but also lovers of suspense and intrigue in general.

8 thoughts on “Review: Thomas Kell #1-3”

  1. I love how you’ve structured these mini reviews! I’ve had my eye on this author as I’m really interested in spy type thrillers but haven’t been able to get into some of the mainstream ones by authors like Daniel Sylva. That’s awesome you got a chance to review all 3 together

    Liked by 1 person

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