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The Charm School

4.24  ·  Rating Details  ·  24,929 Ratings  ·  1,004 Reviews
Something very strange -- and sinister -- is going on in the Russian woods at Borodino. In a place called Mrs. Ivanova's Charm School, young KGB agents are being taught by American POW's how to be model citizens of the USA. The Soviet goal -- to infiltrate the United States undetected. When an unsuspecting American tourist stumbles upon this secret, he sets in motion a CIA ...more
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Published April 1st 2001 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1988)
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Mar 24, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When a young American tourist (Gregory Fisher) picks up a U.S. POW on the run while touring Russia, (in his Pontiac Grand Am) the excitement begins and doesn't stop.

This intense and fast-moving spy thriller brings the evil of the Soviet Union to life during the Cold War with well-defined characters, loads of KGB treachery and a horror of a secret deep in the woods.

Perhaps a little wordy at times, and I did not care much for the female protagonist, but the brave Colonel Hollis and his sarcastic w

Approximately twenty to twenty-five years (lets say from about 1986-1994) ago I was a big fan of Nelson DeMille.I would purchase his newest novels when they appeared on the shelves and I searched for his older novels (pre-1986) in my favorite used bookstores. Eventually I changed and DeMille's books changed and I drifted away,but the fond memories remained.

The Charm School was one of my favorites.I read it in 1989 when I was twenty-one. I remember it being an intelligent and observant novel wit
Apr 27, 2013 Chipper rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A spy-mystery from Demille, when Demille was a younger writer still developing his sarcastic wit. Even then, he could make a seemingly improbable story believable and highly entertaining. For anyone over 40 who remembers the tail-end of the long and mistrust-filled Cold War, this book will resonate.

As usual, DeMille weaves an imaginative story involving characters you love, spies in the late 1980's, the American Embassy in Moscow, a bit of Russian history, Vietnam MIAs, a training school for Sov
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is one doozy of a spy novel! Especially for those of us who grew up during the Cold War and remember how mistrustful we were of the Russkies.

I read this in print many years ago and just recently listened to the audio version. I've read several of this author's novels in the John Corey series, but this stand alone trumps them all. I believe it was his first novel (??), and I think it's his best.

Sam Hollis and Lisa Rhodes work at the American embassy in Moscow. They stumble upon information
2.5 but deserves to be rounded down to 2 rather than up to 3; my first DeMille book and convinced me to NEVER read him again.

This is a harsh rating for a relatively well written book; for pulp, the use of language and research doesn't get much better than this. However, the author (and his self importance and conceit), the characters, the characterization of the USSR, the work's long winded-ness, and its portrayal of relationships annoyed me so much as to push my rating over the edge.

#1: It real
Cautious Reader
Aug 29, 2013 Cautious Reader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of those that you wish could be made into a good movie. Oh wait a second… have you see a new TV series The Americans? I bet the idea for The Americans came from The Charm School. You know… the idea of Russian spies infiltrating the US, pretending to be Americans? Scared already? By the way, The Americans is one clever TV show that is such a rarity in our modern TV world.

If you like spy novels, you might love The Charm School. I am not a big fan of anything spies related. Unless
Kate Woods Walker
Dec 28, 2010 Kate Woods Walker rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Turgid exposition that describes every plodding step our hero makes, hamhanded propaganda, one cardboard woman who would be right at home on Mickey Spillaine's lap, Soviet villains who display every Reagan-era leitmotif Americans were conditioned to despise (until we turned the tables in the Bush era and became the torturing, anti-due process monsters we once fought)--what's not to loathe about this book?

Author Nelson DeMille did manage to create a bit of mounting suspense, with some nifty wri
Welcome to Mrs. Ivanova's Charm School, a top secret "facility" where they teach Russian spies to pass themselves off as Americans to even a real American. Then off to the US of A with a fake identity (Non-Russian, of course) where they would live as American citizens and would pass on the state secrets to their homeland and gradually, would get a virtual hold on the entire country. Who would teach them? The MIAs (missing in action) from the Vietnam War who were captured and flown illegitimately ...more
Jan 16, 2013 Andrea rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I don't think I've given one star before but this book was such a disappointment I can't possibly do anything else. I've read and enjoyed a couple of other thrillers by this author, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and persisted with this stinker -- but my perseverance was not rewarded. I realize it was written in the late 1980s, but even so the evil Russians and the noble Americans (complete with flaws of course, since shucks, nobody's perfect)were caricatures from a comic book in the 195 ...more
Apr 16, 2016 Corey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read the most of the John Corey series which is also by Demille, and whilst reading The Charm School, you'd never know it was written by the same author. It's one of his older books, but it had me guessing and turning the pages until the very end. The Charm School takes place in Russia during the final days of the Soviet Union and the Cold War, where an American tourist stumbles upon a top-secret Russian installation known as Miss Ivanova's Charm School, where Russians and former Vietnam PO ...more
Arun Divakar
Espionage stories set during the premise of the cold war are probably the most alluring of all backdrops that thriller writers can think of. Two of the world's super powers while in all external appearances behaved like bosom buddies hid daggers beneath their smiles and behind closed rooms plotted how to outwit each other. While this was going on the world would have lived in perennial trepidation of an impending holocaust. But then in 1991, the USSR vanished and the soviet bloc suddenly ceased ...more
R.L. Anderson
Apr 14, 2013 R.L. Anderson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best Cold War thrillers ever! A real page turner that I couldn't put down. Also very educational, as it describes details of the lives of American diplomats working in a US embassy in a hostile (at the time) nation, the old Soviet Union. One little detail that sticks in my mind is the mention that US diplomats are some of the most patriotic Americans you could ever hope to meet--but yet they are just not "into" the popular culture. Hmmmmm.... That sounds strange, doesn't it? Well--the ...more
May 22, 2016 Saman rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
What an American wet dream!
0 stars for character development, 0 stars for realism, 0 stars for story-telling, 1 star for the idea of a Charm school which I did find interesting.
Jul 13, 2015 Emanuela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
L'ho letto in italiano anche se l'edizione italiana non esiste, non c'è nei book store. Misteri della rete.
E' un spy story del 1988, quindi scritto prima della caduta del muro. E infatti c'è tutta l'URSS del KGB, così come l'immaginava l'occidente.
Il mistero della scomparsa di un ragazzo americano scatena la ricerca di un'oasi "statunitense" vicino a Mosca, ma tutto si svolge con estrema discrezione per non compromettere i colloqui distensivi tra le due superpotenze.

Questo libro sembra archeolog
Nov 03, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
* One of the last Cold War novels of the Cold War period. Published in 1988, the book, with its POW/MIA theme--and its setting in a mighty USSR--is situated more comfortably in the decade of Rambo than in the political reality of the late eighties/early nineties. In '89, the Berlin Wall came down and in '91, the Soviet Union was officially dissolved. In this context, it's amusing, in a way, and quite impossible to take seriously. Fortunately, this is fiction and none of that really matters. Exce ...more
Gerald Sinstadt
Jul 13, 2011 Gerald Sinstadt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Nelson DeMille, a versatile author whose Long Island adventure yarns make good reading, is proud of The Charm School, pointing out in an introduction that it has been in print since 1988. The setting is the Soviet Union of that era. Colonel Sam Hollis, an attaché at the US Embassy in Moscow, is in fact a spy. Ill-advisedly - not to say improbably - his attraction for Lisa Rhodes, a member of the Information Staff, leads him to allow her to become his espionage side-kick. They investigate a myste ...more
Dec 02, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The unlikely premise of this thriller is so scary and diabolical that it draws you into the book like a magnet. What if there was a school in Russia that trained Russians how to be Americans? What if those "Americans" were mainstreamed into our society to "report back" to Russia? What if the instructors @ this supposed "Charm School" were POWs from the Vietnam War? This is a 536 page book that I could not put down. I loved the fact that the characters' behaviors were impossible to predict. Also, ...more
As excitimg as a Friday night trip to the landromat and watching your clothes dry. Rarely do I not finish a book. This has consistently good reviews, but I just couldn't get into it. I quit at 30%--275 pages. Even at that point he still hadn't gotten into the plot and was still introducing major characters. Readers have said that this is a page-turner from beginning to end. I just didn't see the page-turner part, unless you were turning them just to skip.

The premice seemed interesting enough...i
Mar 05, 2014 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After finishing the book, I've decided I liked it... It's another one of those "takes forever to get somewhere" kind of reads. Overall it's good but s l o w. There is a lot of superfluous text that made me skim through paragraphs (and pages) just to get to a pertinent part. It left me wishing it were condensed, moved faster and focused on the plot rather than adding so much needless information. I felt it was about 100 pages too long. The first 200 pages were painfully slow...but once the plot r ...more
Jan 16, 2010 Marnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a very engaging Cold War story set in Russia & shadowing the embassy lives of Sam Hollis, Lisa Rhodes, and Seth Alevy. An American tourist named Gregory Fisher alerts the embassy that he has come in contact with Major Jack Dodson, an escapee from Miss Ivanova's Charm School, the impressively successful espionage "school" where Russians are taught to become Americans and are used to gather intelligence in America. After Fisher turns up dead, Hollis is on a mission to find a ...more
Jennifer Lane
Apr 19, 2012 Jennifer Lane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago and found it so suspenseful that I couldn't put it down. The Charm School is a hidden "camp" in Russia where captured Americans are forced to teach KGB agents how to act American so as to blend in and spy in the U.S. Nelson DeMille is one of my favorite authors and he weaved a chilling action story taking place in the heart of the Cold War. I need to read this again!
Aug 23, 2011 Jonetta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of my most favorite books ever. It was my introduction to espionage and romantic suspense. A real thriller that should stand the test of time.
This isn't the kind of book that I usually like, but I have to admit that I enjoyed it. I spent years studying Russia, and the Soviet version of Russia has always fascinated me. Granted, this book was highly imagined - but sometimes these types of far-fetched scenarios can be fun to explore as a sort of vacation from reality.

There's a scene in the book where the two main characters are boarding a plane, waiting to fly out of Moscow to the safe haven of the West. I have to admit, I got incredibl
Chris Schaeffer
Jan 28, 2011 Chris Schaeffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Charm School by Nelson DeMille was an extremely long, detailed look into a fictional scenario in which the Russian KGB had a secret spy school for the past two decades. Despite the length of the book, over 700 pages in the paperback, I found the book to be engrossing from the beginning to the end. A flaw in many long books is the overwhelming number of characters, but DeMille doesn’t compound the complexity of this novel with too many characters. Instead he gives depth to a limited number of ...more
Paul Thompson
“Whenever you are unhappy, go to Russia. Anyone who has come to understand that country will find himself content to live anywhere else.” As the two countries patch their post-war relationship, a severe conflict in Nelson Demille’s The Charm School, threatens to destroy any trust built up between America and Russia. The life of a Russian common citizen is personally displayed and backed up by the constant stream of action filled plot.
The story begins with Greg Fisher, a student from America cu
Mar 02, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers, ebooks, fiction
This one was a re-read for me of a title that just had to be added to my ebook collection when the price was right. When it first came out many years ago, it quickly vaulted to the top of my favorites list in the thrillers category, and the passage of time (and a couple of minor edits by DeMille) has done nothing to lessen my love for this one. It's simply a great thriller. Excellent premise, excellent characters, excellent narrative, excellent pacing. The only downside is that it lacks the stan ...more
Feb 16, 2012 Brie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
I'm not sure how many years have gone by since I read this book but it has been quite a few. I initially picked it up after having read The General's Daughter, which I loved. But every other Nelson DeMille book I have read has fallen way short of my expectations.

As I remember, this story was still pretty good and rather interesting, it just took awhile to get anywhere. DeMille tends to take his time getting his plots going (I remember The General's Daughter being an exception to this). This book
Aug 11, 2015 MA rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This tale of Cold War intrigue came very highly recommended. I am surprised to be so disappointed. Perhaps I shouldn’t have listened to The Charm School audio while reading Red Notice, the current real-life thriller, as I much preferred that story to this one. The Charm School felt formulaic, the characters weren’t interesting, and the story just went on and on. There wasn’t enough happening to warrant almost 25 hours of audio.
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
3.5 Stars. I feel kind of like an a-hole for not giving this one a higher rating. I've been dragging it around all week and have been told by numerous people how much they just LOVED it and should read it again. For all intents and purposes this was a good book. I just thought it would make a better movie. The dialogue is fast-paced (DeMille has a fabulous dry wit) and the action scenes are very intense. There just seemed to be a lot of lag time (note to writers - books don't have to be 1,000,00 ...more
Laura Wood
If I were to judge this book on plot alone, I would give it five stars. Set in the 1980s, The Charm School tells the story of U.S. government agents who attempt to rescue American POWs from Vietnam who were secretly shipped to the Soviet Union. The POWs then became "instructors" of American English and culture to Soviet agents who wanted to pass as Americans. I can imagine this book would have been terrifying in 1988 when it was published. Anyway, it was an interesting snapshot of the times and ...more
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suitable for pre-teens? 4 23 Jun 17, 2014 11:02PM  
The Charm School - What's with the high ratings? 44 254 Feb 14, 2014 07:54PM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Charm School Review by Julia Joseph 1 6 Aug 05, 2013 09:48AM  
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Nelson Richard DeMille was born in New York City on August 23, 1943 to Huron and Antonia (Panzera) DeMille. He moved as a child with his family to Long Island. In high school, he played football and ran track.

DeMille spent three years at Hofstra University, then joined the Army and attended Officer Candidate School. He was a First Lieutenant in the United States Army (1966-69) and saw action as an
More about Nelson DeMille...

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