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The Charm School

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4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  21,116 ratings  ·  877 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Carol
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

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Chipper
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
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Checkman
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 Schhol was one of my favorites.I read it in 1989 when I was twenty-one. I remember it being a intelligent and observant novel with
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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
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Cautious Reader
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
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Kate Woods Walker
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
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Ioana
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
...more
Veeral
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
Andrea
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
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
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
Brian
* 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
Geoffrey Sim
This is the first time I've read a spy novel and I am surprised that I enjoyed it this much. Nelson Demille is very talented in depicting vivid scenes that allow the audience to easily translate words into visual images or maybe I can relate easier because I am prone to watch drab TV shows like 24.

It is also hard to find authors that build characters to have opinions about other people, culture and cultural comparisons, albeit prejudice to a certain extent. This novel is about the Cold War (som
...more
Gerald Sinstadt
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
Elizabeth
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
GymGuy
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
...more
Marnie
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
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!
Lindsey
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
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Chris Schaeffer
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
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Jim
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
Brie
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
...more
Laura
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
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
Diane Filotei
The Charm School was the first Nelson DeMille book that I read many years ago. It was well written, exciting, and unforgettable. DeMille's books are responsible for many sleepless nights because it's impossible to put them down!
Cyn
I normally wouldn't read a Cold War spy novel but so many readers I respect recommended this book, I decided to give it a go and I have to say it didn't disappoint. I grew up during the Cold War and I remember when the USSR was the Big Bad but this book really brought it all back, just how cold it was. There were a few moments that the whole thing seemed totally over the top but that didn't really infringe on my enjoyment of the story. The concept was compelling and I picked this book up at ever ...more
Sistermagpie
The premise of this book--student accidentally discovers secret training school in Russia where they create Directorate S agents to go undercover in America--is relevant to my interests. Too bad it was a total disappointment.

I was expecting a spy thriller, but these characters spend most of their time trash talking each other and kicking each other in the balls whenever possible. Even when they get secret information it seems like their first response is to shove it in the nearest Russian's fac
...more
Suzette Betts
Very interesting concept. Might get us to be a little too paranoid....
Alcornell
Spies, diplomats, military & state department politics, Cold War hatred between paranoid America and even more paranoid Russia, it's all here. The setting is the border of Napoleon's famous Pyrrhic victory at Borodino, and if we didn't all know how that ended, DeMille does tell us. That provides the leitmotiv of the story, brought 100+ years forward to re-appear in Cold War terms. The thrills and chills are here, as is a sadly stereotypically dependent, vapid woman who could have been writte ...more
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suitable for pre-teens? 4 22 Jun 17, 2014 11:02PM  
The Charm School - What's with the high ratings? 44 249 Feb 14, 2014 07:54PM  
Mansfield Public ...: The Charm School Review by Julia Joseph 1 4 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
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