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Typhoon: A Novel

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  775 ratings  ·  89 reviews
Typhoon, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year a Top Ten Thriller of the Year (London Times), further confirms what all the critics around the world have been saying:Charles Cumming is a modern master of the classic espionage thriller, heir to le Carre and Deighton.

In 1997, a few months before the British government is scheduled to return Hong Kong to Chinese rule, Joe
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2008)
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Don Booty
I recently finished Typhoon. I discovered Charles Cumming when I picked up his novel A Spy by Nature at my local library last year. I had not heard of him, and when I began reading that novel, I experienced that unique reader's thrill that comes with coming across a writer with extraordinary talent in storytelling, whose style is exceptionally lucid and engaging, and to my mind, whose insights into the human condition are astonishingly insightful for one new to the genre. Typhoon turned out to b ...more
Dec 09, 2009 Jeffrey rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: spy fans
The novel starts in the future with Joe Lennox a british spy asking one of his agents, the narrator, to write a story about the Typhoon operation.

The novel then drops back to the past in Hong Kong, where it all began. Joe Lennox is a NOC, an undercover agent for MI6, one of the British equivalent's for the CIA. He is undercover in Hong KOng right before the turnover of that country from Great Britain to the Chinese. Isabella, a beautiful reporter is his lover, but is unaware of his real career.
As "Typhoon" nears its conclusion, a supersize poster of David Beckham gazes down on the scene of Shanghai's media-fuelled capitalism, "with Chinese characteristics". Charles Cumming is sometimes billed as John Le Carre's successor, though any posters in the latter’s Cold War thrillers no doubt toe the party line and are torn by the wind funnelled down streets next to the Berlin Wall. The dominant colour of the cityscapes in Le Carre is grey, whereas Hong Kong, Shanghai and even Beijing are full ...more
It took me about two-thirds of the book to really be intrigued by the story. Partly, that's because I'd recently read another novel (Palace Council) that's fairly heavy with historical detail. Partly, that's because Cumming's narrative style is just different from other espionage authors.

What I found somewhat tedious in the telling was the fact that so much of this novel is just matter-of-fact dialogue between the main characters. Very little actual activity or action until near the end. No doub
This story starts as the British are handing over Hong Kong to the Chinese. A strange Chinese (Wang) swims to Hong Kong and manages to bluff his way to interogation rather than repatriation. While the British agent is interogating him the Americans manage to spirit him away. And so starts the life of the strange Typhoon conspiracy. Told as a narrative of a novelist it follows the life of Joe Lennox into Hong Kong and back to the UK and then into China itself as a SIS operative always working und ...more
In my opinion, Charles Cumming is the natural successor to John le Carre. And as wonderful as le Carre's books are, if you are either too young to remember, or lack awareness of, WWII or the Cold War, reading him has a rather untethering sensation.
Cumming's works take place in the latter part of the 20th and early 21st centuries and so if you have been paying attention at all the backdrops are familiar.
Exactly the case of Typhoon, which begins with the transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and
Christopher Culp
A great read. But I am biased. The book is set primarily in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and, so, knowing both of those cities well, I am biased. Especially in Hong Kong, I remembered many of the locations in the book from when I lived there, and Cumming captured the atmosphere in both cities very nicely. Even apart from by bias, the characters are interesting and you care about them, and the plot is intricate, unpredictable, and frighteningly plausible. One need not know HK or Shanghai to enjoy this ...more
Tony Mac
This remains Cumming's most ambitious book, longer and more complex than most of his novels, trying to be something of a human saga as well as a spy thriller. Its very much a book of two halves, the first one set in 1997 in the twilight of British sovereignty over Hong Kong and the second half mostly set in Shangai eight years later, involving the repercussions of what happened earlier.

Part one is very much an establishing act, even though it takes up half the book. It is always readable though
Ian Brydon
Joe Lennox seems to be the perfect spy. Having graduated from Oxford with a first class degree in Mandarin in the mid 1990s he is, almost as a matter of course, recruited into MI6. Equally predictably, he finds himself posted to Hong Kong in the run up to the handover of the colony back to Chinese rule in 1997. All in all, his career seems to be developing entirely as he and MI6 might have planned.

Shortly before the handover an aging Chinese man swims across the straits to land in Hong Kong. He
Inspire me
a book with as many intriguing issues as you want to read: Spy,China, HK handover, Xijiang indenpendance movement instigated by CIA, intermingled with Pakistan intelligence. Life in modern shanghai,old bund, nightspot, French concession.... there's also a triangle love story, a young and flawed character. moral questions are raised and conflicts between MI6/CIA showed.
Of the two parties of the book, I like the first one the most, it's more intensive and character building more real.
I came across this book when browsing for something to read on a holiday. I am a big Le Carre fan but not come across Charles Cumming before. The setting for the opening also got my attention as, just like the main character, I moved to Hong Kong a few years before the handover. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and do not agree with some of the other reviewers who criticize the way characters are developed. I thought that was very good. My only (mild) complaint is that with books of this type, ...more
Charles Cumming is touted as the 'new' Lecarre, an odd description since we still have Lecarre but publicists are publicists. This novel is set in China, largely post 9-11 and leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games and captures some of the essence of 'global' attitudes. A fast paced account of a too good to be true British agent and an oh so believable American one. As far as spy stories go, this one works.
An excellent spy novel with my hometown Shanghai as the backdrop. I just love Charles Cumming's writing, cool and elegant, and like Le Carre's books, no unrealistic happy endings. It also gave people a better understanding of the Uighur situation in China, a complicated subject matter that didn't grab much attention in the media. Overall a very well researched and enjoyable read.
So nice to return to a reliable author after experiencing two disappointing new books by other writers that received favorable reviews but were not to my liking. Of special interest to me, having visited Hong Kong, was the account of the reversion to China. Cumming consistently tells a good story and I always come away with a history lesson.
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Fully engaging spy thriller pairing a British spy and a journalist in a timely story about China's treatment of the Uighur population in western China. The book has a pager-turner cinematic quality that kept me flying through the book nonstop.
Mark Davis
Entertaining read, once you get by the typically one-dimensional European view of Americans.
Chris Stanley
Clever plot lots of twists good pace. Not my usual genre but I really enjoyed it.
i love espionage and this is one of the very best i've ever read.
A really good spy novel - well written & intelligent.
I had never read Cumming before but had heard reference to him as the new John Lecarre' and since Lecarre' is one of my favorites I picked this up to read. I wasn't disappointed. Cumming's style is similar to Lecarre' in his intelligent story telling with an insider's view to how CIA and MI-6 operate. This book reminded me a little of LeCarre's "The Honorable Schoolboy" which was also about MI-6 agents in Hong Kong.
The story begins in Hong Kong in the mid-90's just before it's turnover to the PR
Matt Crumpton
I wish I could give this book 3 1/2 stars because I liked it, but I didn't love it. The story is very well written, and it was a real page turner. Charles Cumming has been compared to John LeCarre which I feel is unfair. Charles Cumming is a much better writer than LeCarre ever will be. I thought it was a nice character study of spies in China, and I thought the characters themselves were well developed. The story was good. This a very different spy novel compared to others I have read. It had l ...more
This is the weakest of the Charles Cumming books I've read. The plot is a bit all over the place and while the idea to build a worldwide terror conspiracy on the sufferings of the Uighur people of western China is intriguing, Cumming's terrorists seem to have ambivalent relationship with the CIA that blows up for reasons that are simplistic at best. Read Cumming's newer works. They're much better.
Florence Primrose
In 1997 in Hong Kong Joe Lennox, a young British Foreign Service officer, interviews a Chinese but suddenly Joe is out. We jump forward to 2004 when there are uprisings in western China.

Who is responsible for these? On one hand the insurgents are unhappy, but who is funding them? What part does the U.S. government play?
I really enjoyed this book. It was a page-turner with a sometimes outrageous plot but you could smell and feel the cities of Hong Kong just before the Handover and Shanghai rising through the pages. Admittedly there is some rhetoric that feels a little trite but once you get past that, an excellent book to lose yourself in for a few days.
Typhoon is a fast-paced spy thriller set in Hong Kong at the time of its handover from Britain to China and in Shanghai during the lead up to Beijing Olympics. There is interesting background on minority groups in China and the conflict between British intelligence and the CIA, but the conspiracy theories are a bit far fetched.
Mary Jordan Samuel
I was highly doubtful when I read about this book but I was immediately enthralled with the characters and their relationship to each other within the first couple chapters (note - short chapters are always a good sign!). The backdrop of China and Hong Kong provides an exotic locale for the story that serves as its own character. It was a history lesson as well -- but told to where someone like me, who doesn't follow current events very well, much les current events of ten years ago, can follow ...more
More modern spy thrills from Cumming, set this time primarily in Hong Kong and China around and after the time of the turn-over of Hong Kong back to the Chinese government. Gotta love Cumming, once again he has it in for the American CIA.
The first half of the book sets up the action in the second. That's all well and good, but that set-up is largely exposition. Cumming could have told a more compelling story had he did more showing instead of telling.
David Hull
Excellent - my 2nd Charles Cumming novel, and an equally, if not even better read than the first. For one thing, 'Typhoon's' protagonist, Joe Lennox, is a whole lot more likable a character than 'A Spy By Nature's' narcissistic Alec Milius. This was a fast-paced, absorbing novel, set in its initial years around the historic return to Chinese rule of Hong Kong in 1997. It features all the international intrigue of a first-class spy classic, with updated images of 'real-life' James Bonds. I can't ...more
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Charles Cumming is British writer of spy fiction. His international bestselling thrillers including A Spy By Nature, The Spanish Game, Typhoon and The Trinity Six. A former British Secret Service recruit, he is a contributing editor of The Week magazine and lives in London.
More about Charles Cumming...
The Trinity Six A Foreign Country A Spy by Nature A Colder War The Spanish Game

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