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A Spy's Life (Robert Harland #1)

3.81  ·  Rating Details  ·  394 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Robert Cope Harland ended his career as a British spy in an Austrian hospital, after being tortured and beaten by Czech security agents in the last days of the communist regime. He was young enough then to find a new life with the Red Cross and then with the UN. Twelve years later his UN plane crashes in mysterious circumstances at La Guardia airport, New York and Harland ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 470 pages
Published 2002 by Orion (first published 2001)
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The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
367th out of 703 books — 834 voters
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Best Post-Cold War Espionage/Spy Novels
6th out of 31 books — 8 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 853)
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May 19, 2012 Speesh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spies
'A Spy's Life', by Henry Porter is a wonderfully well-paced spy story, that gradually reveals its many intreguing secrets.Both for story's participants and for us, the readers.

I hope it doesn't sound strange, but I thought it read like you were constantly wiping a steamed-up window, so you can what was happening more clearly.

Being a spy story set in Europe, there are of course plenty of hang-overs from the classic East vs West, Capitalism vs Communism, old-school spy games. But the whole is brou
Paula Dembeck
This is an international spy thriller which takes place during the time of the Cold War.
Robert (Bobby) Cope Harland is an engineer currently working for the UN on a water project tracking ownership of fresh water supplies throughout the world. He is now six to seven weeks away from making his final report to the Secretary General. He boards a plane heading to New York and finds several former friends and colleagues in his company. Alan Griswald is a CIA station chief and he and Harland worked t
Aug 11, 2015 Studvet rated it really liked it
Loved this book and was gripped from the start by the original, exciting beginning. Factually, it was interesting from a historical point of view and by the detail of the espionage world. I was especially taken by the bittersweet sorry of Tomas and his life history ands progression and found this introduced a real quality of pathos and empathy and was very affecting-and unusual in the way it played out. The downside was the complexity of the espionage relationships and back stories, and felt the ...more
Feb 24, 2016 Kelanth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spionaggio
Una vita da spia, in originale "A Spy’s Life", è un thriller di spionaggio dello scrittore e giornalista Henry Porter, del 2001, che si svolge durante il periodo della guerra fredda.

La trama di questo romanzo è la seguente: Robert Cope Harland è un ingegnere e attualmente lavora per le Nazioni Unite su un progetto idrico di monitoraggio delle proprietà delle forniture di acqua dolce in tutto il mondo. Quando manca poco tempo alla sua relazione finale al Segretario Generale delle nazioni unite sa
Jul 02, 2013 Nalini rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gerald Sinstadt
Sep 12, 2012 Gerald Sinstadt rated it it was amazing
A role compiling a report for the united Nations on the world’s fresh water resources might seem a safe way to earn a living. But when Robert Harland flies to New York on a plane that crashes into the East River in mysterious circumstances his former occupation intrudes.

Harland is a spy with a back story that includes having been tortured in the old Czechoslovakia. And having hauled himself out of the plane wreckage, he finds that he has been followed to New York by a young man he doesn’t kno
Jul 17, 2014 Davidg rated it really liked it
A thoroughly enjoyable thriller. Much better than I expected - a great holiday read.

Not as profound as Le Carre, but who is, but much better than some Deightons I have read. There is one large coincidence at the heart of the book, and I am sure the plot has a lot of holes or improbabilities if I thought about it, but I don't want to. I just loved the pace and the danger. Recommended.
Nov 27, 2011 Jamie rated it really liked it
Shelves: espionage, war-crimes
Robert Harland is sucked into a mystery literally by accident that wraps up all the unanswered questions of his life. Working for the United Nations and against his old employer MI6, Harland is reunited with his only real love from the Cold War, Eva, to unravel the mysteries of his past.

Do not be concerned if you are confused by the first part of the book. Do not expect to know what is going on. Later it will all become clear and make sense. Keep reading and hang in there.

What is particularly
Becky Motew
Jul 23, 2015 Becky Motew rated it liked it

3.5 stars

Very surprising that the main spy, Harland, shares his clandestine life with so many people, including his sister! Milo Weaver would never do that!

Both plot lines coincidentally connect which stretches some credulity. But it’s a good read, marred only by the abysmal editing job. Every page or so there is an error—not misspelled words but double words or missing words or wrong words entirely. Porter thanks his editor in the acknowledgements but he shouldn’t have.
Vikas Datta
Feb 05, 2015 Vikas Datta rated it really liked it
A rivetting tale of the murky going-ons and questionable moral choices made in high-level spycraft and diplomacy, weaving in the tragic case of the Yugoslavian troubles and the constraints of the UN system... The reappearance of the Bird and the Macy was most welcome...
Jan 20, 2012 Stacy rated it liked it
Shelves: spy
I like spies. I like mysteries. I like conspiracies. I like history. With all of those likes, this book seemed perfect.

I had a hard time getting into the story and actually put it down several times, only to pick it up days later and read a little further into the story. When I think about the book, I can't really pinpoint a reason for my neutral feelings toward the book as it had enough adventure and intrigue. Perhaps my dislike of Eva and my inability to understand Harland that left me feelin
Jun 20, 2016 Laszlo rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
The past is with you in your future, intelligent can't comprehend. .....but the present!
Jul 15, 2014 Peter rated it liked it
(added this years later; read it before Goodreads)

Probably enjoyed it.

Newmarket library.
Luce Cronin
Mar 19, 2016 Luce Cronin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had not read an espionnage novel in years, and it was nice to get back into that genre for this brief time. This book is well written, with lots of suspense, and good character development. Unexpectedly well done as the author is the editor of Vanity Fair....
Linette Allen
May 31, 2016 Linette Allen rated it it was amazing
"A lip of ice" begins the first sentence. Need I say more?
Gail Barrington
Jul 16, 2016 Gail Barrington rated it liked it
A very solid spy story. Looking for more.
Theodore Kinni
Jan 20, 2016 Theodore Kinni rated it really liked it
A good one--plenty of action without histrionics
Jan 07, 2016 Pete rated it really liked it
My first encounter with this author and I was thoroughly impressed. This novel should satisfy the most discriminating fans of the espionage genre. The writing is first rate with good pacing, well crafted characters and plot development. The primary storyline is augmented by a couple of intriguing subplots that keep the reader engaged. There is an strong emotional element throughout the second half of the story which elevates this novel well above the standard good guys vs bad guys offerings out ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Eddie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A very interesting and well written spy novel. Kept me involved through-out the entire narrative.
Nov 30, 2013 Den rated it really liked it
Read ti for the genre challenge and so glad I chose this one. It was a fairly easy read but a page turner too.
It starts with a plane mysteriously crashing and it is discovered that the only survivor is former spy. His past is suddenly connected to his current life and he meets up with people he thought hewould nver see again and meets a young man who he never knew existed.
When you think you have sussed out what is happening a twist throws you totally off track.
Brown Bear
Oct 20, 2010 Brown Bear rated it liked it
i read this a while back so my memories of it might be a little fuzzy. I was put of this book at first, thinking it'd be just another drab re-hash of a spy story, but it really does stand out for me, the plot moves at a frantic pace and you really get a sense of the epic adventure the protagonist embarks on. One i'd suggest if you're after a break from reading some classic novels.
Aug 10, 2013 Andy rated it it was amazing
Quite enjoyed remembrance day but this was a class above with the introduction of ex-spy Bobby Harland. Action & intrigue from the get-go with the characters being slowly filled in when the action eases slightly, by ways of backfills in their relative stories, then it's full-on again. Very enjoyable read & a definite keeper is this series for me.
Mar 14, 2011 Tessa is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Just started this one, but so far it's a page turner--very cinematic. I just have a hard time believing that the protagonist, who knows he is being followed by a whole pack of people, makes phone calls during which he liberally mentions things he wants to be secret. Hmmm. Still, very, very readable and enjoyable.
Mar 13, 2013 Geri rated it liked it
A good page turner but ultimately I felt too many unconvincing elements and the plot confusingly complicated, although maybe that was just a device to maintain tension and keep the reader guessing which side everyone was really on
Charlie Durell
May 22, 2012 Charlie Durell rated it really liked it
Really good read, fast paced , well written and the parts of how he described his son's feelings whilst being paralysed was very insightful.
Not the typical genre I go for but grateful to have chosen this book.
Liana Lewis
Sep 25, 2013 Liana Lewis rated it really liked it
an amazing spy novel that was so difficult to focus on anything but the words on the page. I read it in a day. i found his novels that followed not my thing, but this book was great!!!
Dennis Willingham
Jun 29, 2009 Dennis Willingham rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009, fiction
More like a 2 and 1/2, good beach book. A contemporary page turner with lots of twists and red herrings, but ultimately not belivable (which is important for me).
Jan 03, 2014 Peter rated it did not like it
Shelves: spy
too slow .
Jan 11, 2010 David rated it really liked it
I think it was one of my first books of this genre. It really kept my inerested without losing me in the storyline. I did really enjoy this book.
Ken Fredette
Feb 11, 2012 Ken Fredette rated it really liked it
It was a good book. Although I gave it only four stars I felt that he let the worst guy get free. Vigo got away.
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Henry Porter has written for most national broadsheet newspapers. He contributes commentary and reportage to the Guardian, Observer, Evening Standard and Sunday Telegraph. He is the British editor of Vanity Fair, and lives in London with his wife and two daughters.
More about Henry Porter...

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