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The Miernik Dossier (Paul Christopher #1)

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  994 Ratings  ·  72 Reviews
"Charles McCarry is the best modern writer on the subject of intrigue," wrote P.J. O'Rourke and Time Magazine has declared that "there is no better American spy novelist." McCarry's first book, The Miernik Dossier, originally published in 1973, is a riveting and imaginative tale in which a small group of international agents embark on a car trip in a Cadillac, from Switzer ...more
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published November 3rd 2005 by The Overlook Press (first published 1973)
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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
132nd out of 672 books — 782 voters
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréThe Hunt for Red October by Tom ClancyThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
Best Spy Novels
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Jeffrey Keeten
Aug 29, 2014 Jeffrey Keeten rated it really liked it
Shelves: spies
On his experience being a deep-cover agent for the CIA: "It's one of the most boring occupations in the world, punctuated by moments of ecstasy. You sit around for days, sometimes for weeks, waiting for something you think you have made happen, to happen. And sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. Or waiting for an agent to show up. They're famous for not doing that, or showing up in the wrong place or on the wrong day, wrong hour." Charles McCarry

In the 1980s I read just about every espio
Nancy Oakes
I must confess that after the Berlin Wall came down, I had this feeling that that was it for the Cold War spy novel. So I was truly happy to find this book, which was written in 1971, so I could once again relive the Cold War spy experience.

The Miernik Dossier (the first of the Paul Christopher series), is written in a style that one would find if they could infiltrate the files of an espionage agency and open up an actual dossier. The story is told through reports of various agents, intercepte
Apr 29, 2015 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Espionage is never clear cut - all the best spy thrillers make that point, some labour it. Alan Furst has a habit of creating romance out of the dilemma; John Le Carre finds victims in it.

In the Miernik Dossier, Charles McCarry carries the idea beyond the end of the book. Not only does he leave the central question unresolved (was Miernik a spy or not?), he actually goes further: the reader is left wondering if the question mark that hangs over him or her at the end of the book is actually refl
May 18, 2010 gaby rated it really liked it
Shelves: spy
Charles McCarry manages a steep feat in this novel -- he matches the sophistication of Graham Greene's espionage 'entertainments' with the literary integrity of a Paul Bowles-esque Northern African expedition. For real! If I were to ask for a spy book to be written for me, it might end up a lot like the Miernik Dossier -- Cold War suspicion, late-night border crossings, fancy European cocktail parties, double agents, religious & sexual tension, standard tradecraft and introspective anti-hero ...more
A very good espionage novel written in the early 1970's. The story is told through various agent reports, transcripts, journal entries, etc. and when I saw the structure of the book I was a bit hesitant but the plot unfolded smoothly and each character was fully realized.
Brad Lyerla
Dec 04, 2014 Brad Lyerla rated it it was amazing
THE MIERNIK DOSSIER is wonderful recreational reading. It is the first of McCarry's Paul Christopher novels and it is engrossing. There is no narrative. The novel is presented as a dossier; that is, a collection of documents in a file representing the fruits of a failed operation conducted by our CIA in Europe and North Africa in the late 1950s. The documents include reports submitted by American and British operatives, excerpts from the journal of a suspected Polish spy, the debriefing of vario ...more
Joel Wright
Oct 30, 2015 Joel Wright rated it really liked it
Killer, old school, pre-tech spy story. Told through the excerpts of records by individuals collected in a dossier. The device works very well, and has the added bonus of differing perspectives clouding the truth, creating intrigue. The reader has more info information than characters, but is t enough? Who is a spy? Who is a double agent? Whose story is closest to the truth? Can people who lie for a living connect with others and maintain their humanity? Does the agent in the field with his limi ...more
Jun 20, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
I had never heard of this book--which it turns out is the first of ten with a recurrent character. It is quite good and really unusual in form, I think. (I don't believe the others in the series follow the form, but I could be wrong about that.) It is, as the title suggests, a dossier--a collection of materials that support a narrative about a man named Miernik. The materials are things like transcripts of wiretaps, reports filed by a variety of agents, notes from debriefings and such like. Only ...more
Jul 22, 2014 SlowRain rated it it was ok
1959. An intercepted message indicates the Soviets may be sending an agent into Sudan to assist some anti-government rebels. Further investigation points to one man, and the Americans have a plan to turn this to their advantage.

I don't have much experience with epistolary novels, but my limited exposure makes me feel they're problematic, chiefly because I don't believe people write with that much detail in their regular correspondence. There's too much of the novelist in the documents and not en
Jun 01, 2014 David rated it liked it
I read this book after it received high praise from Olen Steinhauer, whose spy novels I love. I did not love the Miernik Dossier, however.

The Miernik Dossier, by Charles McCarry, purports to be a collection of documents describing a "typical operation" for the CIA. The subject of this operation is Tadeusz Miernik, a Polish national who has been called back to his home country from Geneva (where he works for the WRO) and fears he will be imprisoned by the secret police if he returns. (The novel i
Mar 26, 2009 Robert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: espionage
Makes le Carre seem like a writer for a "True Romance" magazine.
Alex Yalen
Jul 03, 2012 Alex Yalen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spooks
The quick review is that this is one of the finest books -- period -- I've ever read and that, in my view, it's superior to the more well-known (and, don't get me wrong, also brilliant) SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD.

I loved how McCarry structured the book. As the title suggests, it's ordered like an intelligence file on a case, with telephone intercept transcripts, diary entries, cables, memos, etc. I thought it was a pretty brilliant idea to work the story that way. It's not just a gimmick, ei
Feb 03, 2008 Tripp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Spy fiction lovers
Charles McCarry is one of our most under appreciated living authors. Its shocking that he is not as well known as Le Carre or even Furst. McCarry served in the CIA and his background shows in the details of his spy novels. His first novel the Miernik Dossier is a terrifically engaging work recommended to anyone who likes literary thrillers.

While the story, involving the trip of Polish official who may or may not be a spy to Sudan is excellent, the book shines in its verisimilitude, even in its o
Nov 28, 2011 Franc rated it really liked it
#2 On Alan Furst's Top 5 Spy Books of All Time. Can't beat that rec.

Furst says, "With “The Miernik Dossier,” Charles McCarry introduced us to Paul Christopher, the brilliant and sensitive CIA officer who would appear in a series of perhaps more widely known novels, such as “The Secret Lovers” and “Second Sight.” The book itself is the “dossier” in question: the reports and memoranda filed by a quintet of mutually mistrustful espionage agents, including a seductive Hungarian princess and a seemi
Rick Gibson
Jan 07, 2015 Rick Gibson rated it it was amazing
This book is a real discovery for espionage fans with a taste in stylish writing. The story is fast moving yet subtle, chock full of "intrigue" and wears its 40 years very well with many still-current themes. The novel form - dispatches from multiple sources - has an authenticity to it, especially when written by a former spook. The killer blow is that it is sardonic, witty and very funny in places with some finely written characters.
Becky Motew
Jan 20, 2016 Becky Motew rated it really liked it
I have so often heard of this book and now I know why.

It’s a bona fide Cold War spy saga and a first rate specimen. It is indeed a dossier, made up of memos, diary entries, interview excerpts and the like, all tracing one man and one plot line. After all the analysis and reporting, you can’t be really sure of what was going on.

McCarry belongs in the top echelon of spy writers. I can't wait to read all of his books.
Apr 14, 2015 Austin rated it liked it
I enjoyed the book and it got me interested in the series. I think I would have liked the book even more if it was told from first hand experiances and mainly from Paul Christophers perspective instead of flash backs (or the reading of a report summary) from multiple peoples perspective. I seemed that Paul Christopher had the smallest part in the book yet the series revolves around him.
Apr 30, 2015 Aric rated it it was amazing
Deeply interesting and entertaining story dealing with espionage and told in the structure of an intelligence case file in which a puzzle is slowly and intricately pieced together through various intelligence reports and communiques involving six different characters and a trip by car from Geneva to the Sudan. Very remarkable achievement, however it is a style of storytelling that may annoy some readers. Very realistic premise in the sense that human intelligence is never clear nor specific, it' ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Dar rated it liked it
This book was very difficult for me to get into because of the epistolary style; I found it quite distracting. Once into it about a third of the way, it was easier to read. I didn't care for most of the characters and felt no connection with any of them. The book, written in the 1970s, did stand up in modern times with the exception of technology.
Ian Robb
Sep 17, 2012 Ian Robb rated it liked it
A spy story. This is written as a series of diary entries, interviews, telephone taps etc. so that there are many viewpoints. Miernik appears to some to be a Pole who is a spy and to other a bumbling clumsy person. In the end he is killed but it is never clear which he was. I want to read something else by this author. The story is set in about 1959 and involves a trip to the Sudan in an air conditioned Cadillac.

Read on the Kindle. A trip into Egypt with Kindle who people think is a spy, his sis
Scott E
Aug 13, 2014 Scott E rated it really liked it
Told through internal documents, agent reports, interviews, and diary entries, The Miernik Dossier involves a number of agents from different countries, all traveling to Sudan. The twists are subtle, much like Le Carre and Greene...depending on your version, the back cover may "spice up" the plot a bit. Regardless, this is completely engrossing, and once you begin, you hardly notice the unique style in which the story is told.

The book itself was written in the early 70s, with the story taking pl
Mike Patterson
Aug 23, 2014 Mike Patterson rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed it, even the clever format, which brought believability to the events. A very good writer. I'll read more of his work. Wonder how I could have missed him 20-30 years ago. But he'll be a pleasure for an old man to enjoy in retirement.
Scott Carter-eldred
Mar 23, 2014 Scott Carter-eldred rated it really liked it
You like spy books, you'll like this book. LeCarre, Steinhauser. You like those books, you'll at least find this book entertaining.
Jennifer Taw
A quick read imagining the machinations of the intelligence world and a little window into the politics of the Cold War.
Nov 29, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While others have used the "assembled documents" mechanism to tell complex spy stories, McCarry's take serves to highlight the inherent ambiguities of espionage, particularly for its practitioners. At one point one of the characters talks about his work as coming in after the story's begun and leaving before it ends, which in some ways is the best synopsis I can give for the book. You'll be left with nearly as many questions as you begin with, but the narrative style works exceptionally well to ...more
May 01, 2014 Samantha rated it it was ok
Not really my thing. I never did really get to the bottom of whatever was going on or why. It all seemed rather pointless.
Dec 18, 2014 Miranda rated it it was ok
Boring. Tedious. His first book of the Paul Christopher series.
Terry Foster
Jul 11, 2014 Terry Foster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved it. A great way to present an exciting adventure.
A Ivy
Aug 29, 2015 A Ivy rated it liked it
Interesting style; story didn't have much drive.
To be honest, this book was far outside the box of what I usually read. It was recommended by some literary critic on a list of 101 books to read. It was quite the page turner, but I admit to skimming quite a few parts just so I could see what happens at the end. The point of view switched multiple times throughout: first person narrative, diaries, debriefings, transcribed interviews, etc, which was interesting but I think kept me from really knowing or liking any of the characters. Like the sta ...more
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McCarry served in the United States Army, where he was a correspondent for Stars and Stripes, has been a small-town newspaperman, and was a speechwriter in the Eisenhower administration. From 1958 to 1967 he worked for the CIA, under deep cover in Europe, Asia, and Africa. However, his cover was not as a writer or journalist.

McCarry was editor-at-large for National Geographic and has contributed
More about Charles McCarry...

Other Books in the Series

Paul Christopher (10 books)
  • The Tears of Autumn (Paul Christopher #2)
  • The Secret Lovers (Paul Christopher #3)
  • The Better Angels (Paul Christopher #4)
  • The Last Supper (Paul Christopher #5)
  • The Bride Of The Wilderness (Paul Christopher #6)
  • Second Sight (Paul Christopher #7)
  • Shelley's Heart (Paul Christopher #8)
  • Old Boys
  • Christopher's Ghosts (Paul Christopher #1o)

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