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Charlie M

(Charlie Muffin #1)

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  436 ratings  ·  44 reviews
One of the best spy novels ever written. Charlie Muffin, a British spy, finds himself shot at and missed and then shot at and hit by his own employers in this truly excellent novel of double crosses in the spy game. A "must read" for fans of le Carre or Deighton. ...more
Hardcover, 207 pages
Published 1977 by Doubleday Books
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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  436 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Roger Pettit
Dec 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
As a long-standing devotee of spy fiction, I had always assumed that I had at least heard of all the established British writers of the genre (even if, in some cases, I had not read any of their work). So, I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up a battered thirty-year old paperback copy of 'Charlie M' recently in my local charity shop. The writer, Brian Freemantle, and the principal character, Charlie Muffin, were completely new to me. Yet a quick online search reveals that Freemantle has ap ...more
Manuel Antão
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
I've never ever read anything by Brian Freemantle. A couple weeke ago I saw the movie "Charlie Muffin" with David Hemmings, and I just got plain curious. I just had to get my hands on the book. When I finally did, I almost read it in just one sitting. Sometimes I just burst out laughing. The book is tremendously funny. There's a scene where Charlie takes off his socks complaining that his feet are wet. What ensues is out-and-out hilarious. I can't tell the rest without spoilers.

If Lt. Columbo h
Blaine DeSantis
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good first book in the Charlie Muffin series. If you like espionage and intrigue, if you enjoy the writings of Eric Ambler and John LeCarre, then Brian Freemantle's series is for you. Very well thought out plot and enough character development for a first book in a series. Charlie Muffin in a career agent in England and after about 25 years he is being set up to either die or be retired. He is one of the old-line dinosaurs who has survived into the Cold War and is responsible for breaking ...more
Bruce Retallack
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Despite being rather dated at this point, I thought the book was right up there with the classic Cold War thrillers of LeCarre and company. Charlie Muffin is a wonderful creation, and the other characters are well-sketched interesting. Really glad that I reached back to read this oldie but goody.
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: f, 2014

A cagey British spy fights enemies from without and within
Charlie Muffin is an anachronism. He came into the intelligence service in the early 1950s, when the government, desperate for foot soldiers in the impending Cold War, dipped into the middle class for the first time.

Despite a lack of upper-class bearing, Charlie survived twenty-five years on the espionage battle's front line: Berlin. But times have changed: The boys from Oxford and Cambridge are running the shop again, an
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned of this series courtesy of Shane Whaley of the excellent Spybrary podcast and man I'm glad that I did. To avoid spoilers I'll simply say that I didn't see the beginning twist or the ending twist coming and that I really enjoyed this book. It reminded me of a less "clinical" Le Carre, highly recommended. I'll be sprinkling the rest of the books throughout the rest of my (constant) backlog throughout the year. ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Charlie M is candy for espionage fans. The ending is unexpected and great fun!
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a longstanding addict to spy stories, with special preference for the Cold War ones, I wonder how I could I have missed this one. This was so enjoyable!
It is actually a quick read, both because the novel is less than 200 pages and especially because it is such a page turner....I finished it in one day.
The plot was very well constructed, the character development excellent, the overall atmosphere around the story just perfect, a surprising finale; I won't make the horrendously abused comparis
Patrick SG
Jul 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Had heard good things about this series and the main character. Finally got a chance to read the first in the series. It's a very good, and different, take on the secret world and a memorable main character. As one of the few sane ones in a world of mirrors it's fun to see him run rings around his superiors. I look forward to following his exploits through subsequent ones in the series. ...more
Matt Raubenheimer
Charlie Muffin is a spy that I hadn't heard of until very recently. Having heard a number of recommendations I decided to check this series out, and I don't think that I could have enjoyed the first novel any more. It's a quick read, briskly paced and relentless in its page-turning build of suspense. The prose is uncomplicated and easy reading, but highly effective. Even though I was told to anticipate a major twist at the end, I still couldn't see what was coming. Charlie is definitely a spy to ...more
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating between 3 and 4 but definitely closer to 4.
An entertaining cold war thriller that has the seediness of some of le carre’s characters (or tv’s callan) whilst including a story twist that was a genuine surprise.
The story runs along at a fair pace and doesn’t really lag at all. The British class system on display plus the inability of the ‘new management ‘ of the secret service to actually understand the intelligence game really does Charlie M all the reasons he needs to act the way he does.
Shawn MacDonald
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had never heard of the Charlie Muffin books until I saw the name in an e-mail of cheap digital books and they had this book for a dollar or two. The reviews were good and it sounded interesting, so I figured I'd give it a shot and picked it up and I really loved the book.

The only problem is that my local library doesn't have any of the Charlie Muffin books and neither does the extended library network. So this could end up becoming an expensive habit, but I have to pick up the next book. Grea
Thomas E Baldovin
Excellent Spy Fiction

I have long been a fan of Len Deighton whose spies were often civil servants disgruntled by the British class system as well as bureaucracy. Charlie M is a perfect fit for those who like Deighton. This is not for those who like Bond and Bourne. This is grittier and more real. I was very impressed and will read more of Muffin.
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: espionage
Another re-read!

And just as good as the first one - back in the [good old] days of the Cold War. Would that the meaning of events be that clear nowadays. Freemantle is peerless, obviously a player in 'the game'. Damn shame this is the only one of his books in the Durham County library-system.
Mandy Walkden-Brown
An old favourite!

Loved this series from when it was first published in the late 70s and have long worn out the original paperbacks and their multiple replacements over the last four decades, so pleased to now have an electronic version that should prove more resilient!

Cold War British spy thrillers are a favourite and the antithesis of Bond in the character of the irascible Charlie Muffin is always a favourite go-to read.

He's a flawed individual not a superhero by any stretch of the imagination
May 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Take 5 Mr. Freemantle.

Oh, what a read. Yeah yeah, it took me ages to concentrate on this but once I read past few pages, which took more than a month. The rest of 80% of the book, I finished in a day. So technically, I read this book in a day and half and let’s forget the 40 days in between where I wasn’t involved in the worldly things.

Ohh Charlie... you are absolutely cunning and a asshole and awesome. I loved your character. Everything about you. You are a badass. It’s has Pretty much ever
Bob Collins
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Espionage with a twist. At first I thought Charlie, the main character and a spy, was a George Smiley knockoff- a hanging of the guard in the intelligence service he worked for with a growing incompetence of his superiors, looked down on by his superior and coworkers, just a little bit slovenly. But Freemantle's Charlie Muffin is not George Smiley. He is just a smart, and underestimated by all, but he's more focused on Charlie than the service - at least after the attempt his side made to murder ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Charlie M reminds me of a Richard Burton - acerbic tongued, brilliant old school spy that evades the crushing oppression of his uppercrust superiors that try to track him and control him with lesser success than to rely on Charlie - the clever boy. This is much more british in the LeCarre type genre of very subtle and nuanced spycraft with really more to do with the inner bureaucracys and innerpolitics of the MI6 than a more adventurous larger than life action spy novel...entertaining with a gre ...more
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Charlie Muffin is a British spy. He's no James Bond--he is middle-class and unsophisticated, and his superiors consider him obsolete and dispensable. But they underestimate Charlie, and that is their mistake.
Charlie M has suspense, clever plot twists, just the right amount of humor, and a wonderful snapper of an ending that made me want to go back and reread the book from the beginning to look for the clues I missed the first time. I'm looking forward to the next books in this series.
Khan Ashraf  Alif
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Faulty sentence formation to the point where it becomes bit irritating - too much use of noun - Charlie walked, Charlie talked, Charlie this, Charlie that!! A okay piece of work but for inadequate formation and a biography with several photos(!) deducting one point.
Thomas Thompson
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed reading this book. Sometimes choppy, but good characters and an ending that was partially unexpected. Seemed like an ending for the main character's last I bought book #2 to see where Charlie Muffin/Charles Archibald ends up. ...more
Ian Paterson
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished last page of this...this PHENOMENAL spy story!! Mouth is agape ((I'm gobsmacked!!)) I'm triumphantly clapping!! Well played Charlie M...well played indeed! ...more
cool breeze
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it
The main character, Charlie Muffin, is delightful, but most of the other characters are cartoonish clichés. Some have inappropriately compared this series to John le Carré and Len Deighton, but it falls far short of those masters in its frequently unrealistic depiction of tradecraft and diplomacy. Even second-tier espionage novelists like Adam Hall do a far better job on this score. Perhaps this should have been expected, as Freemantle’s background was as a reporter for the disreputable tabloid ...more
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this many years ago but picked it up when it was on sale for Kindle. I had forgotten how much I liked it.

The story takes place decades ago, when East Germany was still behind the wall and there were no cell phones. The Cold War was still in full swing and spies were constantly going in and out, luring in defectors, sniffing out moles...

British agent Charlie Muffin has worked for the shop for a quarter of a century. Recruited from the working class, he's learned his trade and flourished.

Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: facebook-reviews
I have just discovered the "Charlie Muffin" series that starts with this one. I had been longing for a spy series that includes: The Cold War environment, the "old school spycraft" with zero technology and 100% brainwork, messages delivered with what's left unsaid, the information in the hidden layers of innuendos and suggestions, betrayals after betrayals, revenge, an underdog agent, the KGB vs the West, twists and turns, ambiguous personal attachments for deception leverage, etc. Mr. Freemantl ...more
Jun 26, 2011 rated it liked it
I was made aware of this book, actually what I now know to be a series of books about the Charlie Muffin character, from a film adaption of this first in the series I saw years ago. If you like John le Carré's novels you will probably enjoy this book. A realistic look at Cold War espionage through the hero, Charlie Muffin a career spy in British intelligence, who often has more to worry from his own arrogant and incompetent supervisors than from his Russian adversaries. ...more
Amanda Meggs
Nov 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
A very good read. I read spy novels occasionally and enjoyed Charlie M. It was nice to read about the less than well dressed Charlie who dislikes his superiors and is mistrusted b hem in turn. Taking place during he Cold War years at the height of espionage times Charlie seems to be one of the few people who know what they should be doing, he honours good spies and feels disgust for the many bad ones. Well written, interesting book.
Vikas Datta
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is the ordinary-seeming, carelessly, even scruffily, dressed people you have to look out for, not the debonairly-dressed fops... Charlie Muffin echoes this warning in this brilliantly engrossing tale of double cross and double-double cross and tables turned and re-turned. Almost like a parable about the perils of disregarding the ordinary, and the common-place and then being dumbfounded as you are trapped.... Can't wait to catch the rest ...more
Oct 29, 2016 rated it liked it
I always have problems with English writing and this was no exception. I wanted to try this novel and being a series I thought maybe I'd find a new group of books to read. I thought the story was short on trade-craft (spy trade-craft that is) and the story itself short on substance. But it did have one HELL of an ending. I suppose I'll have to read at least one more in the series to see where it goes fromt he ending of this book.
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Aka John Maxwell, Jonathan Evans, Jack Winchester, Harry Asher and Richard Gant.

Brian Freemantle [b. 1936] is one of Britain's most acclaimed authors of spy fiction. His novels have sold over ten million copies worldwide. Born in Southampton, Freemantle entered his career as a journalist, and began writing espionage thrillers in the late 1960s. Charlie M (1977) introduced the world to Charlie Muff

Other books in the series

Charlie Muffin (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • Here Comes Charlie M (Charlie Muffin, #2)
  • The Inscrutable Charlie Muffin (Charlie Muffin, #3)
  • Charlie Muffin's Uncle Sam (Charlie Muffin, #4)
  • Madrigal for Charlie Muffin (Charlie Muffin, #5)
  • Blind Run (Charlie Muffin, #6)
  • See Charlie Run (Charlie Muffin, #7)
  • The Run Around (Charlie Muffin, #8)
  • Comrade Charlie (Charlie Muffin, #9)
  • Charlie's Apprentice (Charlie Muffin, #10)
  • Bomb Grade (Charlie Muffin, #11)

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