As part of our ongoing Mystery Month coverage at Booklist, we’re asking authors to tell us which books by other authors deserve greater attention. Olen Steinhauer has done pretty well for himself at Booklist, from his Eastern European quintet to his new books featuring the “Tourist,” Milo Weaver. His latest, The Nearest Exit, is on our newest list of the Top 10 Crime Novels.
Charlie’s Choice: The First Charlie Muffin Omnibus, by Brian Freemantle
A couple months ago, after an event in Stuttgart, Germany, the owner of the venue (the “Undercover” bookstore) shyly slipped me a fat paperback called Charlie’s Choice, with the hopeful subtitle: The First Charlie Muffin Omnibus. It was a gift, she said, “because you’re the only one I know who’ll appreciate it.” After reading two of the three novels in this collection, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who would enjoy this hard-core slice of Cold War cynicism. In the first tale, from 1977, a disheveled British intelligence operative named Charlie Muffin finds that he’s been set up — for operational reasons — to die in East Berlin. He cleverly avoids this fate, watches another man get gunned down in his place, returns to London quietly, and proceeds to make everyone in the industry sorry they ever crossed him. This is simple, straightforward, and hard-hitting revenge fiction that lingers. Despite spawning a 1979 film (Charlie Muffin, starring David Hemmings) and a series lasting over 30 years, the books had never crossed my radar before. To me, the subtitle of this omnibus read like a vain hope — it looks like most of the series has fallen out of print. However, I could be wrong: Red Star Rising, the 14th Charlie Muffin tale, comes out this year. I’ve got some catching up to do.
Read the Booklist review of Kings of Many Castles, a 2002 entry in the Charlie Muffin series.