The Charlie Muffin spy series by a Brian Freemantle is among one of the most underrated spy series. Running sixteen novels over the course of forty years it’s followed the trials and tribulations of the working class Muffin as well as the state of Russia from the height of its power in the Cold War through the breakup of the U.S.S.R. back to it’s rise again under Putin.
Most Muffin books follow a “heist” story pattern. Muffin has a mission, it appears he doesn’t know what’s going on, typically with the higher ups plotting against him, until at the end it’s revealed that he’s figured out a way to flip the entire situation on its head while pulling one over on his betters.
The first book is a classic and the second book is just as good. There’s bit of a lull in books 3 through 5 as Freemantle felt his way forward after painting himself into a corner before he rebounds strongly with the 6th book, The Blind Run, an excellent riff on the escape of George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs. I’ve worked my way through the majority of the series and it’s well worth your time.
Signed copies of his early novels are rather hard to find but I was able to pick up a nice copy of his first novel, Charlie Muffin, released in the US as Charlie M. I love the cover image of his iconic pair of shoes.
Open Road publishers have released very nice ebook editions of the series that are regularly affordable but sometimes put on sale for an even better deal. I’d also suggest checking your library. Both Overdrive and Hoopla, apps that offer ebook and audiobooks for free via your library, typically have many Freemantle books available.