Mention the word “espionage” and most people think of James Bond. However, the cloak-and-dagger genre of literature has a lot more spies than Ian Fleming’s most famous creation. In fact, even Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective brought to life by Arthur Conan Doyle dabbled in some double agent duties in a few of his books. While not all spies have gone on to receive blockbuster film adaptations, it doesn’t make their adventures any less riveting. Readers who are in the mood to read about clandestine activities, deception, betrayals and covert deals will find a wealth of free novels in the espionage genre. Since most of the books take place in earlier times the fictional agents didn’t have access to all the resources available these days, which makes their adventures even more dangerous and daring.
by E. Phillips Oppenheim
When a German zeppelin passes over the English countryside, it causes quite a stir in a nearby village. An observation car seems to have gotten caught in some trees and dragged off the zeppelin, but all it contained was a hard seat, some field-glasses and a telephone. However, one of the women from the village soon discovers that the observation car did indeed have a spy on-board and he makes quite a compelling argument for her to harbor him as her house guest. The Zeppelin’s Passenger was written by E. Phillips Oppenheim and published in 1918, which makes it an interesting read with quite a few compelling twists.
by Talbot Mundy
King of the Khyber Rifles is one of the most famous novels by the British author Talbot Mundy, although it started out as a nine part serial in Everybody’s Magazine. It is set during the beginning of the First World War and stars a secret agent for the British Raj, named captain Athelstan King. The book opens with King being sent on a mission to the Khyber Pass. It would seem that a mysterious woman is trying to lead an insurrection and it is up to King to find out what is going on and put a stop to it.
by J. Storer Clouston
The Spy in Black, a 1917 espionage novel by Scottish Author Joseph Storer Clouston, is an early example of the genre. It features a German soldier tasked with spying on the British and meeting up with a contact who has already infiltrated an English village. What follows is a tale of espionage, deceit and double agents as the situation rapidly escalates. The popularity of this novel saw it being turned into a 1939 film of the same name, which went on to be nominated as one of the ten best films of the year.
by Valentine Williams
The Man with the Clubfoot by Valentine Williams features a healthy dose of World War I intrigue. The protagonist, a young British officer named Desmond, becomes embroiled in a nail-biting adventure when his brother goes missing behind German enemy lines. Fortunately, Desmond has a penchant for secret service work, which comes in handy when he crosses paths with a sinister secret agent known as “The Man with the Clubfoot” while trying to find his brother. With plenty of action and intrigue, this is the type of novel that keeps fans of the genre on the edge of their seats.
by Natalie Sumner Lincoln
Proving that it wasn’t just men who could dream up riveting espionage thrillers in the early 1900’s is I Spy by Natalie Sumner Lincoln. In addition to plenty of spying and intrigue, the book also features some romance to keep things interesting. The story is set during the first World War, when spies were everywhere and the threat of German occupation was looming over Paris.