Charles McCarry is arguably the greatest American practitioner of spy fiction.  He himself was a CIA agent. His tales are thrillers with heft and insight and are beautifully written.  Intelligence agent Paul Christopher is the central figure in seven of his thrillers. (Amongst his  non-Christopher tales, perhaps the most notable is the anti-totalitarian Shelley’s Heart (1995)). Over the series we learn more and more about Christopher. While not unflawed, I would say he qualifies as a hero:  handsome,  reflective,  polite,  steely,, cultured, a patriot, and a published poet.  He is at least an unusual man and the way he lives his life and sees the world can engage the reader’s attention as much as the interesting plots. Perhaps the best place to begin the series is with the latest installment, Christopher’s Ghosts (2007).  The first part of the book takes place in 1939, shortly before the onset of the Second World War.  Christopher is fifteen years old, the son of an American writer and a German noblewoman.  He is an American citizen, though born and bred in Germany.  His family life is warm and rich but his parents assist Jews and anti-Nazi Germans to escape Germany and this brings disaster.  The second part of the novel covers 1959-1961.  By this time, Christopher has fought in the war, attended Yale, and become an American intelligence agent.  The villain of the piece is a secret policeman, Stutzer, who serves first the Nazis and later the Communists.  This is a thriller, a tale of first love, and a depiction of a man trying to relate to the past and the wickedness it contains.