Le Carré's fiction is known for its realism and unromantic view of espionage, and The Looking Glass War represents this in the extreme. The novel is a bone-dry satirical thriller centering on a bygone British military intelligence agency that has been resting on its World War II laurels for twenty years. When a flimsy piece of information comes their way, the department goes to increasingly absurd lengths to verify it and reclaim their former glory. Keenly aware of his characters' psychological makeup, le Carré methodically outlines the murkiness of spys' motivations and the fruitless, misguided nature of their work. The Looking Glass War is a chilling study in escalating paranoia and doomed ambitions, a gem from a writer at the top of his game.
With The Hunter, Donald Westlake (under the prolific penname of Richard Stark) introduces his iconic Parker character and establishes the bleakest possible world of hardboiled crime. Parker is a master thief, utterly ruthless and amoral, who operates with animalistic cunning and violence. When one of his partners rips him off and leaves him for dead, he returns to New York City to methodically exact revenge. Westlake's conception of a protagonist completely without a conscience was riveting enough to sustain over twenty novels, and The Hunter remains just as fresh as it was in 1962. While the narrative is firmly grounded in the world of classic crime fiction, "Stark" writes with a leanness and precision of language that feels genuinely timeless.