OLD BOYS, by Charles McCarry

Forget LeCarre and all the other espionage superstars. Get yourself to McCarry's mesmerizing novels, based solidly on two decades of the author's employment by the CIA (plus, of course, a fabulous imagination and a really deft hand with memorable characters). You'll be delighted you did.

This one is chock full of seamless, solidly-grounded spy skulduggery. Out-to-pasture spooks gather to find one of their own. Led by Horace, cousin of the suddenly-vanished Paul Christopher. After an urn containing Paul’s ashes is shipped from western China, a group of doddering old guys is talked into coming out of retirement to track down the story behind the ashes. From Urumqi to Rome to Istanbul to Budapest, from the empty desert of Chad to Khazakstan and other points few have ever heard of, Horace and his cohort slowly unravel both a new and an old mystery. While this could be read as a stand-alone, Paul Christopher - a series character - does appear in most other of McCarry's books, notably Christopher's Ghosts, which I found mesmerizing. Old Boys is a 5, a timeless read for those of us addicted to good spy yarns and still-exotic places.