Joe is the hero of this ice-cold modern noir. His favourite weapon is a hammer. He scratches together a living by saving girls from the Manhattan sex trade, but when he gets involved with a famously crooked senator, things get dark. Really dark. But also fun!
It's a CIA story, set around a dinner between two old flames. But they're also old colleagues. From the CIA. And one of them’s the mole for a terrorist group responsible for an atrocity they were both investigating years before. Uh oh! There's flashbacks aplenty, but the tension’s incredible.
An ex-Special Ops parachutist tries to keep her genius brother safe from spooks on both sides. It sounds like ITV Sunday-night fodder, but Mawer's research and attention to period is unmatched, with the uneasy Cold War atmosphere seeping through the page.
The wife of a Japanese bureaucrat (wait! Come back!) drops dead in a Tokyo boutique, so naturally he goes to apologise for all the fuss. You would, wouldn't you? But it turns out it's a word-to-the-wise rendezvous for secret lovers. Think Gone Girl Goes To Japan and you’re not far off.
The author doesn’t so much live vicariously through his hero, as build his whole self-image around him. Almost a dual biography – there’s certainly a lot of the “And Me” – but it's so fascinating, and the grace of his writing about Federer’s game is so strong, that you’ll tear through to the end.