I spy yet more books about the secret service

CONSIDERING they re supposed to be secret, there s an awful lot of stuff written about spies. Indeed these four books alone contain about 1,000 pages in total, with everything from the Vatican s sacred secret service to MI5 and MI6 via the war on terror a

CONSIDERING they're supposed to be secret, there's an awful lot of stuff written about spies. Indeed these four books alone contain about 1,000 pages in total, with everything from the Vatican's sacred secret service to MI5 and MI6 via the war on terror and a few recipes (but we'll come back to those later).

The Entity: Five Centuries of Secret Vatican Espionage by Eric Frattini (JR Books, �18.99) is published in the UK this week having already been a bestseller in Spain and France.

The Holy Alliance, later called The Entity, is a secret spy service that has been used by the Vatican for more than 500 years to carry out its will. Forty popes have relied on it to carry out their policies. Yet it has played a hitherto invisible role while being actively involved in revolutions, dictatorships, persecutions, wars, assassinations and kidnappings.

Frattini, a journalist for more than 25 years and already the author of books on the FBI and the Mafia to name but two, includes chilling revelations about The Entity's involvement in the killings of monarchs, poisonings of diplomats, financing of South American dictators, protection of war criminals, laundering of Mafia money and financing of arms sales - all in the name of God. And you thought the Da Vinci Code was far fetched...

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Gordon Thomas's book Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6 (JR Books, �20) is also out this week and claims to be the definitive and up-to-date history of two of the oldest and most powerful secret services in the world, to mark their centenary in August. The wide-sweeping history chronicles a century of both triumphs and failures. He recounts the roles that British intelligence played in everything from the Allied victory in the Second World War through the post-war treachery of its own agents and the defection of Soviet agents to the search for Osama bin Laden and how MI5 and MI6 continue the 'war on terror'.

Which brings us to Spies, Lies and the War on Terror by Paul Todd, Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald (Zed, �14.99) which is dedicated to all the victims of said war.

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Beginning with five pages of acronyms and abbreviations (quite important if, like me, WMD was one of the few you'd previously heard of), the book traces the transformation of intelligence, as the book itself puts it, from a tool of law enforcement to a means of avoiding the law - both national and international. If you're worried about the recent laws which are all helping to crush domestic liberties - and, the authors argue, making the world less rather than more safe, then read this and you'll realise there's an awful lot more to be worried about than you ever dreamed of. And much of it comes not from terrorism but from the state.

Len Deighton is best known for his spy novels featuring Harry Palmer - such as The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin.

But long before Michael Caine starred as Palmer in the hugely successful films, Deighton trained as a chef and did a series of "cook strips" a series which ran for two years when he was the Observer food writer.

First published in 1965, Len Deighton's Action Cook Book (Harper Perennial, �9.99) is both a fabulous piece of nostalgia (the section on what to stock in your home bar is wonderful) and a genuinely useful cookbook.

David Crozier

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