I am currently finding my entertainment in the spy genre. I know that in reality they might not have to deal with betrayal, life and death situations, black-mail, torture or explosives every day. I am sure the real career is not-like-is-in-the-movies. But that doesn’t stop me from loving the suspense and thrill of the contrived spy world.
So far my favorites are the British television drama Spooks/MI-5.
The other favorite has been Ally Carter’s young adult book series I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You.
These stories don’t actually have much in common. One is about adult spies (or spooks as they are called in Brittan, hence the name) trying to manage to save the world, balance their own personal lives and trying to avoid the various skeletons in their closets.
The other is about teenage spies in training who thought they were prepared for anything. Only to find they were not prepared for adolescence. They can speak Portuguese but cannot talk to a member of the opposite gender. It turns out it is hard to have a relationship when you have been trained to tell exactly when someone is lying.
However, these two series have a common weakness: The big, bad conspiracy organization. For MI-5 it is “Nightingale”, for the Gallagher girls it is “The Circle”. Both these organizations can be blamed for every complication that is currently keeping the protagonists from getting what they want. Even if another source is doing something it is only because the conspiring organization has enticed them into it. These organizations are after world domination and must be stopped not matter the cost.
My personal feeling is that a small group of good people fighting against countless bad people and organizations with different aims and causes makes a better challenge, and therefore a better story, than one single bad force. And yes, I find them less interesting even if it turns out that they have managed to recruit someone all the various protagonists thought were on their side. You can work the betrayal theme in some other way; many bad guys will always be more compelling than just one.