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Citizen Orlov

Citizen Orlov

By Jonathan Payne
Categories: Fiction, Espionage, Action & Adventure, Absurdist
Series: Citizen Orlov
Imprint: CamCat Books
Paperback (Large print edition) : 9780744309072, 394 pages, May 2023
Hardcover : 9780744309010, 288 pages, May 2023
Ebook (EPUB) : 9780744309096, May 2023
Audiobook (Unabridged edition) : 9780744309119, May 2023
Paperback : 9780744309058, 288 pages, May 2024

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When Citizen Orlov, an unassuming fishmonger and upstanding citizen, answers a mysterious phone call, he is catapulted into a web of espionage and political maneuverings. Not every fishmonger can be a secret agent, but Orlov will certainly try.


A 2024 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award Silver Medal Winner

A 2024 IPPY Award Bronze Medal Winner

“[An] enjoyable comic fable . . .” —Wall Street Journal

“This auspicious debut announces a bright new voice in comic suspense.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Not every fishmonger can be a secret agent.

Journey to an unnamed mountainous country in central Europe at the end of the Great War. Enter Citizen Orlov, a simple fishmonger and an honest, upright citizen, who answers a phone call meant for a secret agent and stumbles into a hidden world of espionage and secrecy. Recruited by the Ministry of Security, he is sent on assignment to safeguard the king.

But Orlov soon discovers that his ministry handler, the alluring femme fatale Agent Zelle, is planning not to protect the king but to assassinate him. Caught in a web of plot and counterplot, confusing loyalties, and explosive betrayals, Orlov finds himself on trial for murder. Given the opportunity to clear his name, he finds that the lives of his friends, mother, and fellow citizens hang in the balance.


  • Winner, 2024 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Silver Award - Mystery & Thriller 2024
  • Winner, IPPY Bronze Award - Suspense/Thriller 2024


“[An] enjoyable comic fable—one that may cause readers to think twice about ever answering someone else’s phone.” Wall Street Journal

“The blend of action and picaresque buffoonery flatteringly calls Conan Doyle’s Brigadier Gerard tales to mind, and Payne pulls off a genuinely surprising conclusion. This auspicious debut announces a bright new voice in comic suspense.” Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“This is the most fun spy thriller we’ve read in ages . . . First-time novelist Jonathan Payne mixes Franz Kafka’s surreal absurdism with the ingenious plotting of Graham Greene’s spy novels, then adds a hilarious layer of deadpan comedy. Written in short chapters filled with exciting left turns, Citizen Orlov barrels along. We wouldn’t mind at all if this turned out to be the start of a series.” —Apple Books Review

“Jonathan Payne's Citizen Orlov is a stunning debut! A page turning, down-the-rabbit-hole delight, told with equal measure of wit and suspense. A timeless classic for our current moment; a paranoid and comic thriller with a surprise on every page. I loved it!” —Don Scardino, Producer/Director, 30 Rock, New Amsterdam

“A triumph—and an answer to that age-old question of what would have happened had Gogol, Kafka and G. K. Chesterton collaborated on a thriller. A timeless work which will, I fear, be forever timely.” —Dixe Wills, author of Places to Hide and New World Order

“Highly engaging, and written with an engaging lightness of touch, Citizen Orlov marks the debut of a comic novelist to watch for the future.” —Dr. Adam Lively, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing & Programme Leader, MA Novel Writing, Middlesex University

“BEING THERE meets CATCH-22 in this by turns raucous, nail-biting and hilarious send-up of government corruption and bureaucratic incompetence. With an assured voice and wit to spare, Jonathan Payne is a writer on the rise.” —E.G. Scott, international bestselling author of THE RULE OF THREE