The Informer by Liam O'Flaherty
The Informer
by Liam O'Flaherty

Love and trust are fine but a story becomes gripping when betrayal is introduced. Some of the greatest villains of all time have been traitors, double crossers or simply rascals who betrayed the people who trusted (and sometimes loved) them.

William Shakespeare adored betrayal and Iago’s slow, calculating deceit of Othello is perhaps the greatest illustration of evil ever written. King Lear is a play particularly dominated by savage betrayal. The Bible is full of betrayal from Delilah to Judas Iscariot – the most infamous traitor of them all – who did the awful deed with kiss. In Greek literature, there is a betrayal at every turn - Aeneas betrays Dido, Clytemnestra betrays Agamemnon and Ephialtes betrays the Spartans by helping the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae.

Brutus betrays Julius Caesar and stabs him in the back - how many times is that phrase used in everyday conversation? Cold War spy novels would be worthless without the double and triple agents – the reader expects it and attempts to work who is double crossing who as the plot unfolds. The Cato Street Plotters, Guy Fawkes, Benedict Arnold, Kim Philby, Anthony Blunt, William Joyce, Mata Hari, Vidkun Quisling – the list goes on and on.

25 Books About Treachery

King Lear by William Shakespeare

King Lear
William Shakespeare

Sisters Goneril & Regan betray their father. Edmund the Bastard betrays his father & brother. Family ties?

Web of Traitors by Geoggrey Trease

Web of Traitors
Geoffrey Trease

Trease specialised in children’s historical novels and penned more than 100 books.

Samson and Delilah by Felix Salten

Samson and Delilah
Felix Salten

Femme fatale Delilah betrays strongman Samson to the Philistines for hard cash. A lesson for musclemen.

The Traitor by Herman Wouk

The Traitor
Herman Wouk

To prevent atomic war, a scientist wants to provide the Russian communists with a deterrent.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Nineteen Eighty-Four
George Orwell

Winston and Julia betray each other but then we would all probably do the same under the circumstances.

Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Ambroise Choderlos De Laclos

Dangerous Liaisons
Pierre Ambroise Choderlos De Laclos

Aristocrats Marquise de Merteuil and Valmont seduce and and manipulate for their own amusement.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

The Robber Bride
Margaret Atwood

Three friends are betrayed by a university classmate, who steals a beau from each of them.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis

Tempted by Turkish Delight, Edmund betrays his brother and sisters by joining the White Witch.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
John Le Carré

A top class spy novel, George Smiley comes out of retirement to hunt down a mole in the Secret Service.

The Untouchable by John Banville

The Untouchable
John Banville

Based on the life of Anthony Blunt, this novel tells of art historian and double agent Victor Maskell.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Once and Future King
T.H. White

King Arthur and his knights bring order to England but is betrayed his mightiest warrior and his wife.

Lord Haw-Haw & William Joyce by J.A. Cole

Lord Haw-Haw & William Joyce
J.A. Cole

Tasked with demoralising the British, Joyce was German radio’s most notorious English voice in WWII.

Arundel by Kenneth Roberts

Kenneth Roberts

Arnold joined the Brits in the Revolutionary War and became one of America’s most detested traitors.

The Flight of the Feathered Serpent by Amando Cosani

The Flight of the Feathered Serpent
Amando Cosani

Judas betrayed the son of God and his name became a byword for traitors everywhere.

The Gunpowder Plot by Hugh Ross Williamson

The Gunpowder Plot
Hugh Ross Williamson

A fine historical account of a murderous plot to kill King James 1 and blow up the Houses of Parliament.

The Eye of the Lion by Lael Tucker Wertenbaker

The Eye of the Lion
Lael Tucker Wertenbaker

The most famous female double agent of all time but was this Dutch dancer really a spy for the Germans?

The Life and Loves of a She Devil by Fay Weldon

The Life and Loves of a She Devil
Fay Weldon

After being betrayed by her husband, a plain jane takes a long and detailed revenge.

Lucy Crown by Irwin Shaw

Lucy Crown
Irwin Shaw

A classic but forgotten novel from 1956, a wife and mother begins an affair with a young man.

Natalie Natalia by Nicholas Mosley

Natalie Natalia
Nicholas Mosley

A destructive love story from 1971, a British MP has an affair with the wife of a colleague.

Topaz by Leon Uris

Leon Uris

A gripping Cold War novel about a Soviet mole in the French secret service.

300 by Frank Miller & Lynn Varley

Frank Miller & Lynn Varley

A small band of warriors defends Greece from the huge Persian army but there is a traitor….

Quisling by Hans Fredrik Dahl

Hans Fredrik Dahl

Vidkun Quisling, a Norwegian army officer, joined the Germans and became president of occupied Norway.

The Cato Street Conspiracy

The Cato Street Conspiracy
John Stanhope

A radical group plotted to murder Britain’s cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Lord Liverpool in 1820.

Traitor's Purse by Margery Allingham

Traitor's Purse
Margery Allingham

A classic 1941 crime novel in the Albert Campion series set in World War II.

Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre

Agent Zigzag
Ben Macintyre

A true story, double agent Eddie Chapman worked for the German and the British during World War II.

More to Discover

A Guide to Literary Detectives The Worst Children in Literature Depressing Russian Literature