Cover Reveal: Citizen Orlov by Jonathan Payne


  1. What inspired this book? Citizen Orlov was literally inspired by a fever dream. In the early days of 2020, I caught COVID-19 and spent a long weekend trying to sleep off a heavy fever. I dreamt that I was back in my government days and sent on assignment to a strange country, where someone was trying to kill me.
  2. Why does Mata Hari appear as a major character? I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Mata Hari because – although she was executed for spying – many historians believe she was never a spy, only an escort and dancer. I liked the idea of an alternative history in which she escapes from the French and builds a new life in another country, where she gets to try her hand at espionage.
  3. What is the main theme you want readers to take away? I love the fact that the story means different things to different readers. For me, the central theme is being true to yourself and your values. Even when the world is dark and confusing, you still have the option to look inside and decide what you believe in.
  4. Citizen Orlov is hardly a typical hero. Why is he often referred to as our hero? I guess he’s an antihero. Spy thrillers usually revolve around an impressive hero like James Bond, George Smiley, Richard Hannay. I thought it would be fun to write a spy thriller around a very ordinary person. Orlov is an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.
  5. What’s your favorite spy thriller and why? I love many of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, and many John le Carre novels. I also love The 39 Steps by John Buchan. But my favorite is probably The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. The writing is so spare and efficient. It’s a joy to read.


Author Bio:

Jonathan Payne is a British-American writer based outside Washington, D.C. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Novel Writing from Middlesex University, London. His short fiction has been featured at the North London Story Festival and in magazines including Turnpike, Twist in Time and Fiction Kitchen Berlin. Before moving to the United States, he worked for the British government on matters of national security. Follow him at and on Twitter @jon7payne.


Book Description:

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.

Early Praise:

“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

“A page turning, down-the-rabbit-hole delight, told with equal measure of wit and suspense.” —Don Scardino, Producer/Director, 30 Rock, New Amsterdam

“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



Citizen Orlov

Jonathan Payne

CamCat Books

$26.99 | 288 pages

Thriller | Espionage

Pub Date: 05/23/2023

Hardcover: 9780744309010