Price (The '44 Vintage) is a playful, quirkily attractive writer--but here he is lavishing all sorts of narrative verve on a complex internal British spy tangle that perhaps only a Le Carrâ€š could have made resonant rather than confusing. After doing well on an anti-terrorist assignment at a Yorkshire campus-some bright academic foolery here--young, widowed agent Frances Fitzgibbon is ordered to research her own boss, Colonel Jack Butler, who is supposedly in line for a vital promotion. The big Butler question: is he completely innocent of his wife's murder (still unsolved) a few years back? Frances investigates, becoming chummy with Butler's motherless kids, but the real secrets here center on why she's been given this assignment--who's behind it? The answer involves internal politicking at British Security, and Frances--along with agent/boyfriend Paul--gets caught in between. Furthermore, a dark psychological element is injected rather late and unconvincingly, bringing this odd, jumpy, somehow unfocused hybrid (psychospy-gothic) to an unsatisfying and grim conclusion. Intriguing, but disappointing.