THE WELL-MANNERED ASSASSIN by Countess of Romanones Aline


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 In real life, American-born Aline, Countess of Romanones (The Spy Wore Silk, 1991, etc.) intended to retire from espionage following her marriage into the Spanish aristocracy after WW II. Aline has fictionalized this tale, which is based upon her experience, combining fabricated names and circumstances with actual characters, including herself. In 1977, this fictional Aline is reenlisted by John Derby, her CIA spymaster, to identify a Spanish shipping company that's transporting high-tech weaponry to Arab countries. Although an experienced spy, she is first a countess: At a lavish German wedding, it is impossible to rush to Derby to exchange information, because their places in protocol are not near each other. At a Malaga bullfight, she spots a merciless terrorist (Carlos the Jackal), is frightened, but then relaxes to enjoy the show. Her perspective on danger is puzzling: She describes a butler-led walk down an unlit hallway of a palace as an almost treacherous, suffocating experience but later calmly details her participation in a midnight rescue of a damsel in distress from a fortified estate, in which three rescuers scuba dive onto the beach, outwit the sophisticated security, and discover all of the smugglers, bringing the mystery to an explosive end. The hybrid of fact and fiction raises some confusion: At what point does Aline stray from the true story and embellish? Has she really been exposed to so much danger? Did the Duchess of Windsor really adore her? She drops names the way terrorists drop bombs, but her social duties do seem to land her in the midst of intrigue. The demarcation between truth and fantasy is unclear, but Aline's life is a fairy tale anyway, and she is as eager to show off her glamorous world as she is to create a credible thriller. (Literary Guild alternate selection)

Pub Date: May 4th, 1994
ISBN: 0-399-13863-3
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994