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Hallucinogens, Indians, orchids, butchery, treason, ghosts and politics pop up in Venice, London, Washington, Simi Valley, Butte and the high western desert in a smashing debut thriller by a pseudonymous former military intelligence officer.

Micah Dalton is a “cleaner” for the CIA. Cleaners go in and tidy up messes, and the mess left by the grotesque suicide of Dalton’s friend and colleague Porter Naumann is a doozy. Naumann was found outside a chapel in a Tuscan hamlet having apparently ripped out his own throat. The shrewd Carabinieri intelligence officer on the scene, Major Alessio Brancati, recognizes that someone or something drove Naumann to suicide, making the spy’s death a murder. Brancati allows Dalton to follow up on the very few clues associated with the murder, but he turns up again when the investigation takes Dalton to Naumann’s old haunts in Venice, where the agent falls victim to a near-fatal dose of the same vicious psychotropic drug that figured in Naumann’s death. The effects of the drug dog Dalton for the rest of the book as Naumann’s sardonic, pajama-clad ghost materializes whenever things get hairy—which they frequently do. Dalton enjoys a brief poignant flirtation with a gorgeous Venetion dottoressa but is called much too soon to London where Naumann’s unpleasant family was found butchered in their Belgravia home. The intercontinental fiend seems to be an extraordinarily tall, long-haired, American Indian in silver tipped cowboy boots who has also been doing in a number of minor ex-CIA operatives in the western states. Dalton saw his backside in Venice, but the man has the power to cloud cameras, a bit of technology available only to the very best spies, and it is that connection Dalton must unravel, a process that takes him back to the Agency and a long-hidden Company disaster that set the grizzly plot in motion.

Fast-moving, smart, sexy and alarming. Everything you want in a thriller.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 2007
ISBN: 0-399-15408-6
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2006