SPOOKER by Dean Ing


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Spookers are the rainy-day funds that intelligence agents amass against the time when they must decamp--whereon hangs a flimsy tale from Ing (Butcher Bird, 1993, etc.). Although slow on the uptake, the CIA eventually realizes that ever since the late '60s freelance mercenaries have been offing undercover operatives (foreign as well as domestic) for their getaway money. The first victim seems to have been Skander Roman Masaryk, a Czech engineer raised in Canada during WW II, who was kidnapped and presumably beaten to death in 1968. The disappearances continue, but leads are in short supply and the case file builds until 1993, when investigators catch a much-needed break. At that time, the anonymous assassins go after Gary Landis, a Fresno-based DEA man. Panicked by a cryptic note and a hail of bullets, Landis bolts--but before he can clear his garage, he's grabbed, drugged, and left for dead at the bottom of a mine shaft with two other bodies. By some unexplained miracle, the young fed doesn't succumb and starts tracking his would-be killers. It soon becomes clear that another survivor, the not-dead defector Masaryk (in fact, a gender-jumbled freak able to live as a woman), and Andrew Soriano, his/her adoptive son, are the culprits. From the privileged sanctuary of a hightech residential complex on the Yomo Indian reservation, this strange pair has been preying on targets of opportunity in the West Coast's intelligence community for over two decades. As Landis stalks the erstwhile hunters, they reveal themselves to be exceptionally nasty pieces of work. Soriano, for example, performs unspeakable acts upon the bodies of small furry animals, finally does in his domineering mom (Masaryk), and engineers a climactically degrading confrontation with Landis that ends badly for all hands. A second-rate thriller with little pace or suspense, albeit an abundance of loose ends and shock-value details.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 1995
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Forge/Tor