A novel that tries to be a spy thriller in the style of John le Carré.
Mark Ruttenberg is a newcomer to the CIA, not used to the way things are done in that secretive and enigmatic organization. Shortly before his first foreign posting, he learns of the termination of Bobby Goldstein, a hotshot agent who it seems is being groomed for a top post in the agency. Unfortunately, Ruttenberg becomes enamored with Daisy, a “developmental” he aspires to turn into an agent, but his fraternization is discovered, and he’s sent packing back to the States. Then a cryptic postcard arrives that sends him in search of Goldstein, the disgraced agent who had so intrigued him in Ruttenberg’s earlier incarnation as a file-reviewer. Goldstein then takes over much of the narrative, recounting his story of abortively running agents and his subsequent disgrace. It seems he’s been using Tom, an 11-year-old houseboy to a general who has had freewheeling and sensitive political conversations that have been reported back to Goldstein. It turns out that the agency is understandably angered because children are scarcely admissible as viable intelligence sources to the powers-that-be, and it’s also becoming clear that Goldstein is quite taken with the boy. The conceit of the novel is that Ruttenberg has written it post-facto and submitted it to the Central Intelligence Agency’s Publications Review Board for approval. In a stab at verisimilitude, large chunks of the novel’s text are blacked out, a technique that eventually becomes an irritating stylistic tic on the part of Weisberg (10th Grade, 2002).
More slack than taut and disappointingly thin in characterization.