Cold War spies and parapsychology collide in Stephens’ multifaceted adventure.
Seven-year-old Miranda sees the world in a special way; she knows secrets, shown to her through a “screen,” a moving picture inside a frame in her mind. She and her friend Peggy, whose abusive father is brutally killed in front of Peggy by her protecting (and near-death) mother, share an even deeper connection, and local psychiatrist Raymond Wasserman sees an opportunity to use the girls to counter Soviet spy work. Under pressure from his government contacts, Wasserman enlists the girls in his research, studying their paranormal abilities and considering ways in which Miranda’s clairvoyant talent could be used to give the U.S. an edge in the Cold War. Wasserman pushes the girls—particularly Miranda, despite her growing headaches—harder as he gets closer to a breakthrough. Meanwhile, Col. Tyler Caldwell, of both Army Intelligence and the CIA, determines that Wasserman’s project needs a hands-on approach to protect the government’s investment, so he becomes involved with Miranda’s widowed mother under an assumed name. Caldwell’s involvement heightens the need for other interested agencies—including a double agent, a former member of MI6 and members of a mysterious secret society with unknown goals—to step up their games. The result is a cross between an exploration of paranormal research in the 1950s and a spy adventure, set primarily in small-town Wisconsin. Stephens balances mundane family moments and friendships with action sequences, deftly handling both. Some plot hints are never followed—at one point, Peggy, who can now communicate telepathically with Miranda, sees an important clue, but the action is resolved in another way. While the male characters accomplish much of the action, and the adult females are largely helpmates, the exceptional girls with their beyond-their-years wisdom offer an excellent counterpoint to the testosterone-heavy spycraft. Miranda in particular is well-drawn, never being reduced to a plot contrivance or magical child despite her special abilities.
An odd but intriguing mix of paranormal research, spy action and vision-based theology.