1n 1992, a gay man is blackmailed by the CIA into becoming a spy in this debut thriller.
Trey Carter is a 22-year-old former gymnast, a graduate of an evangelical Christian college, and deeply closeted about his sexuality. When a handsome stranger flirts with him and approaches him, naked, in a deserted rooftop pool in Washington, D.C., Trey thinks he’s about to have a sexual encounter. Instead, several black-clad men appear and place a sack over his head. He soon finds himself in an interrogation room, and he believes that he’s under arrest. Instead, he’s presented with an offer that’s nothing short of surreal: “There’s a program that we are considering for you. We’ve never allowed in someone without military training...but your background is intriguing and possibly of service to us.” It turns out that the CIA is recruiting closeted civilians to serve as operatives on missions that require a man seducing another man; they call this program the Demaris Protocol. Trey can either join the team and submit himself for training or be outed by the agency to all of his friends and family. Seeing little choice, Trey acquiesces. His trainer is Rick Morgan, the lone survivor of the original Demaris Protocol of 1981, in which the recruits were all gay military personnel facing dishonorable discharges. Rick harbors misgivings about the program, but the best help that he can give Trey is to make sure he survives the ordeal. Randall writes in a quick, lean prose that highlights the tension in every scene. The pacing is swift, even as the book seems to cover nearly every hour of Trey’s training, employing swift jumps between various characters’ perspectives. The high stakes and the sexual chemistry between Trey and Rick combine to create an engaging, if sometimes-melodramatic, reading experience. Randall claims in an introduction that the story is based on events that actually happened to him and that the concept behind the Demaris Protocol was once an actual policy of the CIA; however, the story would be just as compelling as a complete fantasy.
A tense, engrossing espionage tale.