Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, May 17, 2010

L'Assassin, by Peter Steiner ($13.99)

Sacre bleu, I love Peter Steiner. His writing is poetic and at a higher level than most. If you have not read Le Crime, L'Assassin's predecessor, you should. Naturally, it was out of print for a while. Why is that?

Louis Morgon, an American in his 70s, living the simple life in rural France, is tossed back into his life as a spy. He was summarily dismissed from the C.I.A. decades ago because of the underhanded, petty, egotistical conniving by former Secretary of State Hugh Bowes. Recently Bowes' full and final revenge had been thwarted, and he now wants to finish what he started: the total annihilation of Louis Morgon.

Louis finds that his quiet village life has been plunged off a 200-foot cliff, whipped down a roller coaster, scrambled in a gyroscope, and mangled beyond recognition when he is identified as a terrorist. Quiet Louis who likes to paint and garden, a terrorist? There is something exceedingly wrong here, and in a flash of insight, Louis concludes that Bowes is the culprit. Louis accomplished a similar intuitive leap in Le Crime; with very little evidence, Louis honed in on Bowes as his tormentor. Of course, Bowes does indeed prove to the be the villain. (Just go along with it!)

In order to evade the American and French manhunts, restore his reputation, find the men who killed the father of a young Algerian boy, repair his relationships with his adult children, and deal with his sorrow over the death of his lover, Louis must again become a man of action. And become incredibly sneaky, too.

This is a much more serious book than Le Crime. In this book, Louis shows us he deserved his reputation as a master spy. We watch Louis play an intricate life-or-death game with Bowes. We see him emerge from his dormancy as a crackerjack intelligence agent. And we see the poignancy and tenderness that falls into his life in his twilight years. If only it is not too late to appreciate it.

I missed the "Year in Provence" descriptions that were more prominent in Le Crime, but there is still enough of the food and life-in-the-slow-lane talk to satisfy me.

The Terrorist is the third in the Louis Morgon series, and it is due out at the end of May in hardcover.

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