Jack Dunphy is a CIA agent operating in London, and when someone he's had under surveillance is murdered in a savage, seemingly ritualized killing, the Agency "disappears" him from Her Majesty's territory and assigns him to a headquarters job that's the equivalent of walking a Staten Island beat. Bored into somnolence shuffling files requested by the public under the Freedom of Information Act, Dunphy suspects that his bosses are trying to get him to quit, so he uses his top secret clearance to find out why. In the process, he uncovers evidence that points to a centuries-old conspiracy whose purpose has been aided and abetted by the CIA since its beginning. When his colleague and roommate is brutally murdered in what was either a warning to him or a case of mistaken identity, Dunphy decamps for the continent; with Clementine, his English girlfriend, he tracks a secret society to its Swiss headquarters and pulls off a daring raid that nets him evidence of the Agency's long-standing role in an effort to change the course of history. While it has millennial overtones, this fast-paced and provocative thriller has no Y2K "sell by" date; what it does have is an intriguing explanation for contemporary mysteries like Roswell, UFOs, crop circles, and other paranormal happenings. Jack Dunphy is an enterprising and charming spy with a solid future as a series hero. Fans of Ian Fleming will find him a likely successor to James Bond, and doubtless Hollywood will as well. --Jane Adams
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From Publishers Weekly
Veteran journalist and spy-craft expert Hougan (Spooks; Secret Agenda) puts his inside knowledge to fictional use in this intelligent and pulse-pounding debut thriller about a CIA agent who pokes his stick under one too many rocks. John Dunphy, working undercover in London, finds his career in tatters after a college professor he had under surveillance is viciously murdered. Though the murder was neither his doing nor his fault, Dunphy is called back to D.C., interrogated for days and finally relegated to a desk job processing the agency's vast backlog of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Since nobody at the CIA will tell Dunphy why he has been handled so harshly, Dunphy devises a way to find out. Using a fake name, he makes FOIA requests about everyone and anything having to do with his demotion, then routes the requests to himself for investigation. What he learns makes him a marked man. A secret society of world leaders, Dunphy discovers, has shaped history for hundreds of years, and now has its home base at the CIA. Now a marked man, Dunphy and his beautiful sidekick, Clementine, rush from one European capital to another, staying just ahead of their pursuers. With each stop, they gather more disturbing details about the secret network, which dates to medieval France and now controls world politics, economics and even the arts. (Historical figures who enter Hougan's story include famed spymasters Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton and poet Ezra Pound.) A former Washington editor for Harper's, Hougan demonstrates fine command of his material. His familiarity with the ways of spies, amply shown in his nonfiction, permeates his novel. Better yet, his writing is punchy and spare, his characterizations lively. Hougan slips only at the end: his finale seeks to defy convention, but may just leave readers fumbling for answers. Audio rights to Brilliance. (Feb.)
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