I’ve often wondered whether someone grows up with the ambition to become a spy, or if a confluence of unexpected circumstances make the choice a fait accompli? On the other hand, perhaps it’s an innate restlessness that can only be sated by living on the edge. Clearly, one must have a penchant for deception to make a career out of spying. For it is lethal, ruthless, and, above all, cold. The consummate professional works alone. He is at home in the shadows because trust is a luxury a spy can ill-afford. Succumbing to emotions or forming attachments can only lead to distractions and fatal errors in judgment.
The risks are even greater for a defector because his existence is built on a tangled web of lies, divided loyalties, and, ultimately, betrayal. A defector lives on borrowed time. He’s constantly running, his nerves stretched Daniella Bernett taut by fear. But the past has a way of catching up with one at the least opportune moment.
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THE MANY FACES OF MORIARTY
By 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle was a worldwide literary sensation. But he was also a man dogged by an unlikely enemy, and that enemy’s name was Sherlock Holmes. Frankenstein-like, the fictional detective haunted his creator, tormenting him, and would not leave him alone. For it must be said that Conan Doyle was a man of high literary aspirations, with a yearning to write books of both “serious” literature and psychical research. But the demand for new Holmes stories prevented him from realising this ambition. Speaking of this period in his career, Conan Doyle observed in an interview for Tit-Bits in December 1900 that “My low work was obscuring my higher.”
From an isolated cabin in a boggy Swedish forest, Will Dean conjures a fascinating series and now an intense standalone full of claustrophobia and creepiness.
STEPHEN MACK JONES
If the meaning of life is a puzzle awaiting assembly, then writers are purveyors of its pieces.
Madness on Campus
Helen Eustis’ The Horizontal Man
What About Murder?
Reference Books Reviewed
Sometimes, an idea needs time to incubate until it’s ready to grow. That was the case with Sujata Massey’s series about Perveen Mistry, a woman attorney practicing in India during the 1920s.
TIME TRAVEL, CATS, AND AN OLD MANUSCRIPT
Have you ever wished that you could go back in time and change something in your past or visit the future and find out what it has in store for you? Have you questioned what would happen if time travel was available to everyone? Could 9/11 have been prevented? Could the spread of COVID-19 have been eradicated before it ended so many lives?
I said my first words in a bar—“orange sody.” I eventually outgrew my love of Whistle orange soda, but I have a lifelong interest in bars.
JOHN COLLIER Fact & Fancy
Every generation or so, John Collier (1901-1980) is rediscovered. A poet, screenwriter, and novelist, Collier is best remembered for his short stories. His collection Fancies and Goodnights won an Edgar Award in 1952 for Best Story (which in MWA’s early years was occasionally awarded to a volume of stories).
It’s more than a book title. It’s an uncomfortable truth that pop culture’s most flawed yet-fascinating (and highly literate) serial predators seem to understand about their appeal, whether Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter or Caroline Kepnes’ Joe Goldberg.