September 6, 2011

Sex and Intrigue (circa 1984)

Shooting in the Dark
by Carolyn Hougan

This is the second Carolyn Hougan book I've read in the last few months--again a reprint of one of her books from the early 1980s. I think that's what I liked about this book, looking back with a 25 year perspective makes you realize how right she was in a lot of ways. The book tells the story of Claire Brooks, whose husband of 8 years announced he was leaving her as she got ready to go to the dentist. Claire can't face him, so on a whim she buys a plane ticket to Amsterdam. Unbeknownst to Claire, international intrigue is centering on Amsterdam, where a shadowy group of spooks, bankers, and heads of state called Circle Group is meeting to plot the assassination of the Shah.

Claire is stunned by her husband's betrayal, and spends her time drinking too much, and having a sudden affair with a reporter named John Stenner. What neither she nor John Stenner realizes is that life is about to get even more complicated. Stenner is slipped a tape that includes a secretly taped session of the Circle Group meeting, and he and Claire are thrown into a race for their lives as they try and figure out who made the tape and why.

The references in the book are really quite funny--all the Dutch characters keep talking about how inept Carter is and how the USA isn't going to be the dominant world power anymore, and the spy and reporter characters all bemoan how Aghanistan and Iran are not going well, and how it looks like the Soviets are winning. Given some of the countries in the news lately, it seems like Carolyn Hougan was a bit prophetical.

This book kind of reminds me of a Tom Clancy book, except that Claire Brooks is obviously not a well-trained spook or anything. It's like Tom Clancy meets chick lit--torture, guns, sex, too much alchohol, one night stands, misery over the betrayal of a husband, a bit of weird combination, but surprisingly believable. Claire's dazed attempts to figure out who she is without her husband while protecting herself and John Stenner from the mysterious baddies who are after them actually doesn't seem all that far-fetched. It was a quick, enjoyable read, and if you like Cold War era intrigue I'd definitely recommend it.

 Are you also a fan of the Felony & Mayhem reprints? I love so many of the ones they choose to reprint! If you agree, share in the comments!

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