Madame Isobel Lambert was exhausted. It had been a draining weekend in the Lake District--she'd played with her hosts' obstreperous children, gone on long hikes, eaten too much rich food, drank too much red wine, wrestled with her conscience and killed two men. All that without a cigarette. She was not in a good mood.
Synopsis: Coolly unemotional superspy Isobel Lambert takes on the job of a lifetime when she volunteers to bring in international terrorist "Serafin", a man who, eighteen years ago, she shot and killed, thus dooming herself to a life of superspyingness. Ing. Ness.
If you answered "the bedroom, the living room and another bedroom", you'd be right.
For eighteen years, "Serafin" (WHICH IS THE WORST SPY NAME EVER) has been haunted by memories of Mary Isobel Curwen, a sweet and naive 18-year-old he fucked* and merrily tossed in the line of fire while assassinating the leader of a small West African nation. No, it's not important which one. Instead of dying horribly, Mary Isobel turns the tables and shoots Serafin, and embarks on a life of international intrigue, rising through the ranks of the fictional Company until she's Ice Queen of all she surveys, and someone's number one target.
Eh. It was readable. It was glib and smooth and Stuart's got an ear for snappy, surprising dialogue, and her characters are, if not memorable, then at least likeable. She fails Setting entirely, great big F there, as she makes only the barest attempt to bring such exotic places as Algeria and France alive, and succeeds even less with interiors, which makes me want to throw things.
But again, characters.
Isobel is believable as the Ice Queen who finally, after a very long life killing people, finds her greatest weakness exploited. And "Serafin" (STILL THE WORST SPY NAME EVER) is hot and sexy and ridiculously charming. And, as always in books I do like, there are supporting characters who draw me in like whoa. In this case, it's mostly Reno, the rogue Japanese cousin of a Company operative, who's been exiled from Japan until his grandfather calms down, and who develops an unlikely (but still believable) soft spot for a homicidal Lebanese war orphan. Good times.
Also, woot: Vermont author!
This genre's outside the ones I usually read, but I'd definitely try another novel by this author.
*I had a huge problem with this. After the first time? He drugged her. For three days. And kept right on with the keeping on. Consent! It is sexy. International super-spies drugging young women in order to shag them senseless? MUCH LESS SO.
Well, I had only a twinge of problem with it, because my much larger problem was that Isobel never calls him on it. Like hi, you've been sent to drag his ass back home in shackles? Bring up that whole drugging/shagging thing! Haul off and nail him in the stones! Just once!