cover image Death Will Have Your Eyes: A Novel about Spies

Death Will Have Your Eyes: A Novel about Spies

James Sallis. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-15513-1

Spies and spymasters trade literary allusions, existential musings and dream analyses in this humid tale of espionage. The tone, gestures and cliches of the spy thriller color an obscure, fatalistic plot in which it is never clear exactly who is pursuing whom, or for what reason. David, the narrator, once part of an elite corps of deadly spies, got out of the game nine years ago and eventually became a successful sculptor. Yanked from his bohemian idyll to stop a former peer who seems to have gone rogue, David's mission takes him through big and small towns across the South, a goose chase that allows him to grapple with questions of identity and fate while he avoids death at the hands of various mysterious foes. Sallis (Renderings; A Few Last Words) puts little energy into plotting--or into any character besides David. The spy story seems primarily a vehicle for David's philosophizing and interaction with acquaintances along the way, but the novel works neither as a thriller nor as the deeper intellectual exercise it clearly wants to be. (July)