cover image Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning

Clive Egleton, Egleton. Minotaur Books, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-24102-5

The best spy novels function both within the real world and deep inside a convincing world all their own. This disappointing novel from the usually excellent Egleton (Blood Money) fails on both counts. Secret Intelligence Service agent Peter Ashton, always willing to bend the rules, has more reason than ever to push the envelope when one of the three people found dead in a London psychiatrist's office is discovered to have been using the identity of Peter's wife, Harriet. Also an occasional operative, Harriet is alive and well, but the SIS believes the impostor took advantage of a security lapse in a database containing agents' personal files. From there, the investigation proceeds through an unruly tangle of coincidences and dead ends. It's revealed that the murdered psychiatrist is related to a powerful Hindu terrorist, and that the dead woman who pretended to be Harriet is related to a Russian diplomat. The unsecured database serves as a possible hit list for the provisional IRA, while a middleman between a computer hacker and the Hindu dies with his head placed on a busy train track. Spy craft requires a certain amount of facelessness, but the unrelenting wash of characterless operatives here makes for bland reading. Moreover, the villain's motivations are never satisfactorily explored. Despite some good action sequences that will remind readers of vintage Egleton, this latest novel from the veteran author produces more sound than substance. (Nov.)