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Lea Carpenter. Knopf, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-53660-5

A young woman learns her new husband is a spy intent on recruiting her for a dangerous mission in this anemic slow-burn from Carpenter (Red, White, Blue). The book’s unnamed British narrator—who tells much of the story in flashback from middle age—is an aimless 20-year-old when she meets Marcus, a wealthy 50-something American who proposes marriage shortly after the pair falls into a whirlwind romance. On the couple’s honeymoon in France, Marcus confesses he’s dying, and solicits the narrator’s help with a “project.” He then introduces her to Raja, a fellow intelligence officer who asks the narrator to pose as an art dealer and dine at a “dear friend’s” Cap Ferret compound. After the narrator follows instructions to observe the conditions and report back, Raja enlists her participation in the “last act” of a nine-year, multiagency plot to catch the compound’s owner—a former Russian general planning the assassination of U.K.-based American assets. Much of the story is framed as the narrator’s reflection on her long-ago induction into the “secret world” as an unwitting pawn, and while Carpenter wrings some pathos out of that conceit, her narrative elides too much and holds readers at too great a remove to truly captivate. Espionage fans are likely to find this disappointing. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (Jan.)