cover image Citizen Orlov

Citizen Orlov

Jonathan Payne. CamCat, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-744309-01-0

Set in an unnamed central European kingdom at the end of WWI, Payne’s stellar debut pokes hilarious fun at spy fiction through the exploits of a fishmonger named Orlov. Taking a shortcut through an alley one day, Orlov becomes concerned that the phone he hears ringing in a government office remains unanswered. He enters the room it’s in through an open window, picks up the call, and gets a cryptic “life and death” message he’s told to convey to someone named Agent Kosek. When Orlov sets off through the building to look for Kosek, he’s mistaken for a potential operative himself and, despite being wholly clueless, is paired up with another agent on a covert assignment to protect the king from assassins. As their mission progresses, the well-meaning but bumbling Orlov finds himself enmeshed deeper and deeper in plots he doesn’t understand. The blend of action and picaresque buffoonery flatteringly calls Conan Doyle’s Brigadier Gerard tales to mind, and Payne pulls off a genuinely surprising conclusion. This auspicious debut announces a bright new voice in comic suspense. (June)