cover image The Spy in a Box

The Spy in a Box

Ralph Dennis. Brash, $17.99 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-941298-89-3

A disciplined focus on atmosphere bolsters this previously unpublished spy novel from Dennis (1931–1988). In 1980, Will Hall, a CIA agent stationed in the South American country of Costa Verde, witnesses the killing of Paul Marcos, a prominent political figure Hall strongly supported for his moderate views. Angry and disenchanted, Hall quits the agency, but is framed to seem like a whistle-blower when a magazine article is published bearing his name and exposing a definitive account of the CIA’s involvement in Marcos’s murder and the region’s political affairs. Hall subsequently becomes a target for assassination by dangerous enemies, including members of his former outfit, and finds himself “boxed in tighter than a coffin.” Calling in favors from ex-agency associates, Hall fends off numerous attempts on his life while trying to uncover the truth and prove his innocence. Dennis’s stark, impassive prose will appeal to noir fans, but readers should be prepared for an absence of genuine suspense. Nevertheless, steady plotting and authentic characters hold the story together. (Dec.)