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The Echelon Vendettaby David Stone
Synopses & Reviews
An international spy thriller of the highest order that traverses from Venice to London to Washington, D.C.
Micah Dalton is not paid to ask questions. He's the man the CIA sends to clean up the mess when something goes wrong — an agent gets in trouble, or worse. But when his colleague and friend Porter Nauman turns up dead in an idyllic Tuscan hill town, as a result of an apparent and unimaginably gruesome suicide, Dalton can't help but ask questions. And when Nauman's family is subsequently slaughtered back home in London, Dalton can sit back no longer.
Moving from Venice to London to Washington, D.C., to the unbearably beautiful mountains of the American West, Dalton tracks the specter who, with a penchant for intricate knifework influenced by Native American mysticism, is killing a disparate group of agents, former agents, and contract men — all of whom seem to have a connection to ECHELON, a mysterious company operation. The murders appear to be acts of retribution, but for what?
Elegant, horrifying, and chillingly suspenseful, The Echelon Vendetta will keep you enthralled, through its final, supremely satisfying twist.
"Somebody is killing the former CIA agents who took part in a brilliant but highly illegal top secret operation known as Echelon. A couple of ghosts may also be involved, real or imagined, but they don't interfere with the credibility or the sustained excitement of the pseudonymous Stone's debut thriller. His hero, Micah Dalton, is a 'cleaner' — a special operative sent in under cover to make sure no agency dirt gets into the public air. When his friend and colleague, Porter Naumann, is found savagely slaughtered in a Tuscany hotel, Micah tries to find out what happened. Cool and endlessly resourceful, the likable Micah does whatever it takes to clean up the mess. Also memorable are a shrewd Italian policeman, who can tell when something isn't kosher, and Micah's immediate boss, Jack Stallworth, 'a short, sharp, bullet-headed hard-nosed razorback hog with all the languid charm of a quick knee to the jaw.' The author, who has served in the military and been an intelligence officer, clearly knows his way around the higher levels of official treachery. 75,000 printing. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"David Stone's first novel is well-written, intelligent and sometimes funny, but most of all it is violent. Before the tale is told, around 20 men, women and children are killed or maimed, often in extremely grisly and sadistic ways. Some people will find the book unreadable, and even hard cases like myself may skim over the more horrific scenes. You begin to wonder what the author's motivation is,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) what he's trying to prove. The easy answer is that violence sells books. The more interesting answer would be that the author, who is said to have been a soldier and intelligence officer ('David Stone' is a pseudonym), just wants to show us what life is really like on the front lines. Or it could be both. In either event, he makes his point: The human animal is capable of all but unimaginable cruelty. Of course, we already know that from reading the papers and watching the evening news, but if you want to curl up with a novelistic reminder, 'The Echelon Vendetta' will do just fine. Our hero, Micah Dalton, is a 'cleaner' for the CIA. That means that when a messy situation arises, he hurries in to clean things up. Early in the novel he's called to an Italian town where a CIA colleague has been found dead. The man's face is mostly gone, his throat has been torn open, and wild dogs feasted on him before his body was found. Then his wife and two teenage daughters are found murdered in London in ways you don't want to hear about, and it becomes clear that they were killed just so photos could be taken and shown to the CIA man before he died. We are dealing here with a possibly insane and extremely skillful killer who wants revenge on a number of CIA men, and Dalton must find out who he is and why he's on this rampage. Dalton is himself no pacifist. After viewing his friend's body, he returns to Venice and goes for an after-dinner drink on the Piazza San Marco. A quartet is playing Ravel's 'Bolero' and after that a Chopin sonata. A certain peace overtakes him. Then, as he walks back to his hotel, two thugs accost him. They taunt him, call him gay, which doesn't seem to be the case, and threaten him with a knife. He proceeds to beat and kick the two men half to death. And while he does so, responding to their accusations that he was gay, he dances about and sings the ballad 'People' to them. ('What's your favorite show tune, Milan? We marigolds just love show tunes.') Our hero, in short, is rather strange. We see more evidence of this when he is visited by the ghost of his dead colleague, with whom he holds long conversations. When a woman tells him, 'You are not quite sane, Micah,' he replies, 'My world is not quite sane either.' It is the understatement of the year. Much of the novel takes place in Italy and in the American West, both of which the author describes well. But the beauty of the landscapes is overshadowed by the horrors that keep unfolding, such as this one when they search a cabin for a body: 'The walls were moving, and the boards under their feet were thick with black cockroaches, their wings chittering and whirring. Fat cold slugs dropped onto their heads from the rafters, and tiny biting flies flew at their faces.' A little of this goes a long way, and fortunately the author breaks things up with bits of dark humor. For example: 'Not even God kept better records than the IRS. It occurred to Dalton that if the IRS had been tracking terrorists instead of taxpayers, the World Trade Center would still be standing.' Dalton's CIA boss declares, 'But these Islamic terrorists, they'll always be with us. Like herpes simplex or Noam Chomsky.' And Dalton explains of his name, perhaps in jest, 'Micah. As in Formica. I was conceived on a bar top.' The anonymous author, who seems to be a man of mature years, makes some nice cultural connections. He mentions movies such as 'High Noon' and songs such as Glenn Miller's 'In the Mood' and the immortal 'Buckle Down, Winsocki.' I was delighted when he had a character recall a fishing trip on Priest Lake, in the Idaho Panhandle, where I fished and swam in the distant past. Stone writes well, but as you put the book down, you are left with the question of how much violence is too much. For me, the breaking point came when a crusty old journalist — who is smoking Marlboros through her tracheal tube — gives Dalton an awful and entirely gratuitous description of the injuries suffered by a baby girl in an auto accident. I think an editor might have spared us that image, which comes rather close to pornography, but if you want to be reminded that life is often nasty, brutal and short, 'The Echelon Vendetta' will do the job." Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.comDavid J. Leonard, an assistant professor of comparative ethnic studies at Washington State UniversityRachel Hartigan Shea, a contributing editor to The Washington Post Book WorldTayari Jones, who is the author of 'Leaving Atlanta' and 'The Untelling'Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Stone, a veteran intelligence officer writing pseudonymously, packs the novel with the kind of nitty-gritty detail that draws espionage fans. A promising debut." Booklist
"Fast-moving, smart, sexy and alarming. Everything you want in a thriller." Kikrus Reviews
CIA agent Micah Dalton is a "cleaner." He takes care of other agents' mistakes. When a friend and mentor commits a grotesque suicide, Dalton's investigation leads him into the snare of a madman, into the arms of a beautiful, mysterious stranger-and into a conspiracy within his own agency. Dalton knows only one thing for certain-this job is going to get very messy.
Stone's debut novel is elegant, horrifying, and chillingly suspenseful. He has produced a supremely satisfying international spy thriller of the highest order that traverses from Venice to London to Washington, D.C.
About the Author
David Stone currently teaches history at Dulwich College. Previously he was a Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
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