The new novel by acclaimed espionage author Paul Vidich explores the dark side of intelligence, when a CIA officer delves into a cold case from the 1950s-with fatal consequences.
In 1953, Dr. Charles Wilson, a government scientist, died when he ‘jumped or fell’ from the ninth floor of a Washington hotel. As his wife and children grieve, the details of the incident remain buried for twenty-two years.
With the release of the Rockefeller Commission report on illegal CIA activities in 1975, the Wilson case suddenly becomes news again. Wilson’s family and the public are demanding answers, especially as some come to suspect the CIA of foul play, and agents in the CIA, FBI, and White House will do anything to make sure the truth doesn’t get out.
Enter agent Jack Gabriel, an old friend of the Wilson family who is instructed by the CIA director to find out what really happened to Wilson. It’s Gabriel’s last mission before he retires from the agency, and his most perilous. Key witnesses connected to the case die from suspicious causes, and Gabriel realizes that the closer he gets to the truth, the more his entire family is at risk.
Following in the footsteps of spy fiction greats like Graham Green, John Le Carré, and Alan Furst, Paul Vidich presents a tale – based on the unbelievable true story told in Netflix’s Wormwood – that doesn’t shy away from the true darkness in the shadows of espionage.
I received a copy of the book from No Exit Press in return for an honest review.
A well-crafted conspiracy style political thriller, which has an additional poignancy because it is inspired by a true tragedy that happened in 1953, to a family member of the author. The story begins with the tragic event, seen from the tragedy instigator’s point of view. Its execution is the substance of many spy stories, but this one resonates because of the real-life personal connection.
A subsequent investigation in the mid-seventies provokes an internal investigation by the CIA, headed by an operative close to retirement, who is friendly with the victim’s family. The investigation throws up more questions than answers in the beginning, as those involved push-back. A turning-point is an unnamed source, who has the requisite information but won’t be identified.
There is a building intensity and menace, as the investigation progresses, implied rather than overt, but there. As the story gains momentum, the threat is implicit and Gabriel, the investigator realises his family is in danger because of his actions. The ending reinforces everything that has come before.
This thriller is written in a detailed, character-driven style that works well with conspiracy thrillers. The pacing is geared more to the absorption of events, rather than action. It is atmospheric and intense and portrays the paranoia in the intelligence world of 1950s USA believably. It is immersive and disturbing reading,
PAUL VIDICH is the acclaimed author of The Coldest Warrior (2020), An Honorable Man (2016) and The Good Assassin (2017), and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, LitHub, CrimeReads, Fugue, The Nation, Narrative Magazine, and others. He lives in New York.
When the fate of the world rests on your shoulders, how do you choose between what you ought to do and the only thing you really want?
Leonie finally knows who she is. But now she needs to decide who she is going to be. Her choice will affect not just her family, not just those she knows, but tens, hundreds of thousands, millions of people that she doesn’t. And every path that’s open to her will put Perry under the pressures that caused his breakdown before. How can she do what she must and still protect Perry?
Perry desperately wants to make things easier for Leonie. Somehow he has to find the strength to face the things that all but destroyed him in the past. But every way he turns, some aspect of his past lies waiting to pounce – even during his happiest moments. And he can never forget that Leonie’s life is in danger from someone, somewhere.
Gabriel has managed to negotiate peace, at least in theory. Now he must put that into practice and reunite Leonie with the family she never knew she had. Then disaster strikes right in the middle of his own sanctuary. Can he still protect those he loves, or has he been harbouring a villain the whole time?
Extract: Taken from the second chapter, Leonie and Perry are staying at Castle Tennant. This is the morning after Leonie has had a nightmare and destroyed the Shield protecting the Castle.
Perry grinned at me while we were eating. “I made you a promise yesterday,” he said. “Fancy going swimming after breakfast?”
I nodded eagerly. Swimming always made me feel better no matter what was going on. As soon as I’d finished eating, I grabbed my costume – and Perry – and hurried down to the pool. I was ready first so I slid into the empty, still waters, closing my eyes and revelling in the waves lapping against my skin. I took a deep breath, ducked under the surface and swam as far as I could underwater, enjoying the sensation of being totally encompassed by it. When I came up for air, Perry was in the water too, leaning back against one side of the pool.
He smiled at me. “Are you sure you’re not really a fish?” he asked.
I splashed him and he came after me, in a whirlwind of water, splashes and laughter until he caught me.
We were still in the pool, swimming laps, when Lilyrose and Brin came to find us.
Brin squatted down by the edge of the pool and I looked up at him.
“I am sorry about last night,” I told him.
He smiled. “I told you, don’t worry about it. I’ve managed to persuade Uncle Neville to fork out for a full set of new Shields and a few other goodies, so I’m very happy about it all.”
“Typical Brin,” Perry called. “Always manages to come out on top.”
Brin swivelled on his toes to look at Perry. “Thought you might like to come over to the practice ground again,” he said. “Best not to be caught off guard.”
But Brin was off guard, balanced there on his toes. I reached for just a little power and pushed. He toppled into the pool, arms and legs flailing frantically. He came up spluttering, launching himself at me. “You little…”
I giggled and dived straight under him, beneath his legs, before surfacing next to Perry, who was shaking with laughter. “Best not to be caught off guard, Brin,” he called.
Brin turned, a big smile spread across his face. “Very good,” he conceded. “Now did you want to come over to the practice ground or not?”
Perry looked back and forth between me and Brin, and I could feel he was uncertain. Knowing we could be in danger had made him eager to brush up on his defensive skills but at the same time, he didn’t really want to leave me.
“You go,” I told him. “I just want to swim for a bit longer and then I’ll come and find you.”
He smiled in relief at the decision being made for him, kissed me, and then he and Brin got out of the pool to dry and dress. I swam up and down the pool for a while, revelling in the rhythm of my strokes and the lap of the water against my body. It helped me get my thoughts in order.
What if the ethical choice has devastating consequences for others?
How can anyone know the right thing to do?
Leonie chose to sacrifice everything to save other people. Now those around her have to face the consequences – and those consequences are not what they expected.
Prospero must deal with his own guilt. He was the one who gave Leonie the tools she needed – her life was in his hands. To make the most of what she did, he will have to face up to all the family issues he has avoided for so long. Whatever he chooses to do, someone he loves will be hurt. For Leonie’s sake, is he now strong enough to make the choice he couldn’t make before?
The crisis predicted by Lord Gabriel has come and gone. But his task isn’t over. Leonie’s very existence may be out in the open but Gabriel discovers that the past is never what it seems – and nor is the present. How can he use what he now knows to bring together those who have been enemies for as long as anyone can remember? If he fails in this, everything he’s had to do so far will be in vain.
What if your secrets are so dangerous they could destroy the one you love? Is honesty always the best policy?
Leonie may have run away but Prospero will find her. He loves her and he wants a future with her by his side whatever the consequences. Only when he does find her, he ought to tell her who he really is, outside the monastery. That’ll make her run again. Dare he risk it? But if he doesn’t tell her, someone else may…
Marriage to Prospero is what Leonie wants most and the one thing she knows she can’t have. If he found out what she was really like, what she’d been, what she’d done, he’d despise her and she couldn’t bear that. Better to leave now than live a lie – but it’s harder than she expected. If only…
Gabriel is starting to discover the secrets inherent in Leonie, secrets that not even she knows, secrets that will tear the world apart. And the secrets he is keeping are tearing him apart. How can sacrificing those he loves possibly achieve peace when everything he discovers risks the death of millions?
A girl. A monk. An unthinkable sacrifice. When the choice is between love and life, how can anyone decide?
In a post-apocalyptic future, a girl and a monk, both with extraordinary mental powers, have compelling reasons not to fall in love. But their choices will have consequences for the rest of the world.
After the troubles of his youth, Brother Prospero has found comfort and fulfilment in the monastery. Then he discovers something that forces him to reconsider his whole vocation. How can it possibly be right to leave a life of worship and service for human desire? And if he does leave, will the pressures from his past destroy him?
Orphaned and mistreated, Leonie has found sanctuary and safety at the Abbey. When she comes into contact with Prospero everything spirals out of her control. Everyone she’s ever loved has died. She can’t do that to him. But how can she walk away from the first place she’s truly belonged?
Abbot Gabriel is faced with an impossible choice. He can do nothing and watch the world descend into war. Or he can manipulate events and ensure peace – at the cost of two lives that he is responsible for. Is he strong enough to sacrifice those he loves?
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Rachel J Bonner is the author of the compelling and enthralling four book Choices and Consequences series. The first book in the series, Strand of Faith, was published in November 2018. Book 2, Thread of Hope, released on 2nd May 2019, followed by Weave of Love on 24th October, and Cloth of Grace at the end of February 2020.
Getting a degree in engineering, followed by a career in accountancy is probably not a conventional path to becoming an author, particularly in paranormal romance. Rachel says that, although accountancy isn’t anything like as boring as everyone thinks, writing is a lot more fun. When not writing, she can be found walking in the beautiful countryside near where she lives, which has influenced much of the scenery in her books or shooting things with her local archery club. Shooting targets only, honest. Nothing to worry about.
She also enjoys swimming, eating chocolate chip cookies and growing aromatic herbs, especially thyme and rosemary. It’s no coincidence that her heroine likes the same things.
You can find out more about her books and sign up for Rachel’s newsletters on her website.