"THE ENVOY" is one of those Cold War based espionage novels that will hold you spellbound in its grip. It weaves a carefully crafted tale that will captivate any reader who loves adventures rich with bravado, derring-do, intrigue from the highest levels of government, and betrayal.
The novel begins in Nice, France during May 1948. Kitson ("Kit") Fournier, a native of Baltimore (Maryland) from a rather well-to-do family and a former OSS officer in French Indochina during the Second World War, is a Foreign Service officer in the U.S. consulate. A phone call at 2:00 AM awakens him from an agreeably erotic dream. The U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) in Paris tells him that a notable person by the name of Lady Hartington had died in the crash of a small plane and that Kit is to go identify the body. At first, Kit wondered why he was requested to check on Lady Hartington, whom he supposed to be British and therefore, a matter for the British Foreign Office to handle. The DCM quickly informs him that Lady Hartington is American. What's more, before marrying an English lord who was later killed in the War by a German sniper, Lady Hartington had been Kathleen Kennedy, one of the daughters of Joseph Kennedy, the former U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. Kit had only known Kathleen Kennedy briefly through meeting her at the Maryland Hunt Cup in the late spring of 1940. (She and her older brother Jack had been staying with a friend at the time.) He then "closed his eyes tight and thought, Why me? He hated dealing with dead bodies. After a moment, he said [to the DCM in answer to his question: 'Do you remember her well enough to identify the body?'], 'I think so, she wasn't a great beauty, but she was a bubbly girl.' "
Kit drove to the area of the crash with his British counterpart (for the other passengers were British; there were no survivors) to identify the bodies, which had been placed by the local authorities in the district council offices. He was the process of examining Lady Hartington's personal effects when in stormed Joe Kennedy himself. Kennedy demanded to see his daughter's body and gave Kit such a hard time that Kit suspected that - given Kennedy's considerable influence - his diplomatic career was forfeit. He met later with the DCM who strongly advised that he lie low and seek employment with the new intelligence agency (an offshoot of the OSS now known as the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA) that was seeking talented, highly motivated and intelligent men for work in spycraft. Kit, with his talent for languages and prior OSS experience, proved to be an apt pupil. By the mid-1950s, he was working - under cover as a State Department senior diplomat - as one of the CIA's top agents at the U.S. embassy in London.
The heart of the novel is centered on Kit's espionage work in Britain, which involved blackmail, coercion, and furthering U.S. interests as outlined by the CIA chief Allen Dulles, who was single-minded in his promotion of those interests, even at the expense of a friendly ally (i.e. Britain). Indeed, Kit had learned that "[t]he making of foreign policy ... is not a pretty business. It's a selfish, amoral trade. As an envoy, the interests of your closest ally don't mean a thing; your only job is to further your own country's national interest. You don't just f--k your enemies; you f--k your friends too." To this end, Kit is tasked with preventing a British détente with the Soviet Union (as occasioned by the visit of Khrushchev and Bulganin during April 1956 in a new state-of-the-art warship whose secrets both Britain and America were eager to uncover and exploit) and denying Britain its own hydrogen bomb. The action is riveting, always intense --- especially on the psychological level -- and will get the reader guessing as to what is to come next. And there is also love unexpected, and passion followed by heartbreak, that adds its own bewildering effects to the novel.
"THE ENVOY" sucked me in almost from the very beginning. So much so that I wish it didn't have to end. I LOVE THIS NOVEL (!!!)