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House of the Hunted
320 pages; Random House
Summer on the French Riviera: long swims, sailing jaunts, wine-soaked dinners on stone terraces—and an attempted assassination. So begins Mark Mills' delicious House of the Hunted, a terse, carefully plotted journey through the precarious world of pre–World War 2 Continental politics that'll have you guessing until the very end. The book features Tom Nash, a retired English spy attempting to put his past behind him and make a living as a writer in the South of France. But when a hired killer creeps into his bedroom and tries to kill him in his sleep, Tom finds himself in a race to figure out which of his many former enemies or current friends wants him dead before another assassin is sent. Mills is subtle and deliberate in his plotting of Tom's search for the person behind the killer. Each of the story's developments occurs just a little longer after the last one than you want it to, so you're kept waiting, desperate for the next explosive episode to burst forth from beneath the elegant and hilarious surface of Tom's bon vivant expat existence. In fact, it's Tom's atypical character that keeps this book from devolving into your typical lone-wolf thriller. Tom doesn't go rogue or leave his witty, brilliant social circle behind on la plage. Rather, Lucy (his ferociously perceptive goddaughter), Leonard (his closest ally and former boss) and Barnaby, (his kooky journalist buddy) as well as a host of other friends add their own zany brilliance to the chase—one toasted with plenty of white Burgundy. The stakes in the book—life, death, peace in Europe—are too serious for it to be called a romp, but Tom and his gang make feeling really, really anxious surprisingly enjoyable.
— Nathalie Gorman