This is another stunning cold war espionage thriller by the wonderfully gifted Victoria Dougherty. The book is set in 1956 and oozes a Noir feeling from page one; it’s atmospheric, stylish, sexy and naughty.
There are two central spy characters that drive the story forward through a world of gigolos, microfilms, trains, poison darts and generals.
While vacationing in Greece, Lily Tassos, the hard-partying daughter of a powerful arms dealer, has a sudden change in plans.
Alone and haunted by her lover’s sudden death, Lily resolves to complete his mission and find out who killed him.
In a world where you’re supposed to trust noone and where everyone can be dead in a heartbeat Dougherty serves us personal vendettas and political agendas, a wide range of locations, human nature in conflict with ideology and wraps it in beautiful prose.
Masquerading as a gung-ho member of the American Communist Party, she travels to Moscow, where she is contacted by Pasha Tarkhan. Brutal, yet charismatic, Tarkhan is both a high-ranking Soviet official and CIA asset, not to mention a covert supporter of the Russian Spiritual Underground. This alliance of self-styled “deists” have rejected the secular Soviet state and vowed to bring it down by means of faith, prayer…and blood.
Grinding her old life beneath the heel of her Dior stiletto, Lily puts her new one on the line, surrendering to fate, love and, for once, events bigger than herself.
I love Dougherty’s writing and this is yet another perfect novel.
Victoria Dougherty Bio
Victoria Dougherty has for nearly twenty years distinguished herself as a master storyteller, writing fiction, poetry, drama, speeches, essays, and television news segments/video scripts.
In Prague, Ms. Dougherty co-founded the acclaimed Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting to sold-out audiences in several Czech plays – from Vaclav Havel’s riveting “Protest” to the unintentionally hilarious communist propaganda play “Karhan’s Men.” Black Box Theater was profiled in feature articles in USA Today, International Herald Tribune, and numerous European publications.
Currently, Ms. Dougherty lives with her family in Charlottesville, VA, and has recently completed a thematically linked Cold War thriller series.
Now, without further ado, here’s a quirky little love scene straight from The Hungarian:
He tortured her carefully, bringing her to points of unbearable pain – yet he knew she would endure, saying nothing about the Sputnik or her Russian friends no matter how many times he asked her, no matter how many ways. Lily was in a different place now; a place where pain and uncertainty meant little. Gulyas touched her lips and she started to sing again – this time a Greek hymn – then she talked about the trees in the Lavra.
“They were very nice trees,” he said. It was true. He couldn’t help but notice them even if he had other things on his mind at the time.
Gulyas removed a midnight blue scarf from his back pocket. It had belonged to his Aunt Zuzanna and he’d taken it some time ago after losing the monogrammed handkerchief his wife had given him as a wedding present. Gently, he lifted Lily’s head and tied the scarf around her eyes, making the knot good and tense.
“Porcia Catonis was Marcus Brutus’ second wife,” Gulyas said. “The one who killed herself by swallowing hot coals.” He took Lily’s jaw in his hands and pried it wide open, placing a wooden block between her teeth. “I always admired her fortitude.”
Lily resisted, of course, but he’d tied her wrists behind her back and secured them to her ankles, binding them with a kind of slipknot that pulled her hands and feet closer together as she struggled. The more she moved, the more unnatural the position became, and the more agonizing. He enjoyed her struggle – although not because it gave her pain. He enjoyed it precisely because she was able suffer the pain. It was yet another attribute they shared.
Gulyas reached over to the dying Bunsen burner at his side and removed a dish from its frame. It was filled with a pharmacological capsaicin mixture and bubbled the way he imagined lava might bubble inside a volcano on the brink of erupting. An active component of the chili pepper, the capsaicin would certainly feel like hot coals.
“This shouldn’t take too long,” he said.
Slowly, Gulyas poured the mixture down Lily’s throat. She gasped and coughed as the capsaicin foamed in her mouth, but finally, she was forced to swallow. It was either that or drown.
“There we go,” he murmured.
In most cases, Gulyas found mock executions to be an extremely effective method of psychological torture. The capsaicin provided the added benefit of physical anguish as well.
But Lily, as he’d come to expect, was not most cases. She rolled onto her side, her wrists and ankles pulling closer together. Her eyes were tearing heavily and she was wheezing, but she’d suffered her fear and discomfort very well. There was almost a sense of serenity to her countenance.
The Hungarian took a sip of his wine and blotted Lily’s forehead with a cool, damp cloth he dipped frequently in a tin of rosewater. He heaved a breath, admiring the strong slope of her nose and the elegant line of her jawbone. She whispered something, but Beryx Gulyas couldn’t hear it. He bent down, putting his ear to her lips. “Love, did you say? Yes, love.”
Lily Tassos had been changed by love, he mused to himself. His love. And Beryx Gulyas had waited all of his life for someone like her. The funny thing was…she wasn’t even Hungarian.
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