Sunday, September 28, 2014

Assignment -- Lili Lamaris - Edward S. Aarons

She began to laugh, and then to taunt him, moving suggestively around him, then pressing close to him, entwining her long legs around him. Durell swung an arm around her satin-smooth waist and forced her back to the bunk, then stepped away. His face was dark with anger. The girl looked at him, tried to laugh derisively, and choked on the sound and began to shiver and sob. Durell stood looking down at her for a long moment. His pity was gone. He felt only a dull, pulsing anger, a moment of puzzlement, a quick shift of perspective like a change in the pattern of a child's kaleidoscope when the crystals are overturned. Durell put a blanket over her and lit another cigarette and listened quietly to the sounds of her sorrow and despair. 

Fawcett Publications
We go back to 1959 with Sam Durell on this, his 10th assignment in the series that lasted until 1976, with his 42nd case. So far I've only read a few of the older Durell novels, starting about a year or so ago with Assignment--Stella Marni and I haven't been disappointed yet.

In this caper, CIA Operative Sam Durell is called to Rome to pick up where another agent, Purdy Kent, left off after getting his throat slit in alleyway. Durell doesn't have a lot of details to go on, only that he's supposed to make contact with another agent, Harvey Shedlock for further information once he arrives in Rome. Harvey Shedlock has been in the cold way too long and has developed a bad case of nerves. Purdy Kent's murder has only increased his paranoia and fear. Kent was considered a consummate professional in the spy game, and that someone was able to sneak up on him and slit his throat in an alleyway is cause for deep alarm. Durell learns from Shedlock that the dead agent had been getting close to a certain Lili Lamaris, a world famous ballerina who has recently taken up an unlikely romance with Mitch Martin. Martin is one of those "new breed" of hoodlums with strong ties to American mobsters, drug smuggling and money laundering. Money used to fund communists in their war on America. Durell's job is to pick up where Purdy Kent left off and find Mitch Martin and put a stop to his nefarious dealings. The key to finding Martin is Lili Lamaris, a somewhat naive, and it turns out, unstable young woman with bad taste in men.

Durell has barely landed in Rome when he discovers he's being tailed by a man in a green Panizza hat. Not only that, but his cover is blown when Dante Lamaris, Lili's father, shows up in Durell's hotel room with a job offer for Durell to assassinate Mitch Martin. Dante Lamaris is a shady Greek tycoon who seems to have most of the police force in his pockets. He also knows all about Durell's assignment, thanks to a blabbermouth Colonel Powelton, the military attache to the Ambassador and liaison to the CIA's K section in Italy.

So, right of the get-go we see that Durell can basically trust no one on his assignment to nail Mitch Martin's ass. And it's not going to be easy for him. He's going to get jumped, beaten, tortured, shot at, seduced, tossed in the slammer, seduced some more, knifed, and double-crossed before getting to the bottom of things. Along the way he's got to deal with a spoiled rich girl with a monkey on her back, an agent with a bad case of nerves, a psychotic killer with a fondness for knives, an evil wheelchair bound German doctor, and a hot-blooded Roman prostitute before the last bullet plugs the last evil mastermind behind this tangled caper.

Recommended for fans of hardboiled cold war spy stuff.

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