Murder in the CIA by Margaret Truman

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Murder in the CIA

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Why would a nice young woman join the CIA? For Barrie Mayer, a Washington, D.C., literary agent, the answer lies in romance. After falling in love with Erik Edwards, a handsome and enigmatic man whom she meets on a trip to Virgin Gorda Island, she is approached by people who begin to question her about him. She soon finds out that her interlocutors belong to the CIA. Complicating the picture, Erik reveals that he also works for the agency. Barrie herself decides to join in order to work with her beloved.

If the reader finds her decision improbable, one can say only, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” especially in a Margaret Truman mystery. After enlisting as a CIA recruit, Barrie sets to work as a courier on Operation Banana Quick, an anti-Communist venture that takes her to Hungary.

Evidently failing to find the life of an agent entirely to her liking, she disappears. All, however, is not over, and another young woman, Barrie’s friend Collette Cahill, enters the scene. She joins the agency in order to learn what has happened to Barrie.

To reveal her findings would be to disclose too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that the reader will not again encounter Barrie. Instead, the story shifts to Collette, who also falls in love with Erik. Several characters turn out to be double agents, and the story ends happily as the chief villain gets what Booth Tarkington would have called his “well-deserved comeuppance” and Collette leaves the agency.

While the plot of MURDER IN THE CIA is better than average for the genre, the novel’s style is third-rate. All the characters speak short, complete, dull sentences at all times, even in the midst of anger or passion. Truman’s identical tone, regardless of the situation, often impedes the reader’s involvement with the characters. Instead, one turns away laughing.