to a summons from Blake, a private
inquiry agent in London. Viscount
and member of
the new Tory
wants the pair
to look into two
that the police
on psychic clues, and an ending telegraphed
way too early. Author tour. Agent: Lisa
Gallagher, DeFiore and Company. (Mar.)
★ The Infidel Stain
M.J. Carter. Putnam, $26.95 (432p) ISBN 978-
Set around 1840, Carter’s outstanding
second whodunit reunites Jeremiah Blake
and William Avery, who tackled a baffling
mystery a few years earlier in India in 2015’s
The Strangler Vine. Avery, a former army
captain who has returned home to
England with his pregnant wife, responds
researching her new project at nearby South
Jersey Penitentiary will somehow enable
her to help solve the case—which, coinci-
dentally, is being officially reopened. At
the prison, she crosses paths with her main
high school crush, Brady Irons, who hap-
pens to be a corrections officer there. Back
in the day, Brady seemed barely aware of
Cady’s existence, but she now senses an
undeniable mutual attraction, despite the
extra pounds about which she’s incessantly
self-conscious. Though the novel does have
it moments, readers should be prepared
for inconsistent characters, overreliance
Nearly all of us work, a lot: many people spend more waking hours working than doing all other things combined. And nearly all of us spend our lifetimes working for someone other than ourselves.
Me, I’ve had a lot of employers, beginning when I was 15
years old. I worked as a draftsman for the Department of
Environmental Protection and as a teacher, in N. Y.C.; at a big
bank and a small ad agency, a tiny law firm and a few giant
ones; as a cashier and a dishwasher; preparing deli sandwiches
and stringing tennis racquets and pruning evergreens into
conical Christmas-tree shapes. But mostly I worked in
publishing, where I held a dozen different job titles at eight
different companies, including a small independent one and a
large independent one, a privately owned international
conglomerate and a publicly traded one.
Sometimes, I had very little—if any—idea for whom I
was really working: at the end of the day, who reaped the
profits? Was it a privately controlled German foundation or
a global array of stockholders? A middle-class guy on the
Upper West Side or Rupert Murdoch? Were we pursuing
mere profit, or self-perpetuation, or something bigger?
Making the world a better place? Or perhaps a worse one?
After years of working on books, I eventually took a more
business-oriented job, for the same sorts of reasons that most
people take most new jobs: fancier title, higher pay, opportunities for advancement. Now my work was focused on
increasing revenue and decreasing expenditures, about
administration and budgets, about commerce.
If I squinted, I could’ve been working in nearly any industry. I didn’t like this job, and I was pretty sure I was bad at it.
I confided in my boss, who gave me a pep talk: think of this
company, he told me, as something you’d started in your
garage. You should wake up every day and ask yourself, what
am I going to do today to improve my business?
I couldn’t think of a worse way to wake up every day. So I
My stakes were low: in the overall scheme of things, it
doesn’t really matter for whom an editor works. Nor, for that
matter, a novelist. But for some jobs, it does matter, doesn’t
it? Lawyers and consultants, biochemists and nuclear physicists, politicians and lobbyists, soldiers and cops and diplomats and mercenaries, spies.
For this new novel, I started thinking about a story in
which a normal, everyday character with an international
job—could be me, could be you—gets seduced into becoming a covert asset, paid to report on the people he meets, and
the gossip he hears, to the CIA.
Or, at least, that’s what he thinks.
[In My Own Words]
Pavone’s third novel, The Travelers (Crown, Mar.), is an international spy thriller, but it’s also a book about work—
and what it is we think we’re doing in our jobs, and why. And what happens if we find out we’re wrong.
The World of Work
BY CHRIS PAVONE