Twelve Trains to Babylon. Alfred Connable.

Twelve Trains to Babylon
by Alfred Connable.
Little, Brown: 1971.

Jon is a spy, transferred to America several years ago. His job is to transfer messages or suitcases from one place to another. He is part of a vast network and nobody knows who anyone else is or what they do. All is well until a government agent discovers him and coerces him to find out who the other links in the network are. The network finds out he is discovered and needs to kill him in order to protect its secrecy. During all of this, he is also trying to decide which of two women he loves – and what is love, anyway?

Things get even more complicated when it is revealed that the spy network has been taken over by the mafia, and he has actually been smuggling heroin for the past several years. Soon, good guys become bad guys and vice versa, and multiple people have had the same identity. This book is very complex and slightly confusing, but it makes for one of the best spy novels I’ve ever read. A ‘classic’ suspense story that emphasizes the action and mystery rather than dwelling on gruesome people or graphic details as in most modern suspense stories. Very well written, and it is interesting to watch Jon change – again, it is refreshing to have a dynamic character is what is formally, at least, pulp fiction.