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Nora Baron returns! The CIA’s most unlikely agent faces her deadliest challenge yet among the islands of the West Indies in this nonstop thriller from USA Today bestselling author Tom Savage.
“Tom Savage knows the mystery novel inside and out.”—James Patterson
A typical middle-aged couple on a first-class Caribbean cruise: That’s what the CIA needs for its latest mission, and husband-and-wife agents Jeff and Nora Baron leap at the chance. All they have to do is observe and report on fellow passenger Claude Lamont—a shady French businessman who’s attracted the Company’s interest—and his mysterious wife, Carmen. It’s an easy assignment . . . until a shopping trip at a port of call turns deadly, and Nora and her husband are forced to split up.
After Carmen abruptly disembarks, Nora follows her to Martinique while Jeff remains on board with Claude. But the beautiful French island holds a shocking secret. One American agent has already vanished from the area, and Nora soon learns why. A shadowy international terrorist known only as Diablo has come to the islands for a sinister purpose. With Jeff out of contact, Nora investigates on her own. But Diablo is waiting for her, and now Nora Baron is trapped between the Devil and the deep blue sea.
Be sure to read all four titles in Tom Savage’s exciting Nora Baron series: MRS. JOHN DOE | THE WOMAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH | THE SPY WHO NEVER WAS | THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SPY And don’t miss his standalone thriller A PENNY FOR THE HANGMAN!
Under the Cover
An excerpt from The Devil and the Deep Blue Spy
Nora Baron and her husband were jogging on the beach below their home when she noticed the two men watching them.
She and Jeff had traversed the entire stretch of sand three times already, keeping their pace slow to accommodate Jeff’s knee injury from a mission two years ago. They’d been swimming earlier, but now a breeze was drying their hair and bathing suits. This was their final lap, and Nora was beginning to think that things might not be so bad, after all.
Yesterday, July 21, had been her birthday—the dreaded Big Five-O—so today she needed this physical activity to reassure herself that age was an abstract concept and time was her friend. The vague depression she’d felt in the days leading up to the landmark was fading now; there was no sensible reason for it. She had a loving family, good health, good friends, and an exciting profession—three exciting professions, actually. The July sun glistened on Long Island Sound, the beach, and the grassy dunes. It was a beautiful day to be alive, no matter her age.
Their house was a two-story, wood-and-stone structure set well back above the dunes. She and Jeff had lived here since their wedding twenty-three years ago, and their daughter, Dana, had lived here all her life until she’d left for NYU four years ago. They had a widow’s walk on the roof and a long front drive to the beach road, and they’d added the flagstone patio behind the house, facing the water, where the two men in gray business suits and dark sunglasses had just materialized.
The men were African-American, and the older one was solidly built with close-cropped gray hair that matched his tailored suit. The tall, lanky young man beside him wore less expensive clothes and had a laptop case hanging from one wide shoulder. They watched the Barons from the patio—well, Nora assumed they were watching. It was hard to tell where they were looking through their sunglasses, which was the main point of these particular sunglasses.
Jeff saw the men, too. He and Nora slowed to a walk before stopping at the foot of the path leading up to the house. They looked up at the two men—or, rather, at the older man who was their employer—then at each other.
“What’s he doing here?” Nora asked.
“I don’t know, Pal,” her husband said. “He didn’t tell me he was coming.”
Nora shrugged. “And yet, there he is. Something tells me you’re urgently needed.”
Jeff grinned. “Or maybe you are.”
“There’s only one way to find out,” she said.
They walked up the wide path between two dunes, retrieving their T-shirts and towels from the sand along the way. Nora put on her shirt and dried her face and neck as she climbed the hill with Jeff behind her. The men had driven here from the city, a forty-mile trip. She figured their business must be very urgent indeed, not to mention secret. Top secret.
“Hello, Ham,” she said to the older man as she and Jeff arrived on the patio. “How lovely to see you!” She turned to the young man. “Hi, Ralph.”
Hamilton Green took her hands in his, and he and Ralph smiled at her, which Nora decided was a good sign. The only previous time these men had arrived here—last January, in the dead of night—they hadn’t been smiling. Mr. Green, Jeff’s boss and occasionally hers, was the director of the New York station of the CIA. Ralph Johnson was Jeff’s assistant there. In January, they had sat in Nora’s kitchen at midnight and offered her an assignment that had taken her to Venice, Italy.
“It’s such a nice day,” Nora said. “Let’s sit out here. I have a pitcher of iced tea—how does that sound?”
“It sounds perfect,” Ham Green said. “I’m sorry to arrive unannounced, but something’s come up.”
“Of course,” Nora said. She waved toward the umbrella-shaded table and four chairs near the back door. Jeff and the others sat down as she went into the kitchen. She arranged four tall glasses and a plate of Jeff’s favorite chocolate chip cookies on a tray and went back out to join the men. They’d been discussing the New York baseball teams while they waited for her. She noted with amusement that Ham and Ralph had removed their secret-agent sunglasses.
“Okay, down to business,” Ham said as Nora sat between him and her husband. “I need a respectable-looking couple for an op that’s already in play, and you two are the most respectable-looking people I know. I’m sorry for the short notice, but it can’t be helped; Langley just dumped all this on me. Well, Langley and Washington—Treasury, to be exact.” He leaned forward, and Nora saw the twinkle in his eye. “I want you to interrupt your vacation with a vacation.”
Jeff glanced over at Ham’s young assistant, then back at Hamilton Green. “Come again?”
Instead of explaining his cryptic remark, Ham nodded to Ralph, who placed his laptop on the table and fired it up. He turned it around so the screen faced Nora and Jeff. They saw two photographs, side-by-side, head-and-shoulders shots of two young women. Nora glanced back and forth between the two pictures before she realized they were both of the same woman.
The photo on the left showed an unsmiling, thirtyish Caucasian woman with a round face, plain features, and dull brown hair. Her cheeks, neck, and upper torso indicated that she was overweight. In the photo on the right her face and form were thinner, and she was smiling. She wore a lot of makeup that had been inexpertly applied, and her new hairstyle was sleek and glossy. Not a pretty girl, Nora decided, but she’d made an attempt to improve her looks.
“Her name is Mary Ross,” Ham said. “Twenty-nine, a grammar school art teacher in Miami, no police record.” He pointed to the picture on the left. “That was her school photo two years ago; the other one is this year’s version. In March and April, Ms. Ross made four trips to the Cayman Islands, withdrawing large amounts of cash from a bank and apparently smuggling it back to Florida. Treasury only found out about her two weeks ago, on July seventh. When they went to Miami to question her, they learned that she’d quit her teaching job in March, and her neighbors hadn’t seen her at all since then. Some of her utilities, including gas and electric, had been cut off in June for nonpayment, and the landlord was threatening to evict her. Miami-Dade police searched her house and found her buried in her backyard. She’d been strangled.”
“That’s awful,” Nora murmured. She looked at the pictures again, feeling a pang of sorrow for this stranger, this unlovely young woman who’d tried to make herself look pretty. Nora knew there was only one reason a woman would do that. “She brought the money back to America, and—I’ll take a wild guess here—now it’s vanished. Treasury didn’t recover it, did they?”
“No,” Ham said.
Nora nodded. “And they didn’t find her new boyfriend, either.”
The three men at the table stared at her.
She shrugged. “Unless she was a lesbian, there’s clearly a man in this. He romanced Mary Ross and got her to make those trips to the Caymans. She was a schoolteacher, thirtyish, no record, and she was missing for three months before anyone bothered to look for her, so she didn’t have much in the way of family or friends. She was an easy mark for a clever man. He picked her because she was a woman of good character with no ties, the sort of woman people don’t tend to notice, the last person anyone would suspect of being a mule.
“They probably met in a singles bar, or on one of those dating websites; something like that. I’m guessing she had little experience with men, but age thirty is biological clock time for a woman who loves children, so a bit of panic had set in. I know she fell in love with him because she gave herself a makeover, quit her job, and committed crimes for him. He made love to her, got his money, killed her, and took off. And you guys are sure it was this man who murdered her because a random robber or rapist wouldn’t take the time and effort to bury her; he needed her to disappear for as long as possible. I suppose this Prince Charming is someone of interest to the CIA.”
There was a moment of silence at the table. Jeff grasped Nora’s hand and gave it a squeeze. Ralph grinned at her and reached for a cookie. Ham Green leaned back in his chair, smiling.
Nora shrugged again. “If there were another woman at this table, she’d tell you the same thing. When it comes to a certain type of persuasive man, we’re all Mary Ross. If this op includes catching that creep, I’m in. What do you want us to do?”
Tom Savage is the USA Today bestselling author of A Penny for the Hangman, the Nora Baron series, and many other novels and short stories. His books have been published in fifteen countries, and his novel Valentine was made into a Warner Bros. film. Raised in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he now lives in New York City, where he worked for many years at Murder Ink®, the world’s first mystery bookstore.