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Business tycoon Aldo Cassidy finds himself trapped between two remarkable loves--Shamus, a high-living artist, and Helen, his alluring wife.
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John le Carr - was born in 1931. His third novel, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, secured him a worldwide reputation, which was consolidated by the acclaim for his trilogy: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Honorable Schoolboy, and Smiley's People. His novels include The Little Drummer Girl, A Perfect Spy, The Russia House, Our Game, The Taileor of Panama, and Single & Single. John le Carr - lives in Cornwall.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Cassidy drove contentedly through the evening sunlight, his face as close to the windshield as the safety belt allowed, his foot alternating diffidently between accelerator and brake as he scanned the narrow lane for unseen hazards. Beside him on the passenger seat, carefully folded into a plastic envelope, lay an Ordnance Survey map of central Somerset. An oilbound compass of the newest type was fastened by suction to the walnut dashboard. At a corner of the windshield, accurately adjusted to his field of view, a copy of the Estate Agent's particulars issued under the distinguished title of Messrs. Grimble and Outhwaite of Mount Street W. was clipped to an aluminum stand of his own invention. For the attention of Mr. Aldo Cassidy ran the deferential inscription; for Aldo was his first name. He drove, as always, with the greatest concentration, and now and then he hummed to himself with that furtive sincerity common to the tone-deaf.
He was traversing a moor. A flimsy ground mist shifted over rhines and willow trees, slipped in little puffs across the glistening hood of his car, but ahead the sky was bright and cloudless and the spring sun made emeralds of the approaching hills. Touching a lever he lowered the electric window and leaned one side of his head into the rush of air. At once rich smells of peat and silage filled his nostrils. Over the reverent purr of the car's engine he caught the sounds of cattle and the cry of a cowhand harmlessly insulting them.
"It's an idyll," he declared aloud. "It's an absolute idyll."
Better still it was a safe idyll, for in the whole wide beautiful world Aldo Cassidy was the only person who knew where he was.
Beyond his conscious hearing, a closed-off chamber of his memory echoed to the awkward chords of an aspiring pianist. Sandra, wife to Aldo, is extending her artistic range.
"Good news from Bristol," Cassidy said, talking over the music. "They think they can offer us a patch of land. We'll have to level it of course."
"Good," said Sandra, his wife, and carefully rearranged her hands over the keyboard.
"It's a quarter of a mile from the largest boys' school and eight hundred yards from the girls'. The city authorities say there's a fair chance that if we do the levelling and donate the changing rooms, they'll put up a foot-bridge on the by-pass."
She played a ragged chord.
"Not an ugly one, I hope. Town planning is extremely important, Aldo."
"Can I come?"
"Well you have got your clinic," he reminded her with tentative severity.
"Yes. Yes, I've got my clinic," Sandra agreed, her voice lilting slightly in counterpoint. "So you'll have to go alone, won't you? Poor Pailthorpe."
Pailthorpe was her private name for him, he could not remember why. Pailthorpe the Bear, probably; bears were their most popular fauna.
"I'm sorry," said Cassidy.
"It's not your fault," said Sandra. "It's the Mayor's, isn't it? After all," she added speculatively, "he runs the town, doesn't he?"
"Naughty Mayor," said Cassidy.
"Naughty Mayor," Sandra agreed.
"Spank him," Cassidy suggested.
"Spank, spank," gaily said Sandra, wife to Aldo, her face in combat with its shadows.
He was a fair-haired man of thirty-eight and quite handsome in certain lights. Like his car he was groomed with loving elegance. From the left-hand buttonhole to the breast pocket of his faultless suit ran a thin gold chain of obvious usefulness whose purpose was nevertheless undefined. Aesthetically it perfectly answered the subdued pin stripe of the cloth behind it; as a piece of rigging it joined the head of the man to the heart, but there was no telling which end if either held the mastery. In both build and looks he might have served as an architectural prototype for the middle-class Englishman privately educated between the wars; one who had felt the wind of battle but never the fire of it. Heavy at the waist, short in the leg, a squire always in the making, he possessed those doggedly boyish features, at once mature and retarded, which still convey a dying hope that his pleasures may be paid for by his parents. Not that he was effeminate. True, the mouth was well advanced from the rest of the face and quite deeply sculptured under the lower lip. True also that as he drove he was guilty of certain affectations which pointed in the female direction, such as brushing aside his forelock or putting back his head and wrinkling his eyes as though a sudden headache had interfered with brilliant thoughts. But if these mannerisms meant anything at all, then most likely they reflected a pleasing sensitivity towards a world occasionally too shrill for him, an empathy as much parental as childish, rather than any unwelcome tendencies left over from public school.
Clearly he was no stranger to the expense account. An untaxable affluence was legible in the thickening of the lower waistcoat (for his safety and comfort he had unfastened the top button of his trousers) and in the widths of white cuff which isolated his hands from manual labour; and there was already about his neck and complexion a sleek rich gloss, a tan almost, flambé rather than sun-given, which only balloon glasses, Bunsen burners, and the fumes of crêpes suzette can faithfully reproduce. Despite this evidence of physical well-being, or perhaps in contrast to it, the outward Cassidy possessed in some devious way the power, even the authority to disturb. Though he was not in the slightest degree pathetic there was something to him which caught the eye and demanded help. Somehow he managed to convey that the encroachments of the flesh had not yet killed the magic of the spirit.
As if in recognition of this protective rôle which Cassidy unconsciously imposed on his environment, the interior of the car was provided with many important adaptations designed to spare him the distressing consequences of collision. Not only had the walls and ceiling and doors been generously upholstered with additional layers of quilt; the steering wheel, the child-proof door handles -- already deeply recessed in succulent cavities of felt -- the glove compartment, brake lever, even the discreetly concealed fire extinguisher, each was separately encased in hand-stitched leather and padded with a pleasing flesh-like substance calculated to reduce the most drastic impact to no more than a caress. At the rear window a sun-proof canopy, electrically operated and bordered with small silk balls, hung poised to defend at any time the good man's neck against an overzealous sun or his eyesight against the harmful dazzle of alien headlights. As to the dashboard it was a veritable medicine chest of preventive physic: from blinker lights to ice-alert, from reserve battery to reserve oil supply, from safari petrol tank to auxiliary cooling system its switches anticipated every catastrophe known to nature and the manufacturing industries. Cassidy's was a car that conveyed rather than transported; a womb, one might even have thought, from whose padded, lubricated interior the occupant had yet to make his entry into the harder world.
"How far to Haverdown, do you mind?"
"Haverdown." Should he spell it? Most likely the fellow was illiterate. "Haverdown. The great house. The manor."
The lolling mouth opened and partially closed, voicelessly mimicking the name; a grimy arm struck towards the hill. "Straight on up over look."
"And is it far, would you say?" Cassidy enquired loudly, as if addressing the deaf.
"Won't take you more than five minutes, will it, not in her?"
"Thanks a million. Good luck to you old son."
In the mirror the yokel's brown face, frozen into an expression of comic incredulity, watched him out of sight. Well, thought Cassidy, the fellow has seen somet
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Book Description Pocket, 2000. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Seller Inventory # DADAX0671042777
Book Description Pocket, 2000. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0671042777
Book Description Condition: New. New. Seller Inventory # STRM-0671042777