(Jacket copy of the original edition, Sun and Moon Press, 1992)
The Secret Service is a novel of rare range and power. Its overarching plot framework provides a great architecture for Walker’s beautifully made language. Many genres and styles—naturalism, allegory, surreal catalogs, philosophical and metaphysical fables, dreams—are woven into an epic story of intrigue and political maneuvering.
In a Europe that resembles…that of the nineteenth century, the English Secret Service has gotten wind of a plot against the young, newly married king and queen. The details of this plot must be uncovered. The suspected architects of it—an Italian baron, a French cardinal, a German nobleman—are men of finely honed connoisseurships. Each is obsessed with a particular pursuit—one with roses and their infinite variety; another with fine glass and porcelain; another with classical sculpture. The Secret Service has discovered a method of physical transformation that enables their agents to masquerade as objects; in this case, as the precious objects of the foreigners’ obsessions. (Walker’s explication of the fabular physics of this transformation is one of the wonders of the book.)
The events that this transformation set in motion blossom into the most amazing ramifications, creating a fiction second to none for richness of invention, vision, and chimerical psychology. Here is a novel that does not recapitulate banality; Walker honors possibility, and the great range that language, dream, emotion, and intellect together can produce. The Secret Service is a new voice’s finest creation.