Boysie Oakes is an assassin for British Intelligence.
Imagine that you are THE assassin for the British government. You are responsible for the deaths of dozens of enemies of the state. You are feared by both the enemies and your own people.
Also imagine that you are deathly afraid of flying, the sight of blood makes you queasy, you have to hire a gangster to do the actual wet work, and you are scared to death that someone may catch on.
That is state of affairs for John Gardner's amazing Boysie Oakes!
Mostyn, deputy director of British Intelligence, had his first encounter with Oakes in the summer of 1944. He was working undercover in the back streets of Paris during the British repatriation when he was attacked by two Nazi operatives determined to eliminate him. Completely at a loss, he called out for help to a man who was running down the same alley.
This man, a sergeant in the tank corps, unflinchingly pulls his Colt automatic and in two swift shots kills both assailants. It was then that Mostyn noticed something even more remarkable than the man's daring or his aim. It was the man's ice cold eyes that were so filled with satisfaction at a job well done.
Years later, Mostyn was at hand when his boss came to the conclusion that what the British Secret Service desperately needed was a ruthless killing arm that could strike out at enemies, foreign and domestic, that were both a danger to the Empire and were outside its ability to handle via normal means.
They needed one man, an expert marksman with a total lack of compunction about killing. Mostyn was tasked with finding that man.
By chance, Mostyn glimpses a newspaper article about a murder of a proprietor of the Bird Sanctuary Café and Aviary. Along with the article was a picture of the deceased's partner what had just been grilled by the authorities and was being released for lack of evidence. The partner was Mostyn's savior from the war. And just the man Mostyn needed to save the Empire!
The problem with this scenario, however, is that Mostyn totally misread Oakes' demeanor and his behavior. Oakes is no cold-hearted killer with nerves of steel. He is a fraud who allows himself to be talked into joining the Department of Special Security because the money sounded good and the chance for woman was appealing. But as for killing, or worse, being killed, Oakes has no interest. If, however, he tells the truth, he will be fired and all the nice percs will go away.
So Oakes begins the deception and as he succeeds more and more, the truth becomes harder to reveal or remember.