Wendy Walker. The Secret Service. 1992.

Wendy Walker. The Secret Service. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon, 1992.

The Secret Service tells the story of an elaborate nineteenth-century Catholic conspiracy against the English monarchy, complete with dastardly continental noblemen — aesthetes of prodigious sophistication and guile — and a mysterious heiress sequestered in a tower impregnable. Walker’s astonishing conceit is that the three principal British agents of the eponymous secret service have the capacity to transform themselves into objects, the better to spy upon the conspirators: a crystal wine goblet, a salmon rose swaying where there is no breeze; and a bronze statue. Mind and perception are dependent upon the form of their container and Walker gives us the altered sensibilities of the spies. This is the great underrated book of the 1990s.

No. 58.