The Davidian Report by Dorothy B. Hughes. Duell, Sloan and Pearce (1952), 374 pp.
On the last leg of his flight from Berlin to Los Angeles, freelance intelligence operative Steve Wintress meets some passengers who might be aiming to thwart his mission. Among them are overbearing lawyer Haig Armour, army private Reuben St. Claire, and fashionable seat-mate Feather Talle. Wintress intends to meet an agent called Albion at the airport and through him to obtain a report by another agent named Davidian. Fog forces the flight to a remote airport, however. When Witress finally reaches LAX, he finds Albion’s lifeless body on a bench outside the terminal. He must now report the news to the prospective recipient of the report, a Mr. Oriole, and then find Davidian.
Precisely constructed and carefully written, this novel makes a notable contribution to the category of Cold War spy stories. Each of its many characters has his or her own individual qualities. They often interact in unexpected ways. Their center of attention, Davidian’s report, remains mysterious and illusive. Meanwhile, the novel’s Los Angeles setting puts foreign intrigue in an unusual but familiar place. Hughes keeps the focus tightly on Witress as he conducts his search and meets additional characters. One of them, Janni, his girlfriend in postwar Berlin, adds a chance for him to find love as well. Readers who enjoy this sort of novel are likely to have a good time with the book.