“Death is a Ruby Light” by Paul Kenyon is book three of the Baroness series. Written in 1974, this spy book stars Penelope Worthington, a secret agent that is called upon by the United States when shit hits the fan. The fan in this story is that the Russians are sabotaging spy satellites and U.S. agents are dying. After breaking into the center of the Russian Space Program, Penelope discovers that hey, the Russians are having their satellites messed with too. The United States and the Russians team up to take on those crazy backwards upstarts, the Chinese.
Mixed in with this spy story of rival agencies and early 70’s space programs is a shit load of fucking and killing. The book opens with Penelope enjoying a torrid affair when assassins interrupt their frequent sex. A hurricane of bullets, threats of molestation and karate moves later, and Penelope and her team of sexy men and women, engage in more combat and sex. I greatly approve.
I reviewed another retro spy book, Lady from L.U.S.T. and I made the comment that the titillation was almost cute. I am sure it was racy for its time but now it was mostly one long book of foreplay. ‘Death is a Ruby Light’ is the polar opposite. They don’t talk about sex in this book, they fuck. They don’t breeze over the action scenes, here they they shoot and kill. I am used to reading action books from this time period so I was used to the violence but it was refreshing to see that same explicit approach to the sex.
It can take a little getting used to. It is rare to see a women enjoy a nice long fuck scene and then later get electrocuted through her nipples in a very non-sexy interrogation. At one point the main character gets raped when she was unconscious and the rape happens off screen, but it was pretty shocking. The body count gets pretty high and pretty ugly.
That is probably why I enjoyed the book as much as I did. I enjoy spy books soaking in hyper-realism but failing that, I want a spy book that is insane and pure escapism. This book is certainly that. Any book that straps the heroine so she is sitting on a death laser so it will fire through her vagina and out her head, is a winner in my library.
Also unlike ‘Lay Me Odds’, the plot in this book is really good. The credit goes to the pacing which is just perfect for a book this size. It opens with a sex scene to introduce Penelope, but before the assassins appear, we cut to another chapter where we watch a handful of other agents get killed because they have been compromised. It was really effective at preparing the reader for understanding how fucked Penelope was about to be, as well as creating a delay for the reader who really wants to get back to her and see how she survives. Such manipulation of the reader is essential for this genre and I was greatly impressed.
I give it Five out of Five Pam Griers