Burgess turns his obsession with lapsed Catholicism and culture clashes on the world of Cold War espionage. An aged simulacrum of James Bond (horny, talented and multi-lingual) heads out on one last mission to forcible repatriate a defector and childhood friend.
Things don't go according to plan for anyone. Along the way we are treated to paedophilic teacher-priests, a Mata-Hari-ish purveyor of physical pleasure, a secret-trading gourmand, a precocious game-show champion and a fascistic German prostitute. All are rendered with trademark wit and detail, all compel and delight. We also escape Burgess' occasional resort to reactionary tropes and linguistic exhibitionism.
This means the thrills of a spy-novel but without the cliché, the self-congratulation or the parodies purporting to be morality tales. Full of irreverence and seriousness, Tremor of Intent develops Burgess' interest in destinies that his protagonists cannot escape, especially when they try (the kind of brutal karma evident in m/f), and ethical dilemmas as historical variants of the great existential battle in the sky (although without too much earnest religiosity). If these quandaries sound thick and stale, it is testament to the Burgessian style that this is one of the few books I have ever read that really deserves to be described as unputdownable.