The year is 1955. Alan Harper, a 25-year old freelance journalist, recruited by the CIA fresh out of college, is serving as a covert agent based in Cairo after finishing a two-year training period at Camp Peary, the CIA “Farm”. In October of that year, after only nine months in the field, he’s suddenly reassigned to Calcutta, India, and tasked with uncovering the clandestine network used by foreign powers to support local leftist political parties attempting to prevail in Calcutta’s municipal elections.
When power brokers in Calcutta learn an American investigative reporter is heading their way panic ensues. They worry an exposé article in a major U.S. newspaper or magazine can affect the political landscape of the city in ways they wish to avoid. Persons benefitting financially under the current city administration wish to stop the reporter; persons involved in running the clandestine network he’s tasked to uncover also wish to prevent him from doing his job.
Harper finds himself the target of desperate efforts at preventing him from reaching Calcutta—efforts that morph into attempts on his life once he arrives. Nevertheless, Harper sticks to his “cover”, using reportorial stratagems to get the story, thwarting one attempt on his life after another as he proceeds.
It is a time of Cold War intrigue, of non-alignment, of Hindu Bengali refugees flooding into Calcutta from East Pakistan, of street demonstrations, of political party competition—with all actors intently focused on the next election.