Burying the Dead

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BURYING THE DEAD

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A president in thrall to a foreign power. A disenchanted first lady. A White House moving toward crisis.

 No, not that White House. But sometimes life imitates art, as it does in Georgette Gouveia’s new psychological thriller, “Burying the Dead” (JMS Books, Oct. 30). It’s a high stakes game of love and death, set on the power courts of Washington D.C. and other glittering world capitals, that represents a departure for Gouveia, whose previous novels were in the trending category of male/male romance. 

On these courts, Dimitri “Dimi” Orlov is a rising Russian tennis star whose glamorous, globetrotting career provides the perfect cover for his real day job – agent and assassin. Trained by his government from the time he’s discovered in an orphanage, Dimi is assigned to assassinate the president of the United States – a brilliant but arrogant onetime New York prosecutor who’s proved too independent for his Russian backers – by romancing and enlisting his abused first lady, Catherine Darlington.

Dimi courts the lovely, loveless Catherine at Renaissance House, a new cultural center in historic Dupont Circle that’s a front for Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and at the US Open. There he’s shadowed by CIA agent Mitch Abramson, who has begun to connect the dots. But just as the various matches – Dimi and Catherine, Dimi and Mitch – heat up, Dimi makes a choice that could have his SVR bosses take him out of the game permanently.

When Gouveia – author of the groundbreaking “Games Men Play” series, which is also the name of the provocative sports/culture blog she writes at thegamesmenplay.com – considered writing a novel about a tennis player who’s an assassin eight years ago, she had little idea that her story would appear to be “ripped from the headlines,” as it were.

“As a kid, I loved the TV series ‘I Spy,’ with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby as tennis pros who are really American agents. But the real inspiration for the novel was the game itself. Watching it one day, I couldn’t help thinking that tennis players would make excellent government agents as they travel all over the world, are conversant in many languages and have access to places many of us don’t.

“Plus, to be an elite athlete or a top politician is to possess some kind of killer instinct. In ‘Burying the Dead,’ I interpret that instinct literally.”

“Burying the Dead” would appear to be a new chapter for Gouveia. Her first published novel, the well-received “Water Music” (Greenleaf Book Group), explored the personal relationships and professional rivalries of four gay athletes – two swimmers and two tennis players. The second, “The Penalty for Holding,” a Lambda Literary Award finalist recently reissued by JMS Books, plumbed a gay, biracial quarterback’s search for identity and love in the NFL.

 In the third, “Burying the Dead,” Gouveia branches out into a new genre. She and JMS Books follow this in November with a venture into historical fiction, “Daimon: A Novel of Alexander the Great,” and in January with the contemporary family drama “Seamless Sky,” a tale of dispossession and revenge centering on the events of 9/11.

 Planned books in the series include the equestrian novel “Criterion,” told from the viewpoint of the eponymous racehorse trying to be the first since Whirlaway to win the Triple Crown and the Travers Stakes; and “The Magnus Effect,” which returns readers to the characters at the heart of “Water Music,” now older and sadder but also wiser.

 The genres may shift, Gouveia says, but the themes are the same – power, dominance, rivalry.

 “Whether you’re talking about the world of Alexander the Great or Washington D.C. today, the challenges in the quest to attain – and maintain – power never change.”

A 2018 Folio Women in Media Award winner, Gouveia is the editor in chief of WAG, an award-winning luxury lifestyles publication, as well as the author of “The Essential Mary Cassatt” (Wonderland Press/Harry N. Abrams) and several essays on art historical subjects. Find her books on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and jmsbooks.com.