The title reveals our early 1960s story continues in the state of Missouri, with Alex and his son Rob in the rural town of Newton, under the assumed aliases of Alan and Jimmy Kirby. While Alex/Alan is working for Mr Guilletti in his hardware store, Rob/Jimmy is enjoying the rural life and growing up fast. You would too if you were on the run from various intelligence agencies.

Tracking down the names on his Route 66 List of sleeper agents Alex/Alan has identified Frank Holowitz, a retired academic, and is trying to reach him. Elsewhere the serial killer the Clown, named for the way he paints his victims’ the faces, has killed the seventh victim. Alex knows the Clown’s victims aren’t random as the media suggests. The killer is eliminating targets, but for who? Only his mysterious Uncle Sasha has answers, but Sasha has cut contact. Has he turned on them? Alex believes Holowitz is possibly the Clown’s next target and wants to help him and catch the Clown, but in these paranoid times trust is a rare thing. With the FBI hot on their heels time is running out.

Éric Stalner’s riveting spy thriller of threatened sleeper agents is set along America’s famous Route 66 during the political and cultural zeitgeist of the 1960s Cold War. His art paints a sublime picture of rural America during that period, capturing not only the style but the sedate way of life while underneath simmers a growing paranoia. Rob/Jimmy has a beautifully rendered sense of discovery as he comes of age (sample), yet the tone is tense as Alex/Alan tries desperately to warn the people on his list. Stalner’s consideration that people are unpredictable and emotional adds nuance to the story. Recognising that his cast can be, and often are, irrational keeps him from regurgitating the tropes of the spy genre and makes it a classic example of one done well. There are no real heroes or villains, only different perspectives, ideology blurring the lines and Stalner takes great care to present these. Tantalising little titbits of information drip through, making the reader reassess each development and every new revelation.

Missouri is both visually and mentally engaging, the action and suspense well paced and well delivered yet balanced with tender moments. Stalner keeps progressing in every way, working out the little flaws in his storytelling and if this continues into the next album expect a cracker. The Route 66 List continues with Kansas.