At the end of The Eiger Sanction an exhausted and nearly broken--but now quite rich--Jonathan Hemlock walked away from his career as an assassin for the Search and Sanction Unit of the CII. He'd lost in love, he'd lost in friendship, and he'd determined to give up everything else in his life except his beloved--and quite illicit--art collection.
We meet up with him again in The Loo Sanction four years later. He's living abroad, in England, doing a series of guest lectures on art and making a joyless round of galleries, museums, and parties. The rare bright spots in his life are his art collection--of course--which has traveled with him, and his few oddball friends, including flamboyantly raging lesbian Vanessa "Van" Dyke and art thief MacTaint, who seems "to be visiting modern London from the pages of Dickens or the chorus of Threepenny Opera." While he may not be happy in this life of his, Hemlock is at least more or less content. And so, of course, a secret inner division of MI, a counterpart to the American Search and Sanction Unit known as The Loo because of its unfortunate first home in a toilet up the hall from MI-5 and MI-6, will manage to bumble its way to him, demanding his help in a case too delicate to involve even their own operatives.
In the mod, swinging London of the early seventies a new sex club has opened. It is called the Cloisters, and it caters to the jaded sexual appetites of, as the head of the Loo--known as the Vicar, because that's his day job--puts it, Very Highly Placed Persons. There are secret sex tapes, and it's to be Hemlock's job to obtain those tapes using whatever means necessary. Unluckily for Hemlock, this will involve visits to sex clubs, being shot up with weird drugs, and escapes out windows with giant thugs chasing him. But for us, the readers, Hemlock's pain is our gain: the action is vivid, the dialog scintillating, and the depiction of the scene in London--and Hemlock's contempt for it--is hilarious.
It has been said that The Loo Sanction is so very over-the-top because Trevanian was disgusted both by the "vapid" transfer of The Eiger Sanction from page to screen and also by the critics who didn't get that it was a send up. Whatever the reason, the result is phenomenal, because Trevanian doesn't do things by halves. In this book there is action galore, including a brilliant and juicy art heist (supposedly copied successfully by real life art thieves). If Loo is perhaps not as fresh as its predecessor, it's still, once again, both a perfect example of the genre (you can keep your Bond, Mr. Fleming) and an exemplary spoof of it.