A moody and intricate postCold War thriller from Robinson (The Dark Beyond the Stars, 1991, etc.) and the pseudonymous Hull, this one centered on an aging spy who wrestles with years of guilt and self-doubt. Vietnam vet Neal Morley, now a US agent specializing in counterterrorism, travels to Brussels to interview an old puppet- maker with a big story to tellnamely, that he helped smuggle into the country seven people he now thinks are terrorists. Unfortunately, however, the old man is murdered before Morley can get all the details. Working then with the puppeteer's adopted daughter, Hannie de Vries, Morley tries to track down the terrorists, who, he figures, killed in order to cover their tracks. As it happens, Morley's taken this assignment for reasons of revenge: In the same city six months before, he exposed a major drug ring and was nearly killed himself; despite what his superiors insist, Morley's sure the ring wasn't completely dismantled and that his would-be assassin is still waiting. Physically weakened and emotionally scarred, Morley walks the cold and drab streets of Brussels, thinking back with profound regret over things he's seen and done through his lifeVietnam war atrocities, murders, people used and discarded, sometimes his own complicity. He's so unnerved and regretful that he wonders whether he's lost his edgea topic his fellow agents gleefully discuss in his presence. After the terrorists make several attempts on his life, Morley hooks up with a Russian agent, Vasiliev, who's also trailing them. When de Vries is kidnapped, Morley begins to piece together the links between the terrorists, the drug ring, his near-death six months ago, and a missing Russian scientist Vasiliev desperately needs to find. Throughout, Morley struggles to create some small justice in atonement for past sins. Unsentimental and taut. An updated version of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, though not quite as dark.
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