It's some time in the future, and the USSR, expanding into Asia, desperately needs ""the industrial base of Western...



It's some time in the future, and the USSR, expanding into Asia, desperately needs ""the industrial base of Western Europe""; but as long as the U.S. has mini-nuclear forces based in England, a westward Soviet attack is too risky. Therefore, the KGB and GRU chiefs hatch a scheme to split the U.S. from the U.K. (relations are already strained)--by planting and leaking a phony Washington plan (code-named Hastings) for the U.S. occupation of left-leaning Britain, and by plotting the assassination of the leftish British Prime Minister (who just happens to have a psychopathic, mercenary, American-accented bastard son yearning to kill him). All of this is revealed early on here--so Coppel's novel primarily consists of various intelligence forces catching onto or covering up the Hastings Conspiracy: Robert Brede of Defense Intelligence follows a hunch to England and is soon fleeing, with Jewish-Russian ÉmigrÉ Lara, from both the British (who want to know what Hastings is) and the CIA (who want to keep the British from hearing about Hastings, whatever it is); the British-Marxist writer who's been set up to do the Big Leak on Hastings goes 'round the paranoid bend, killing a KGB mastermind and winding up in a coma himself; a lesbian National Security aide commits suicide when her lover turns out to be KGB; the U.S. Prez tries to concoct a substitute Hastings memo to pass off on the Brits; the Soviet Prez learns of this KGB/GRU conspiracy and (after reviewing KGB successes--like the JFK hit) grumblingly gives it his okay. And finally, just as Brede finds the full text of the Soviet-planted Hastings memo, the assassin--who has raped and killed a nice landlady--is preparing to get the P.M. with an antitank missile launcher. . . . A little Day of the Jackal, more than a little The Devil's Alternative--but, unlike Forsyth, Coppel has neither the fearsome verisimilitude nor the sharp-focused tautness; much that should be active is merely repetitious and talky. Still, though neither the faceless central characters nor the central premises here ever really grab, it's a smooth, professional job: slow, agreeable reading for those with a weakness for WW III scenarios and (especially) criss-crossing government agents.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980