This essentially lighthearted, jauntily paced chase-thriller, unoriginal yet fully pleasurable, is a nice surprise from...

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MEMORY MAN

This essentially lighthearted, jauntily paced chase-thriller, unoriginal yet fully pleasurable, is a nice surprise from talented newcomer Griffiths: his totally dissimilar debut, A Loyal and Dedicated Servant (p. 159), was a worthy but slavish le CarrÉ imitation. Griffiths' ""Memory Man"" here is American chess-star Arden Wyllie, 39, who just happens to be in Moscow for a tournament when the CIA needs to have someone with a freak memory there. Why? Because disillusioned Soviet scientist Ivkov has sent word that he's prepared to pass on ABM-system secrets . . . but not in writing. So CIA-chief Roskill persuades Moscow-bound journalist Anne Crossland to give Wyllie this mission; she does so (they become one-night lovers); and Wyllie indeed meets Ivkov over a chessboard in the park, absorbing the word-of-mouth military info. It's then, however, that some dandy complications begin. Wyllie, feeling that his chess career is about over, decides to sell the ABM info to the US for a half-million bucks, and he sends his demand from Switzerland. So the CIA soon has agents in pursuit--as does the KGB, which has tortured Ivkov and knows what Wyllie is presumably carrying around in his head. Chases ensue, from Switzerland across the mountain border to Italy, with the CIA trying both to catch Wyllie and to prevent the Russians from killing him. (Inevitably, bodies get tossed off moving trains.) And when Wyllie makes it to Rome, he seeks help from an elegant, Borgia-blooded pimp--who merely manages to lead all the spies to Wyllie. Finally, then, the CIA, with Anne's apparent help, brings Wyllie home--whereupon he reveals that he has in fact forgotten everything (which is why he kept running from the CIA, even when in mortal danger from the KGB). And it looks as if the Agency is going to torture and/or dispose of him . . . until a couple of sweet final twists (involving Anne) sort things out just fight. Admittedly, Griffiths neglects to make Wyllie an especially sympathetic rogue--so this isn't quite the winner it might have been. But otherwise, with agreeable echoes of spy entertainments from The Lady Vanishes to Hopscotch, everything is pretty much as it should be: quick, active, genial (rather than overtly comic), and just clever enough for easygoing, unperplexing reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1981

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Playboy--dist. by Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981