From the high apostle of anti-Soviet best-sellerdom (Moscow Rules, Death Beam; coauthored: The Spike, Monimbo), a dense,...



From the high apostle of anti-Soviet best-sellerdom (Moscow Rules, Death Beam; coauthored: The Spike, Monimbo), a dense, fascinating, and polemical historical novel based on the actual exploits of a top Communist provocateur who became a double agent for the British. Moss careens through a constellation of unusual settings here, beginning with 1913 Hamburg, which Johnny Lentz leaves at age 14 for a life at sea. An older sailor, Heinz Kordt, introduces Johnny to Marxism--and to sex, setting him up with the athletic Helene. After WW I, Johnny and Heinz lead an aborted uprising in Hamburg; escaping, Heinz goes underground and Johnny flees to Moscow, where he attends a school for insurgents and reunites with Helene. For the next 15 years, Johnny is sent by his Bolshevik bosses, most notably the sadistic Max Fabrikant, on missions to England, China, and then back to Hitler-led Germany (each evoked well via strong period detailing). In Germany, Johnny begins a torrid affair with Helene's sister, Sigrid; but his love for Communism, already dimmed by Stalin's excesses, dies when old pal Heinz is murdered by Max. Seeing the error of his Commie ways (no surprise in a Moss novel), Johnny signs up as a double agent for British spy master Colin Bailey, who (again no surprise) embodies all the decency lacking in Johnny's Red pals. Moss keeps the action jumping as Johnny, sent by Stalin to foment revolution in Brazil, foils his own coup, only to come under suspicion of Max and the Gestapo--and under torture by the Brazilian Secret Police. Escaping to France, Johnny is betrayed by Sigrid into Max's hands. But Max, himself under death sentence from Stalin, lets Johnny go on to England, where he is sheltered by Bailey and awarded an audience with the King. (A ""Historical Note"" detailing the factual basis of Johnny's tale appends the book.) Despite its obvious politics, this long (502 pp.) thriller, with its strong characters, lush settings, and gripping mix of fact/fiction, offers top-drawer entertainment: manna for Moss's many fans.

Pub Date: June 15, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Villard/Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1987