THE PERIPHERAL SPY by Bernard Peterson


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A small-scale, somewhat over-contrived, but generally admirable suspense debut: Peterson puts his hapless, bewildered, bystander-hero through a half-amusing, half-awful week of panic on the run. This ""peripheral spy"" is reporter Harry Stockdale, an American in Paris who's been making some money on the side by delivering packets of documents abroad--no questions asked--for a fearfully anonymous fellow named Ortlander. So far these little courier jobs have gone swimmingly, but Harry's latest delivery (to London) turns into nightmare: he's grabbed at Victoria Station and carried away by KGB agents who demand to know Where The Money Is. What money? $600,000 in rubles that have been heisted en route to the French Communist Party! Harry knows nothing of this, of course--someone has given the KGB a false tip to divert their attention. Can battered Harry, reluctantly released by the Russians, track down the real thief who framed him? Yes--but only after he's witnessed the murder of Ortlander (by a super-crook who's also been led to believe that Ortlander and/or Harry have the $600,000), after he's hidden out here and there, and after he's negotiated an oddly appealing truce with the affable KGB chief (who has even bigger worries--about a possible defector). The identity of the real culprit may be just a bit hard to swallow, but the ironic denouement that then follows (as Harry tries to save the wretch who betrayed him) is a genuine teeth-clencher. Imperfect and slight, yet sleekly delivered--a first novel of taut, downbeat suspense that promises (we'll hope) even better ones ahead.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1980
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan