Here, second-novelist Cook (Disorderly Elements, 1986) pits four MI5 pensioners--Odgen, Buchanan, Beauchamp, and Croft--against the British Secret Service, the CIA, and other assorted international skulduggery units. When young British agent Mr. Stringer rudely advises the foursome that publishing their memoirs would violate the Official Secrets Act, the old codgers take revenge by serializing (in American newspapers) the fictitious exploits of a ""Cold Warrior extraordinaire."" Soon, then, a letter arrives requesting the help of their superspy, and the quartet leaps in at the behest of this Mr. Blake--debugging his phone and solving the murder of his partner, Mr. Carter, who handled the far-flung arms-sales of their company, Invicta Designs. Scampering from England to the States to France and the Low Countries, the men unravel a tale of a demented CIA agent now bent on biblical vengeance, CIA and British involvement in Iraqi chemical projects, and massive cover-ups by all concerned--except the Russians, who blithely publicize a superspy of their own, minor embassy clerk Akhmatov, featured in the American stories of the former spies. Before MI5 et al. beg for mercy, the merry retirees must resort to all of their former skills and cunning. Preposterous but delightful, a sort of better-written English Murder League.