With this brisk mix of character and conundrum, Freemantle (The Man Who Wanted Tomorrow) locks in as one of the better poor-man's Le CarrÃ‰s, specializing in the vicious and plausibly petty tussles within and among the world's spy establishments. Seedy, steely Charlie Muffin is the sole survivor of a recent British Intelligence purge. But, though Charlie's the only experienced agent on the premises, the blithering, aristocratic new Director has declared him expendable and has heaped unwarranted abuse on his lower-class, 41-year-old head. When a KGBiggie drops international hints of a desired defection to Britain, however, the two goofball operatives sent to make contact disappear (foul play via the CIA, crassly trying to horn in on the action), and Charlie is summoned, nay--begged, to take on the rendezvous in Russia and the defection operation on the Austro-Czech border. This Charlie brusquely does. . . or seems to do, for there's a splendidly simple trick denouement waiting--a finale that demands a moment's pause for the consideration of everyone's relative ruthlessness. Throughout, spydom's inside offices are sketched with sharp humor and shorthand authenticity (the lonely KGB general plays with toy tanks on the floor), and Freemantle is sure to have future assignments for Charlie, one spook who actually becomes more appealing as he switches from apparent underdog to a very dangerous hound indeed.