O'FARRELL'S LAW by Brian Freemantle


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Sour, dour le Carr‚ knockoff from a talented author who nonetheless falters (The Choice of Eddie Franks, 1987) each time he ventures beyond his spritely Charlie Muffin spy series (The Blind Run, etc.). It's a grim picture that Freemantle paints here of the downward spiraling life of 46-year-old D.C.-based assassin/accountant Charles O'Farrell. O'Farrell is beginning to doubt the morality of the court-of-last-resort killings (three so far) ordered by his bosses at the CIA's super-secret Plans Directorate; to resent the perennial lies he must tell wife Jill in order to keep his cover as a mild-mannered financial analyst; to fear for his daughter, whose young son may be dabbling with drugs; and to turn to the bottle to relieve the ever-mounting pressure. Less grim is Freemantle's intriguing counterpoint, the cutthroat dealings between slick Jos‚ Rivera, Cuba's ambassador to London and lead man in a monumental drugs-for-arms scheme, and shifty Pierre Belac, worldclass arms dealer. The two plot-streams converge when O'Farrell is asked to kill Rivera; after much waffling (including portentous musings upon the parallels between himself and his great-granddad, a Wild West sheriff), O'Farrell accepts the job--and botches it, accidentally killing Rivera's wife instead. Expert psycho-massage by a sharp young shrink gets O'Farrell past the guilt--just as, as shown in crosscut, Rivera and Belac overcome fears caused by the death and continue to wheel-and-deal. Braced by booze, O'Farrell returns to the field to complete the kill; but the shrink, it seems, has been singing to O'Farrell's displeased bosses, and so it's an ending as Cynical as they come that winds up this sad little tale. A persuasive portrait of a spy at wits' end, with plenty of realistic--i.e., dreary--detail; but the finale smacks of polemic, and it's all as edifying and entertaining as sucking a bagful of lemons.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1989
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's