A knockout British thriller, always gripping and--in the beginning at least--as witty as Waugh, by novelist (The Rewrite Man) and film director-screenwriter (Seance on a Wet Afternoon, The L-Shaped Room) Forbes, who has hit the jackpot this time. Ten years ago, Alec Hillsden, who is now a top MI6 agent, was a member of an Austrian network that included Caroline Oates, and despite the Firm's policy against such unions among its agents they'd fallen in love. When Control learned of this--perhaps through their comrade and fellow agent Jock?--he'd had Alec recalled to Whitehall and a desk job. But Caroline had been captured by the Russians in East Berlin (or had she gone over to the Reds and then been betrayed?) and been mentally raped via drugs. Five years later, a vegetable, she'd been traded for a Soviet spy, and been put away in an English nursing home, apparently to rot for the rest of her life. But someone--a sadist with many names--has penetrated the private nursing home and injected Caroline with deadly poison. Why? Who could possibly be interested in wiping out this brainless invalid? And Jock too, he's turned up drowned. Wasn't he later buried? The answers include some merciless character sketches, starting with consummate snob Sir Charles Belfrage of the Foreign Office, who meets his match in the sardonic medical snob Dr. Colin Hogg, senior pathologist (or coroner) who examines Caroline's cadaver. All of the minor characters are shimmering diversions to keep the eye guessing as Forbes spins out his mad plot of Western cynism versus Eastern: ""Just another ideology. . .a blind faith in the morality of Us as opposed to Them. All of the participants on both sides of the dividing line playing the same endless nihilistic game."" Or as Caroline once tells Alec in bed: "". . .I still have reason to hate. That's the game we're in, Alec dear. Not the love game, the hate game. ""Brilliant ploys, probably unforeseen by the author, that at last find Alee himself giving up his harebrained wife and defecting, only to face Caroline's murderer as a fellow apartment-house dweller in Moscow.