THE SECRET LOVERS by Charles McCarry
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CIA angst circa 1960, as poet-agent Paul Christopher--no less upright and stonefaced than he was in The Tears of Auturnn (1975)--wrestles with the present and burrows into the past. His current dilemma: should he publish a smuggled-in masterwork by Soviet dissident Kamensky even if publication means a KGB death sentence for the author? Troubling, but more troubling is the meaningless murder (security leak!) of the operative who brought the manuscript through Berlin; an investigation zeroes in on the mastermind of Operation Manuscript, Otto Rothchild, once ""the perfect secret agent"" and now a still-brilliant invalid whose body has been turned into a ""sleeping foot"" by nerve surgery. Christopher traces Otto's friendship with novelist Kamensky back to the war in Spain, uncovering the expected maze of love, guilt, and revenge. Connections between motivations and modus operandi are kept fuzzily convoluted and cryptic right through to the fadeout, but the convincing Agency paraphernalia, lingo, and laments (""Remorse--that's what we're paid for"") are tawdry-sad enough to scatter loose ends. The publishing sidelights help, with talk of a French translation that turns the Russian language from ""a tapestry into a sheet of lace."" The romantic backlights don't, with Christopher's gorgeous, CIA-hating wife whining, pawing, and sleeping around to get some attention. She's only in about every third chapter, though, so it's possible to pass her by and become thoroughly enmeshed in the European spy-crossing; McCarry rhymes with LeCarrÉ, sort of, and sort of is good enough for right now.

Pub Date: May 16th, 1977
Publisher: Dutton