While Kennedy and Khrushchev swap unblinking stares, Egleton’s entertaining spies double-deal with their usual elan (The Last Refuge, 2005, etc.).
Whether they’re KGB, CIA or, for that matter, well placed in Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, these tireless, talented spies are not to be taken at face value, as anyone who has ever ventured into Egleton’s murky world of secrets and lies can tell you. True, George Deakin is a bit of a special case, in that SIS knows he’s a double agent, working both sides of the U.K./USSR divide. What comes to puzzle SIS, however, is the manner of his death. Is it the accidental drowning it’s been made to seem? Or cold-blooded murder, having to do somehow with those Russian ships speeding toward Cuba and a scary confrontation with the United States? For once, Charles Winter, SIS honcho—his brain as icy as his surname—appears to be stymied. If it’s murder is it a bogus murder? That is, a murder calculated to get SIS looking the wrong way, chasing up the wrong garden path? If so, does it signify that the Soviets have seen under Deakin’s cloak to the hugger-muggery concealed therein? Or, even more sinister, do the Soviets want SIS to think they care about Deakin, the double agent, when actually they care much more deeply about something unrelated? A conundrum. Meanwhile, across the pond, American intelligence is trying desperately to get a fix on whether Khrushchev really means business. Suddenly super spy Vasili Korznikov defects from the USSR to the U.S., and now the only thing Winter can be sure of is that for Kennedy, Khrushchev, the SIS, the CIA and others, it’s a whole new bowl of borscht.
Labyrinthean as always, but only a handful of thriller-meisters can make spy-craft so readable.