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A FIRING OFFENSE by David Ignatius

A FIRING OFFENSE

By David Ignatius

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-44860-8
Publisher: Random House

 In a break from the Middle East focus of his first three thrillers (The Bank of Fear, 1995, etc.), Ignatius forces the hero of this tense new novel to walk a tightrope between digging up foreign-intrigue stories for his paper and doing increasingly dangerous chores for the CIA. It all begins innocently enough, when Rupert Cohen, an Agency loose cannon who wants to trade his cloak and dagger for a reporter's notebook, tells the New York Mirror's Paris bureau chief, Eric Truell, that there's no reason why the paper shouldn't hire an ex-spy--after all, they've already got one working on their foreign desk: legendary chief diplomatic correspondent Arthur Bowman, a man who's been taking payoffs from the French government for years. Truell, still aglow with success after breaking a Cohen-enriched story that brought down the French defense minister, goes to his editor, Ed Weiss, with Cohen's bombshell, but Weiss refuses to believe such a story about Bowman, and Truell isn't gutsy enough to press it. Instead he takes it to somebody who'll take him seriously: Tom Rubino, head of the CIA's European division. Meantime, Cohen, still looking for his big break, continues to feed Truell inside stuff, focusing on biological warfare weapons in China, and Bowman and Truell head uneasily for Beijing. By now Bowman knows that Truell suspects his French connection, but he doesn't know that Rubino has asked Truell to pass a Chinese contact a message that'll help him escape--and, in the process, endanger both the reporters' lives. Ignatius doesn't stint on tradecraft details, but puts his own perverse spin on them (Truell's crash course on CIA procedure is hilarious), and keeps the focus right where it belongs: on Truell's frantic dance to bridge the gap between his Agency errands and his eroding journalistic ethics. Brilliantly twisty while you're reading it, though you may find yourself scratching your head when it's over. (Author tour)