SALT MINE by David Lippincott


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A band of Soviet dissidents, Jewish and otherwise, seizes part of the Kremlin museum and holds tourists hostage--in a minute-by-minute scenario that would be far more enthralling if it weren't quite so longwindedly minute-by-minute. In fact, the taut preparations for the takeover are more suspenseful than the drawn-out hijacking itself. Lippincott builds the tension expertly as ringleader Alyosha (whose motives are a Big Secret) assembles his motley crew (the disaffected son of a top official, the girlfriend of a victimized Jewish writer, etc.), plants his weaponry piece by piece in a Kremlin lavatory, and ruthlessly disposes of possible informers; moreover, the author does an uncommonly vivid job here of conveying the paranoid-inducing pervasiveness of the KGB and the neighborhood geography of Moscow city streets. Things become more routine and claustrophobic, however, once the dissidents do their thing with machine guns and grenades, capturing over 40 U.S. tourists, seizing the crown jewels, and threatening to blow up Lenin in his glass case. Their demands? Freedom for imprisoned dissidents, emigration for Jews, an end to Soviet censorship. . . plus, of course, a plane to a neutral country. And while the authorities reluctantly negotiate and desperately try to keep the whole operation a secret from the world, Alyosha's ""outside man"" spreads the word to the embassies and the press. Solid, non-lurid suspense work, with a number of shrewd and ironic twists--but the unselective detail and lock-step pacing may exasperate readers accustomed to more telegraphic narratives.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
Publisher: Viking