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Would you believe that all the spies in the world have gotten together to establish certain ""safe houses""--where any agent can be safe from anybody, including a sworn enemy? Well, even if you buy that premise (we didn't for a second), this is an only so-so revenge thriller--competent when it's chasing and killing, a hyped-up washout whenever it stops to explain what's going on. Morrell's primary hero is Jewish CIA agent Saul, who assassinates the six members of the Paradigm Foundation--a private cover for US negotiations with the Arabs. But then, though Saul was following orders from his mentor/foster-father Eliot (the CIA's #4 man), he appears to be targeted for CIA assassination. Has Eliot turned against him? So it seems, as Saul turns fugitive, trying to link up with his foster-brother Chris, a Catholic ex-agent also trained by Eliot. But Chris, meanwhile, is vengefully killing a KGB agent in one of those sacred safe-houses--which means that all the world's spies will be out to kill him. (He wants to die anyway, as it happens, for religious reasons.) Eventually, then, Saul and Chris team up, along with Mossad agent/lover Erika: they must escape assorted death-squads--while figuring out, and proving, just what Eliot is up to. Is he a KGB mole? That's the most likely notion--so they're off to England and Europe to confront or torture British/KGB types. But it soon becomes clear that Eliot, along with other spy-chiefs, is operating with global rather than national priorities--having trained a whole squadron of personally loyal orphan/agents: ""Someone had to act responsibly, to try for balance and sanity."" And after Chris is killed, Saul vows vengeance on high-minded/ruthless Eliot--so there's an elaborate cat/mouse death duel between foster-father and foster-son. . . at a super-safe spies' rest home. Padded out with flashbacks to the training of those orphan/agents: busy but thin and unimaginative espionage nonsense, reliable only when it sticks to vengeance violence--the principal element in most of Morrell's previous thrillers.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1984
ISBN: 0345514513
Publisher: St. Martin's