Kirkus Star


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If you don't catch on to the essential shell-game trick here early on (the chances are about 50-50), Ross' quiet but dashing ways will supply one of the year's more entertaining pure-escapist spy concoctions. The ""sleeping dogs"" are, of course, sleeper Soviet spies: four apparently absolutely ordinary family men who've been neighbors in a sleepy New England hamlet for 20 years, carefully observed and hugged by another apparently absolutely ordinary neighbor--CIA man Sam Hanlon. And, for 20 years, there's absolutely nothing to report. Now, however, there are indications that the sleepers are about to be activated: something anti-dÉtente is afoot, some vigilante KGB move that even the Soviets want to prevent. And so the Company, which has lost faith in sentimental Sam, sends up its most lethal assassin (complete with killer Doberman) to eliminate the sleepers--in a series of bizarre accidents. But Sam, convinced that there's some basic mistake being made, decides to disobey orders, turns renegade, and helps the sole surviving sleeper to escape. The CIA and Sam have indeed made a basic mistake, which means that there are still sleepers at liberty (hint: only the last names of these married sleepers were ever known) and that an assassination countdown-finale is on its way. This coda is highly implausible--dependent on a brainwashed adolescent-assassin--but, like all the rest, it's spun with surprising humanity and utter narrative ease by the same author who made even a PLO scenario (Dead Runner) palatable in 1977.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1978
Publisher: Atheneum