THE CROCUS LIST by Gavin Lyall
Kirkus Star


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Third salvo in the Major Harry Maxim British spy series and a marvelous barrel of monkeys it is. The first Maxim novel, A Secret Servant, is soon to appear on US television, and a film of The Conduct of Harry Maxim is in the works. Going by the novels, the films should be solid hits and Harry Maxim as much a household word as James Bond. The Crocus List finds Maxim working outside the law--since that's where everyone is he's looking for, Harry, a 38-year-old widower and solemn superman who likes Duke Ellington, has been transferred from 10 Downing Street to a special detail protecting the US President during his visit to London. An assassin, however, gets off three shots, seemingly at the President, but actually at an MP standing nearby whom he's shot through the heart. Harry corners and shoots the assassin, but the assassin still has time to blow off his own hands and face with a grenade just before issuing a dainty warning to Harry to stand back. It turns out the assassin was using a Russian gun, Russian grenade, and had in his pocket two unlisted phone numbers of Russian personnel in London. Ah, a KGB plot! No, no--slowly it appears to be a Charlie India Alpha plot. But even that line of thought's just too gaga--but it's all to do with Great Britain and Russia's forthcoming sit-down about dissolving the Berlin Wall. Well, it's also about the Directorate of Crisis Relocation, which is to say the directorate's plan for reviving Britain after a Russian invasion following a nuclear holocaust. British Resistance cells must be planted and prepared to spring up everywhere within six months of a Russian occupation--to pop up like the first crocuses of spring. In fact, a Miss Tuckey, a lecturer at the supersecret war college for postwar subversion, is the leading thinker of this Condonesque line of haywire farsightedness, and when Harry interviews her for her opinions about who's behind the dissembled Presidential assassination he's investigating, Miss Tuckey is herself quickly murdered. Weirdly, going by clues dropped by Miss Tuckey, Harry finds that neither the KGB nor CIA nor even Whitehall or MI6 is behind the murders but--is it possible?--the Church of England! A new twist indeed, but the Archbishop of Canterbury is already being smeared by stories about himself and choirboys. . .Deep satire, le Carr‚ with a straight-faced Peter Sellers edge, this is a spy novel dense with insider jargon and afloat at once on sense and nonsense. Very enjoyable!

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking