CODE EZRA by Gay Courter
Kirkus Star


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A massive but deft spy-thriller about female undercover agents for Israel, familiarly involved with betrayal. Courter, author of The Midwife (1980) and River of Dreams (1984), has researched in depth and interviewed just such agents as she writes about. Eli Katzar, also known as Charles Ivy and Elliot Short, runs a group under the code name Ezra. Three of his personally trained agents are Lily Jaeger (a Dutch Holocaust survivor). Charlotte Green (a well-to-do American from Scarsdale) and Aviva Tabor (an Israeli sabra). All have converged on Toulon. France, in 1979 to blow up the crucial parts for an atomic reactor about to be shipped to Iraq. The explosions are a success--but Eli discovers that his cousin, an Israeli physicist who was advising the saboteurs, has been murdered and mutilated. Then Eli and his grown son are almost blown up in a London restaurant. Which of his three women has betrayed him? This is the way Eli looks at it, rather than as ""has betrayed Israel,"" since each of the women has reason to believe herself romantically spurned by her leader, a lifelong bachelor. The reason Eli has remained a bachelor is that he was born to a Jewish mother and British father, raised alternately as a Jew and a Catholic, and during WW II found himself viciously spumed by his beautiful but pregnant Catholic girlfriend when she discovered he was Jewish. ""Her legacy to him was a perpetual distrust of women. . . That is why the whole Ezra system had worked so well."" In long flashbacks we follow the three agents' original recruitment, testing and training, with some especially lively mountain-climbing scenes in Zermatt; their various spy jobs over a 25-year period; their romantic ties to Eli; and their post-spying professions after retirement. Under extreme pressure from superiors to turn out his traitor, Eli flies from one woman to the next, interviewing each for a slip that will reveal the turncoat. Zips along, entertainingly focused on the private problems of women spies, with a nice final twist when Eli does a High Noon and gives the whole spy business the heave-ho.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1986
ISBN: 0595168612
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin