Thriller in which lustful affairs send Soviet and American agents, spies, and counterspies plotting and panting in what nearly becomes a bedroom farce.
It’s hard to believe the CIA would employ the services of Austrian playboy Malko Linge, who so easily and frequently loses his head in fits of passion. But there you have it in the late de Villiers’ latest case (publicity claims more than 200 installments for this French James Bond) involving Linge, who freelances for the agency. As written by de Villiers, Linge’s boudoir exploits are a series of howlers. One moment has a woman grip Linge’s male member “like a drowning man clinging to a life jacket.” Other scenes, falling somewhere between soft- and hard-core pornography, are sexist and offensive. Consider: “the black woman’s plunging neckline displayed three quarters of a bosom that proved that silicone had reached African shores.” It’s no surprise, then, that the plot evolves from an affair. At a Red Cross charity ball in Monte Carlo, Zhanna Khrenkov, a Russian blonde, flirts, to uncertain effect, with Linge while his fiancee fumes nearby. Khrenkov eventually tells Linge what she wants: her husband, Alexei, has been chasing Lynn Marsh, a British dentist, and Khrenkov asks Linge to rub her out. As leverage, Khrenkov says she’ll hand over to Linge the names of a group of Soviet spies (the eponymous “swallows”) lurking in the United States if he’ll “kill the bitch.” It’s a flimsy premise not strengthened by any revelations about what the Soviet spies are up to and how great a threat they may pose. The CIA nevertheless wants the spies identified. Once the game gets going, de Villiers sets the Kremlin, the CIA, Khrenkov and her husband, Linge, and the dentist all to watching each other, second guessing each other’s motives, and calibrating their strategies accordingly. Meanwhile, Lynn links up with Alexei, “the sexual tornado” who “thud[s] at her like a woodcutter.”
Even Bond might blush.