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Too bad that Kaplan (The Damascus Cover) remains such an amateurish espionage writer, because there's a genuinely arresting hook at the core of this thin, contrived yarn: Russian sleeper spies planted among the recent Russian-Jewish emigrants allowed to go to Israel, Europe, and America. Unfortunately, the potential in this notion is thoroughly wasted, largely due to the terminal drippiness of Kaplan's hero--bored and boring Steve Barth, an overgrown American undergraduate studying in Israel who agrees (because he's so bored) to smuggle Hebrew books from London into Russia. Unbeknownst to him, he's really working for Israeli Intelligence; supposedly unbeknownst to Israeli Intelligence, he's really working for the KGB (unintentionally smuggling out messages to sleeper spies on microdots in a Bible); but unbeknownst to the KGB, Israeli Intelligence is aware of the KGB plan and is just using Steve--via the murder in Moscow of Steve's CIA companion-lover Susan and the interrogation that follows--to bring a key sleeper out of hiding. You get the idea. And it's not a hopeless one, but Kaplan doesn't know how to make the triple twists exciting or credible, and Steve, alternately smartalecky and marshmallowy (he goes catatonic after this mission) is the sort of hero who has you rooting for the KGB interrogators. A grand premise lurking in the background, and an admittedly quick-easy read (most spy tales these days go on and on)--but confusing, textureless, humorless, and uninvolving.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1978
Publisher: Dutton