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At his best in evoking the seedy dignity of Dublin eccentrics (Don Juaneen, 1965; The Trial of Father Dillingham, 1982), Broderick turns to the espionage/terrorist genre here, following the low-key yet tortuous moves of a double-agent who develops some conflicting loyalties. The newest member of a secret London cell of minor Marxist guerrillas is Arab banker Jimmy Nabulsi--who hangs out at a semi-gay bar (the group's cover) with anti-Semitic aristocrat Luke, Luke's blindly adoring virgin-girlfriend Tina, and other part-time terrorists. (On orders from above, originating in Moscow, the cell-mates have been setting off bombs here and there--especially at Jewish targets.) But, despite genuine PLO credentials, Jimmy is really a half-Jewish British agent--infiltrating the cell, reporting back to his contact (his elderly female dentist) at regular intervals. . . with solid results: a mid-level terrorist leader is picked up; there are hopes that a higher-up ringleader will be exposed by steady surveillance of Luke and Tina. Minor complications ensue, however, because the guerrillas have been using a local derelict--alcoholic, retarded--for errands: his outspoken sister strikes back, with half-comic results, messing up one of Jimmy's operations. More major complications arise when Jimmy fails in love with beautiful, Jewish Rebecca Winter, a half-chance acquaintance who turns out to be the quasi-mistress of a high-placed British traitor. And eventually, while trying to maintain his undercover role within the cell, Jimmy gets involved with some touchy British/US/USSR maneuverings, figures out the identity of the terrorist-group's real leader, and vainly seeks a deep commitment from the newly unencumbered (but intractably love-shy) Rebecca. Throughout, Broderick is more interested in somber ironies and nuanced allegiances than action or suspense; the central spy-plottings are often less compelling (or convincing) than the many minor-character sketches, the drab London atmosphere. But, if far from fully satisfying as a thriller, this is modestly involving as a theme-and-variations study on the theme of loyalty--with many of the same quiet virtues that were on display in the more emotional, stirring Trial of Father Dillingham.

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 1983
ISBN: 0714527963
Publisher: Marion Boyars (P.O. Box 223, New York, NY 10013)