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When the fish-eaten and gunshot-killed body of ex-CIA agent Paul Seligman surfaces off the Maryland coast in 1978, a Senate committee appoints independent lawyer Morgan Sullivan to investigate the ramifications. And so begins a hunt for a KGB ""mole"" within the CIA-in a first novel which, clearly modeling itself on le CarrÉ's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, starts well, maintains intelligence and taste throughout, but finally bogs down in exasperating triple and quadruple twists that lack the le CarrÉ resonance. Sullivan, an ex-CIA man himself, trudges through the files and interviews, soon learning that Seligman (a top CIA analyst with special expertise in the satellite-monitors crucial to SALT II) was forced to resign during a 1976 mole-hunt--apparently because of suspicions about his radical girlfriend, Gael Patterson. Was Seligman a mole? So it seems, when reluctant interviewee Gael finds a list of CIA file numbers in the lining of a coat . . . and when Seligman's bank records suggest shady payments. But then the CIA biggies finally come clean to Sullivan and reveal that Seligman was a double agent, pretending to sell secrets to the Russians; so he was probably killed by the KGB (who found out about the scam). Is this the real story? If so, which of the CIA biggies is the real KGB mole who blew the whistle on Seligman? Or was the whole thing--including the Seligman betrayal--a CIA setup? So it goes, around and around, with visits to old CIA types, related killings, a romance between acerbic Gael and moody Sullivan (whose wife was killed in Vietnam), and a long showdown-finale featuring the very obvious mole--all of it verging dangerously on outright le CartÉ imitation. (At several points you almost expect the characters to say, ""You know, just like in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. . . ."") Still, if you're going to imitate a suspense writer, it might as well be le CarrÉ; and this slow-moving, largely implausible spy-muddle has enough textured seriousness in the Tinker, Tailor manner to engage the more sedate andpatient sector of the espionage audience.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1981
Publisher: Playboy--dist. by Harper & Row