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A first-rate espionage novel in which circumstances lead an ordinary man to challenge British Intelligence, The Whistle Blower concentrates less on action than on the complex treatment of moral and political questions and on the realization of vibrant characters. Frank Jones, a shopowner in Reading, England, has a son Bob who is a Russian linguist with British Intelligence. When Bob dies in a fall from his roof, only Frank questions whether it was an accident. His natural inclination is to assume that British agencies are guided by a sense of fair play, but Frank is aware that Bob had been dissatisfied enough with the moral integrity of his co-workers to quit, and that he was involved obliquely with a Soviet spy named Dodgson, the object of a sensational and, for the British, embarrassing trial. Frank begins to investigate whether Bob has been murdered by the agency for which he worked. As the book shifts between Frank's investigation and the very sophisticated interrogation of Dodgson by the British and Americans, impressions emerge of a secret and amoral organization that is beyond any control and of the disintegration such an agency causes in the normal, decent impulses a society requires, as they are personified by Frank. But the characters remain individuals, not types, and Hale is particularly good at distinguishing characters in the way they talk. Those high up in British Intelligence speak a euphemistic language--the Americans are ""the good friends"" and the Soviets ""the friends on the other side,"" for instance--but remain distinct from each other. A black American polygraph expert's English is noticeably American, and he lapses into a convincing black idiom when it serves his purpose to do so. Frank Jones, although he often speaks in slang, is blunt and straightforward. Bob shares his straightforwardness, but is clearly better educated. Hale makes rich use of language generally, although his British English will often sound jarring to American ears. The book moves slowly at first but, gathering momentum as Frank learns more and more of what's happened to his son, captures the reader easily aa it leads to an ending with an unusual and satisfying twist.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Atheneum