A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE by John Simpson

A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Alex Serafin, a 40-ish professor at Cambridge, was born and raised in Poland--but he hasn't been back there since 1968, when his youthful foray into underground activism led to an innocent child's death. (""I've done my bit for political activism, and all that happens is that ordinary people get hurt."") Now, however, Alex's estranged father is dying back home. Furthermore, Alex's off-and-on true love is English-born, half-Polish Mary Pastorek--who's quietly active in getting aid to the Solidarity movement. So, quite reluctantly, chiefly in order to keep Mary's love, narrator Alex sets out (with Mary) on a double mission to Poland: he'll pay a deathbed visit to his father, and he'll deliver some radio equipment (smuggled inside a chocolate box) to underground messenger Tadeusz. Once Alex reaches his father's village, however, things get more complicated. Tadeusz has been followed by UBEK (Poland's KGB) agents--and is seriously wounded when he and Alex flee together. Now, therefore, it's up to Alex to deliver the radio equipment to underground headquarters within the Nowa Huta industrial-complex. . . and to deliver a message to ""the head of the underground presidium"" from Tadeusz: the identity of a traitor within the movement! Chases ensue, with mountains, cable-cars, and barking dogs; Alex gets through in one piece, losing and then finding Mary. But in the end, back in the West, it seems that his mission was for naught, and that Mary has betrayed him: ""I had thought I was doing something for love, and I had ended up helping treachery."" Predictable action/suspense in the Buchan tradition--but better than Simpson's confused Moscow Requiem (1982), and slightly enlivened by the Poland/Solidarity backgrounds.

Pub Date: Dec. 19th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's