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The final installment (or so it seems) of Trenhaile's trilogy about KGB chief Stepan Ilyich Povin--whose defection scheme, also involving his pianist-friend Pyotr Stolyinovich, failed miserably in A View from the Square (p. 112). Thus, Povin is now (two years later) a zek, a wretched prison-camp inmate, while his cruel Stalinist rival Kazin now commands the KGB. But Kazin's interrogation techniques haven't succeeded in getting Povin to supply the missing half of the ""Chance Medley"" code--which will reveal the name of the key courier in a Western spy-ring within Russia: after all, Povin himself doesn't know either the courier's name or even which of many possible bits of bygone information is in fact the Code clue! So Kazin now sends sensitive agent Inna Karsovina to interrogate Povin daily, to win him over, to somehow get him to provide the vital clue as he's encouraged to ramble on in a psychoanalytic memory-vein. Meanwhile, fellow camp-inmate Lev Kulikov (a half-blind neanderthal) is plotting to kill Povin for personal-vengeance reasons. Also meanwhile, Povin's friends in the West are scheming to rescue him from the Murmansk-area camp and to kidnap Karsovina's son as a hostage. (Super-agent Victor sneaks from Finland over into Russia, soon posing, with implausible ease, as a local undertaker's assistant and KGB-man.) And finally all of evil Kazin's victims--Povin, Karsavina (who has become his soulmate), tortured/damaged pianist Pyotr, and Victor--wind up in a dreadful isolation-box together. . . before Povin sacrifices himself for the sake of Karsavina and her son. As before, Trenhaile is an uneven practitioner of Le CarrÉ-style suspence--allowing excess melodrama and over-busy plotting to detract from the central characters. But, with a fairly direct focus on the somber, intriguing Povin/Karsavina relationship, this is more steadily absorbing than the choppy View from the Square--if only strongly recommended for those who've been following the Povin story from the start.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 1984
Publisher: Congdon & Weed--dist. by St. Martin's