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A subdued but splendid spy story of double agents and third men on the London-Cairo-Moscow circuit during the decade which spans the post-Suez crisis and prefaces the Six Day War and written so far in advance of the genre that it becomes exceptional by any criteria. As is made very dear, this whole dirty business of intelligence is not so much a question of dedication but entrapment in ""a toytown, a pretense, for children."" Peter Marlow, teaching in an English school in Cairo, is recruited into I. O. Posting (""Information Only') through his friendship with one Henry Edwards and through Bridget, the woman they both have shared (she becomes Marlow's wife for a short time). Marlow is reluctant but then he has little choice -- they reach him ""underhand in a personal way."" And as Marlow is to say ten inextricable years later -- ""I had arrived in a country years before where nothing was as it seemed, a territory defended everywhere against trust."" With no exit. . . for Edwards there is perhaps the possibility that he may make it to Moscow -- another Philby all over again; for Marlow the return to London and another fate. . . . Cairo, the city, desolate in its sepia and ochre shades of slow decay, lends an immediate physical presence, and the exceptional quality of the novel reminds one of the early Graham Greene where the bitter, uncertain climate of betrayal shapes and sharpens the urgency of the narrative. One might hope that it would be equally successful but then in this covert walk of life ""One never knows, does one?"" ""One never knows.

Pub Date: May 8th, 1972
Publisher: Dutton