WHEN FISH BEGIN TO SMELL by Matthew Heald Cooper

WHEN FISH BEGIN TO SMELL

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

London, 1951: the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) has gotten evidence of eleven highly-placed Soviet moles in Britain--including Philby, Burgess, Maclean, and Blunt. What if the Russians, with their agents now ""blown,"" made this widespread penetration of UK Intelligence known to the whole world? A disaster for Britain in all sorts of ways. So the SIS chiefs decide to blackmail Moscow into silence--by threatening to make public some new-found documentation about the Russian massacre of Poles at Katyn in 1940, (Such revelations would help to ignite a simmering anti-Soviet movement in Poland.) Meanwhile, however, while secret negotiations are going on between the SIS and the internally feuding USSR leadership, two separate forces threaten to bring both secrets (the UK spy-calamity, the USSR atrocities) to light. In Britain's Foreign Office, disillusioned young Nicholas Pelham comes upon the Katyn material, gets a whiff of the Truth about Philby, and runs into SIS stonewalling (and murder). In Washington, CIA bigwig Allen Dulles, who wants to enhance the Company by embarrassing UK Intelligence, is scheming--also via secret negotiations with Moscow--to expose the British-spy fiasco. And, to further complicate matters, the USSR agent-negotiator, General Orlov, decides to defect--and turns for help to foreign-officer Pelham. Eventually, then, all three nations have an investment in the secret, amoral negotiations; all three, therefore, send assassins to Vienna--where Pelham and Orlov are planning the defection/escape. So there'll be some chase-action and violence (including the grim quasi-suicide of Orlov) before the UK/US/USSR machinations are at least partially foiled. First-novelist Cooper (The German Army, The Nazi War Against Soviet Partisans) crams too many historical issues into this slight, disjointed, rather preachy thriller--from the Beria/Malenkov feud to the Katyn outrage (better dramatized in W.S. Kuniczak's The March, 1979). As subplots whirl, hero Pelham remains faceless, under-motivated, unfocused. But readers with a special interest in USSR/Polish relations may be mildly intrigued, while Cooper shows enough international inventiveness to promise sturdier, less hectic spy-suspense in the future.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1984
Publisher: Vanguard