THE SPY WHO LONGED FOR HOME by Michael Grundt Spang


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A spy novel with precious little spying, first published in Norway in 1985, is Spang's debut in English. The title character is Anders Berger, a frightened little Norwegian diplomat who has defected to the Soviet Union but can't take the debriefings, indifference, and cold weather of Moscow and so asks asylum from the country he betrayed. In return for safe passage back to Oslo, Berger will disclose the threat to the intelligence agent Peter Nordstrom, currently investigating the background of Karl Sandersen, a cabdriver who is actually a Soviet spy under deep cover, waiting for the order to assassinate Norway's leaders and throw the country into chaos. Most of the characters spend their time worrying about problems that never surface. Berger gets smuggled safely out of Russia (though the truck he's using does get a flat tire); Nordstrom confirms his suspicions about Sandersen without getting himself killed; Berger's love interest, the Soviet psychiatrist Rita Tsvetkova, turns out to be on his side; and Norwegian intelligence takes Sandersen into custody before he can escape or kill all those people. Neither possibility had seemed imminent anyway, and the main failing here is that the characters' worries never seem very pressing; their paranoia is realistic enough, but never very fervently invoked. While they're quietly worrying, they move through settings from Moscow to Montreal, but the landscapes are so many hired cars and faceless hotels. Spang writes as if he were as dispirited as his hero. Not slick enough to be labeled formulaic, but strictly routine. The translation is fluent and idiomatic, but the whole enterprise seems lifeless.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1989
ISBN: 312-02986-1
Publisher: St. Martin's
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