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OLD ACQUAINTANCE by Nicholas Guild



Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Seaview--dist. by Simon & Schuster

A disappointing encore appearance by Ray Guinness, the retired hired assassin who was forced back into action by the murder of his second wife in The Summer Soldier (p. 258). Now Ray has gone to work for the CIA, giving up on his attempts to be a mild-mannered English professor, and his first assignment takes him to a South Carolina college town where an atomic research project is being undermined by a foreign spy's threats on the families of the scientists involved. And the wife and daughter currently threatened turn out to be. . . Ray's wife #1 (now remarried) and daughter (now adopted), whom he hasn't seen in ten years, ever since wife Katey found out about his assassin job and deserted him. This is no coincidence--the CIA is testing Ray's resilience--and it's a promising premise. But whereas in The Summer Soldier Guild found just the right see-saw tension between unadorned action and Ray's interior monologue, here the ratio is a disaster: for each page of activity, there are three or four pages of reminiscing or musing--repetitious, self-pitying, mawkish thoughts about winning back the love of wife and daughter, The Way We Were, etc. As a result, the rather thin and implausible plot seems to be going on in cinematic slow motion--or, worse yet, as a jerky series of still photographs. In dozens of lines and in one strong sequence (Ray makes a violent comeback after being nearly murdered and then locked in a car trunk), Guild reminds us how sharp a suspense writer he can be. But the windy self-consciousness and soap-operatic tendencies make Guinness and Guild old acquaintances whom we'll prefer to remember from The Summer Soldier.