THE DISTANT STRANGER by Palma Harcourt

THE DISTANT STRANGER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The publisher mistakenly identifies this as Harcourt's US debut; A Turn of Traitors (1982) was only the most recent of her many American appearances. And, like most of Harcourt's mini-thrillers, this lively, tidy outing involves British/European spy-connections and old Cold War secrets. UK Intelligence has just gotten a tantalizing new clue to an old scandal/mystery: East German politician Otto Krasner, who supposedly died while trying to defect back in 1958, is apparently really alive, rescued by the CIA, living somewhere in the West! So ex-SAS man Hugh Merryck is ordered to find the secretly reborn Krasner--who might be able to clear the name of the late Sir Francis Dencourt, a diplomat who was accused (chiefly by the CIA) of betraying the would-be defector to the East Germans. Merryck starts his search in Bonn, where Krasner's sister has recently died; the trail leads to Paris, then to lovely young New York woman Martha Carlton--whom Merryck believes to be Krasner's daughter. The protective CIA tries to convince Merryck otherwise, providing Martha with an elaborately concocted fake-family. But Merryck, while falling for Martha (and vice versa), sees through the ruse and continues the quest for Krasner; he's temporarily imprisoned by CIA men, pursued by lethal East Germans; eventually, with ambivalent help from Martha, he does reach the old, ill Krasner--who offers little new evidence on the 1958 mystery before dying in a suspicious fire. And finally, back in England, Merryck finds himself the target of ruthless assassins. . . and realizes that the real villains (the true 1958 traitors) are closer to home than America or East Germany. Despite a few corny lapses and more than a few implausibilities: brisk, serviceable espionage action--with neither the character/atmosphere nor the vexing convolutions of more ambitious genre efforts.

Pub Date: Dec. 21st, 1984
Publisher: Beaufort