MORTAL GAMES by Pierre & Leonard Gross Salinger
Kirkus Star


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A spirited sequel to the 1984 thriller The Dossier, in which Salinger and Gross teamed up to introduce Andre Kohl (tightly modeled on Salinger) and his exposÉ of the Nazi past of France's President-elect. Here, the authors carry the Kohl/Salinger indulgence one wonderfully absurd step further as, to protect himself and his bride. Kohl fakes his own death and adopts a new persona. Kohl's life is golden--he's about to retire as USBC's top European correspondent to enjoy marriage with fiancÉe Meredith, daughter of new CIA-director Charles Houghton--when Arab gunmen just miss him at his Paris retirement dinner. A second attempt during his Bahamian honeymoon wounds both him and Meredith, so in the wild implausibility that powers this novel's Rube Goldberg-like machinery, Kohl and Houghton agree that the only way to stop these terrorists with their unknown motives is to fake Kohl's death--forever; even Meredith can't know the truth. Whisked to a CIA-estate in England, Kohl is transformed--via plastic surgery, counseling, exercise, and voice and acting lessons--from a dumpy middle-ager into Peter Burke, ""a tall, slim man with the graceful. . .stride of an athlete."" Burke/Kohl/Salinger wanders Paris, testing old pals: no one recognizes him--including Meredith, the sight of whom wrenches him apart. Meanwhile, in the US, Houghton looks into a CIA-cabal that he suspects ties in with the Kohl ""killing."" And an idea of his gives Burke solace: investigate Kohl's death for USBC. Burke leaps at the chance, recontacting and even romancing Meredith (but still incognito), and eventually traveling with an Armand Hammer-type to Moscow and Siberia, where he mixes up with a genius dissident, the head of the KGB, and a KGB cabal linked to the CIA one. Finally--well, the idea of Salinger scripting himself a tragic ending is too outrÉ for even this phantasmagoria. The wallowing in the high Salinger/Kohl lifestyle cloys like too much dessert, but it does provide a touchstone for realism--as do the layers of diplomatic/journalistic detail--from which to enjoy the imaginative and delightful (if only mildly suspenseful) plot. Not a ripsnorting thriller, then, but a wackily enjoyable diversion.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Doubleday