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WALKING BACK THE CAT by Robert Littell


by Robert Littell

Pub Date: June 20th, 1997
ISBN: 0-87951-764-6
Publisher: Overlook

 An aging KGB agent and a seen-it-all Gulf War vet join forces to thwart a ring of freelance assassins in this quirky Cold War thriller. Finn, a balloonist on the fly from the consequences of a bar brawl in Seattle, sets down on the tiny Suma Apache reservation in New Mexico to find that the locals' casino has been paying serious protection money to the Mafia. Finn also finds himself falling in love with the elderly headman's young wife, Shenandoah. While he's trying to overcome her resistance, he resolves to do what he can to help her people--and that means getting their Sicilian partners off their backs. But the shakedown artists aren't the Mafia after all, as Finn learns when his appointment to brief an FBI agent on the deaths of earlier Suma complainants almost leads to his getting killed himself. Instead, as Finn works it out with the help of Parsifal, the false defector who's actually a KGB agent sent to assassinate him, Parsifal himself has executed them all at the behest of the higher-ups who reactivated him four years after glasnost buried his deep-cover placement even deeper. But why does the KGB want to milk a lowly Apache casino and kill those who make a stink about the profit-sharing? The beautifully simple answer is that they don't: Sometime between the fall of the USSR and the raising of the casino, rogue operatives tapped into Parsifal's chain of command, and they're now running him as a wetwork specialist who thinks his jobs are being authorized by Mother Russia. So instead of killing Finn, Parsifal uses his help to puzzle out what went wrong, and at whose instance. Even though the answers aren't as elegant or original as the questions, Littell (The Visiting Professor, 1994, etc.) delivers the goods with understated ingenuity and his hallmark tenderness- -a commodity even rarer in spy fiction than merited trust. (First printing of 50,000; $40,000 ad/promo)