Future students of socio-cultural history will have their work cut out for them when they try to figure out what made The Parsifal Mosaic a bestseller--because, even more so than previous Ludlums, this one revels in tedium, murk, implausibility, and faceless characters. . . with none of the primitive exuberance that has energized Ludlum's more fanciful conspiracy-fantasies. In fact, this time you may actually miss all those neo-Nazis--as several bland US spies, USSR moles, and Washington bigwigs go through their knotty paces. Chief among them: Michael Havelock (nÃ‰ Havlicek, a refugee from Nazi/Soviet horrors in Czechoslovakia), who has just given up his US-spy career. Why? Because his beloved Jenna has been exposed as a Soviet double-agent and killed (by good guys) before Havelock's very eyes. But then, in Italy, Havelock sees Jenna and starts desperately trailing her around Europe! What's going on? Was Jenna's disgrace/death faked in order to unhinge Havelock and lead him to resign? If so, why? Also: what's the connection with a deep-sleeping Soviet mole in the State Dept.--who now anonymously gives orders for Havelock to be eliminated? And why can't Havelock seem to get through by phone to his longtime mentor: superstar Secretary of State Anthony Matthias? And what about ""Parsifal""--an anonymous independent agent who seems to have some sort of total blackmail power over the White House? Slowly, slowly, all these migraine-y questions are hashed over (in Havelock's mind and in D.C. conferences)--until Havelock tracks the elusive Jenna down, confronts the ""liars"" in Washington, and ends up on an island off Georgia. . . where he learns what insanities the Secretary of State, with help from mysterious ""Parsifal,"" has gotten the US into. (Nuclear first-strike treaties with both the USSR and China!) So now, joining up with the White House team, Havelock sets out to save the world--by identifying Parsifal and the State Dept. mole (actually working for an anti-Moscow Soviet splinter group), the two people on the outside who might reveal these secret twin-treaties and trigger international chaos. Many, many bodies drop along the way, of course, With a few solid action scenes. But, unfortunately, far more of the 640 pages here are talk, talk, talk: endless recaps of the plot at each sluggish stage, plus the usual quota of ""Good God!"" and ""Christ!"" and ""I. . . don't. . . believe this."" Overall, then: Ludlum at his most creaky, longwinded, unoriginal. . . and yet--presumably--saleable.