COVER STORIES by Robert Rosenblum


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With about 100 pages too many and an over-meditative pace, this tangle of double-crossing spies and triple-crossing masterminds often creaks laboriously when it should be rapidly twisting--but Rosenblum (The Sweetheart Deal) is a solid, sincere enough suspense writer to make it all almost work. Narrator Harry Niall, a Greece boat-guide who quit the CIA some years back when the Agency endorsed the torture of beautiful Greek dissident Chrisi (whom Harry loved then and still loves), returns to Washington for the funeral of an old colleague--and receives a proposition. Ex-CIA fanatic Millard Bevin, furious over recent Congressional putdowns of the Company, wants Harry to persuade Mediterranean KGB agent Marsov to come to the U.S. (for a million-dollar fee) to spill the beans about KGB doings in Greece: such revelations, Bevin thinks, will stir pro-CIA public opinion. Harry, though wary, agrees--he needs the money, and, for Chrisi's sake, Bevin promises to help establish the innocence of a Greek dissident accused of killing a NATO biggie (actually a CIA victim!). So, back in Greece, Harry makes contact with Marsov: a most agreeable, charming, drinking and dancing fellow who, however, convinces Harry that he has quit the KGB and has no info to sell. But Marsov does have a plan--he'll pretend to tell KGB secrets, and the two of them will split the million! This is an easy enough seam to pull off--despite Harry's suspicions and some violent complications involving Harry's allies among the Greek rebels--but could the whole turn of events have been a setup by Bevin? ""Could we be the blind victims of a dirty trick, we who had so often been the tricksters?"" That's the final twist, of course, and though it's a far-out one indeed, it comes so slowly that there's little shock and surprise. Also over-labored is the tortured romance between Harry and Chrisi, which inspires the worst of Rosenblum's often-stagy dialogue (""I was trying to be kind. To spare you from my terrible craving to chisel pieces off your will, your soul""). But the action throughout is neat and taut, with strong nautical and island atmospherics; the odd, suspicion-riddled friendship between Harry and Marsov sneaks up nicely; and, however lumpy, this is essentially higher-class suspense with a basic decency that pulls it through nearly all of its muddles.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Delacorte