THE THIN LINE by Roy Doliner


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In On the Edge (1978), Doliner dealt with a long-embittered ex-CIA man named Sullivan; this 1963 Burma/Vietnam/France tangle reveals the full story of Sullivan's reasons for bitterness. Head of an intelligence network involving ex-Chiang soldiers around the Burma/China border, Sullivan is enraged when his best agents suddenly dematerialize--and he disobeys a CIA order to come home. Instead he sets out to figure out what happened, soon learning that it's all connected to a huge opium-smuggling operation run by an odd couple: CIA-man George Berry and Frenchman Bernard Castellone. And indeed the fact is that the CIA, needing an untraceable $20 million to prop up the South Vietnam President, has arranged this opium deal--with plans for the President's well-fed nephew to smuggle the stuff to Castellone in France. (Unbeknownst to the CIA, smuggler Castellone is really a French super-narc plotting to use the 40-kilo shipment to nab Europe's drug-distribution syndicate.) Now, however, the CIA sees a Vietnam coup on the horizon, so--while Sullivan is getting the truth out of Berry and while Castellone (incognito) is wooing the European Mafiosi--the Agency waffles about whether to go through with the French connection. Eventually, the opium is shipped to Paris via the nephew, Sullivan teams up with Castellone (who's about to be murdered by the now-savvy Mafiosi)--and it's finally up to Sullivan to get the dope into French hands (not those of the untrustworthy CIA). An intriguing, split-focus scenario--but, as in On the Edge, Doliner's fleshing-out involves some dreadful dialogue (""You carry moral judgment, like the plague"") and an unengaging cast of characters . . . . especially the Jewish, bisexual, femme-fatale jewel-dealer with whom all three main characters stupidly fall in love. Nice concept, uneven execution.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Crown