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Entranced by an exquisite face, an aging journalist allows himself to be sucked into the schemes and rivalries of Korean governments and American intelligence agencies in the tense days before the Seoul Olympics. Howe's nonfiction includes The Koreans, Mata Hari: The True Story, and Weapons. A man without ties to family or home, Robert Moineau has had the good fortune of pleasing the powerful president of Singapore with his writing. The resultant commission to ghostwrite the president's autobiography makes Moineau a wealthy man, free to drift off from Singapore on a leisurely and nostalgic tour of western Asia and Oceania. But the tour is interrupted early on when Moineau runs into Chuck Ferguson, a dimly remembered Princeton classmate. Ferguson has retired from the Army and now works for the Defense Intelligence Agency. He wants to know whether Moineau would be willing to help out him and his country and pick up a little money at the same time. It's not the money that lures Moineau, however--it's the photograph of Chi-sook, the young Korean woman he is to seduce so that he might follow her about and uncover her ties to the North Koreans. The seduction is oddly easy. Chi-sook waves good-bye to her Swiss gentleman friend at the airport and immediately allows herself to be picked up by Moineau. Moineau's position as a tourist meets her need for cover as she goes about transmitting messages to and from North Korean agents. Within hours, they are in bed together, where Moineau discovers that she is a virgin and that he is in love. Even stranger, she seems to love him. Their attachment for each other grows even as they tour the peninsula, she dropping messages, he spying on her. Meanwhile, complications pile up--and someone slips Moineau poison during a blackout at a Korean s‚ance. Why? Brooding, often bitter, slow-moving, and the protagonist is not a nice man--but it's all worth the trip for the superb novelist's-eye view of Korea.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich