THE PRICE OF SILENCE by Stephen Barlay


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In this near-future spy tangle, the US has apparently ""shut the menacing window of vulnerability""--thanks to its new Global Early Warning Satellite system (GLEW). And the Soviets, unable to match this technology, are in a stew--even trying a nuclear ""test launch"" to gauge GLEW's effectiveness. Troubling puzzles soon arise, however. Why was there a foulup in the GLEW response? Why, if the Soviets are in the dark about GLEW technology, does the CIA seem to suspect scientist Joseph Kowalski of passing GLEW secrets to the Russians? Has GLEW security been compromised. . . or not? Those are the headaches for veteran British super-agent Josh Maxon, whose old love is Kowalski's wife Jacqueline. Furthermore, when Maxon visits Kowalski in Toronto, hoping to help clear him of suspicion, the plot thickens: Maxon is approached by old Soviet super-spy Ellsberg, who--after a drawn-out crisis of conscience--reveals that the USSR, truly spooked by GLEW, is planning a nuclear outer-space explosion to paralyze the US satellites! (Ellsberg wants Maxon to warn the West not to overreact.) Who's telling the truth? So wonders Maxon--as bodies start falling (Ellsberg, Kowalski). The CIA/Pentagon types stonewall him. He's framed for murder; he's on the run. He begins to suspect that there's a traitor high-up in Washington. Eventually, after digging out the real secret of GLEW, he's even tempted (as Ellsberg was) to betray his country: he and renewed-love Jacqueline wind up in Stockholm, at odds over whether or not to share their info with the Russians (in order to delay ""the doom of mankind""). But a final confrontation with that D.C. traitor reveals that Maxon has been a pawn throughout this hectic maze--a bitterly ironic, knottily implausible windup. Barlay (Crash Course, Blockbuster) writes without style. The plot is more hard-working than clever or original. Still, fans of convoluted espionage will find lots of dense trickiness--along with some space-tech detail and familiar themes involving ends-and-means and national vs. global loyalty.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1984
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton--dist. by David & Charles