Fifteen rounds of sturdy international espionage-cum-detection, with a mixed decision.
Though she hardly knew her father—Ben Bolt left her mother for the last in a series of lovers and died a few months later when she was still a child—Mariah Bolt’s never been allowed to forget that she’s the daughter of one of the leading American novelists of his time. The latest unpleasant reminder is the charge by Pulitzer biographer Louis Urquhart, who’s planning a life of her father, that Ben didn’t write Man in the Middle, the posthumous novel Mariah discovered among his papers and is about to publish, but stole it from dissident Soviet novelist Anatoly Orlov, and that Ben, like Orlov himself, was murdered back in 1964. CIA analyst Mariah’s present-day life is equally unenviable. An ambitious deputy director has plucked her from her cozy weapons watchdog group to sound out Yuri Belenko, executive assistant to up-and-coming Russian foreign minister Valery Zakharov, to see if Belenko would like to work just a little more closely with the Agency. The hateful assignment will put Mariah in a compromising position with her friend Paul Chaney, glamourpuss TV newscaster; endanger her life and that of her daughter Lindsay, 15; close several more characters’ accounts for good; and force her into loathsome contact with Renata Hunter Carr, the aging Newport heiress whose greatest claim to fame is that she was the lover who enticed Ben Bolt away from his wife and child. Smith (Guilt by Silence, not reviewed, etc.) keeps the complexities of her myriad plot strands clear without ever providing a strong center that would tie the whole shebang together. The result is a spy thriller considerably more successful than the whodunit it’s wrapped around.
Illicit romance, exotic poisons, double agents trying to turn single agents, betrayals, kidnapping, and murder past and present. Lucky there’s not a quiz.