Less ambitious and distinctive than some previous Allbeury spy-thrillers (The Other Side of Silence, Shadow of Shadows), this briskly active adventure takes a tough, individualistic British agent--a bit like Brian Freemantle's Charlie M., minus the humor--through a series of absorbing if unsurprising episodes. Tad Anders, having been judged too dangerous and unpredictable for regular service, spends most of his time keeping up his London cover: running a lively, raffish nightclub frequented by hoods and call-girls. He's also kept busy trying to choose between his two girlfriends: rich, neurotic Judy, with a creepy husband and snobbish parents; or sweet young hooker Candy, cheerfully working-class. Then, however, British Intelligence comes up with an assignment for daring loner Anders: he's sent to East Berlin--with insufficient preparation and backup--to abduct KGB man Vasili Burinski, who's responsible for a recent wave of sneaky, nasty assassinations (poisoned umbrella tips, etc.) of defectors to the West. Result? Instead of nabbing Burinski, Anders is himself nabbed, tortured, interrogated. . .and eventually returned to England, in exchange for a captured Soviet spy. End of story? Not quite. Because another team of UK agents then succeeds in kidnapping Burinski--with whom Anders became oddly friendly during his incarceration in East Germany and Russia. So Anders is now used by his manipulative superiors as a kindly interrogator, one who persuades Burinski to Tell All and turn traitor--in return for certain promises (involving Burinski's beloved German wife). And finally, when Anders realizes what"" total bastards"" his bosses are, he vengefully decides to teach them a lesson--by setting Burinski free in the novel's last few pages. Neither Anders nor Burinski--nor the relationship between them--is developed deeply enough to give this scenario emotional clout or psychological texture. The plot twists lack suspense or ironic tension, with an increasing sense of anticlimax. Still, this is quick, classily professional espionage action, with occasional touches of above-average charm, personality (the mini-portrait of Candy's mum, for instance), and atmosphere.