Wiseman, one of the most reliably professional and truly character-oriented of spy novelists, has vividly caught a moment in history here--the moment when the postwar CIA was being born out of the wartime OSS, when the basic boundaries of all subsequent ""covert operations"" were being decided. And President Truman's newly chosen adviser on that topic is Bill Hardtman, a blueblood with leftish leanings in his past, a superachiever now determined to make a dent in the closed doors he keeps coming up against. His chief CIA adversary: his old Yale classmate, brashly opinionated Walter Cole, who hasn't changed a bit since the old days. Bill finds it tough to find Cole's highly camouflaged offices, let alone get straight answers to his questions about what the newborn CIA is up to in Berlin. But far bigger problems lie ahead for Bill: he and his rich-girl-grown-up wife have both fallen a bit under the spell of Britisher Julian Blake, Washington's chic practitioner of a combination of yoga, massage, flattery, and medicine. And when Bill is in N.Y. for a speech, not only does he depart from his prepared text and denounce the Cold-Warriors, but he also allows Blake to propel him into the super-sexy arms of freelance journalist Joannie Fontanez; their Plaza Hotel lust-lest goes on and on, and Bill finds himself hopelessly compromised--especially when it appears that blackmailer Blake (soon a ""suicide"") is an enemy agent and that Joannie also sleeps at the Russian embassy. Bill's utter indiscretion is a bit hard to believe in, but otherwise Wiseman textures this rather simple plot with dialogue and personality details that are rich and convincing. And the final episode--Bill's hunt through Manhattan gangland to learn the truth of Blake's murder--is a haunting setpiece. All ambitious spy novelists get likened to Le Carre and Greene; Wiseman is one of the few who merits the comparison.