SLEEPER SPY by William Safire


Email this review


Word maven and New York Times columnist Satire's third novel (Freedom, 1987; Full Disclosure, 1977): a transnational thriller with immensely entertaining results. The cold war is long over, and the Russian Federation's Security Ministry has lost all track of a sleeper agent the KGB placed in the US during the 1970s--his mission: to invest a small fortune in Western capital markets with the help of inside information from the Kremlin. The folks running the cash-strapped show in Moscow want to locate the never-activated operative, whose files were destroyed to prevent discovery of his name by rival services, and to recover the billions he's amassed. Veteran American newsman Irving Fein also wants to find the missing man to confirm an exclusive career-renewing story. On the trail, too, are some hard-line reactionaries who want funds to underwrite restoration of an authoritarian regime and the Soviet Union's lost territories. With a book contract in hand, Fein and a CIA contact devise an ingenious plan to lure the sleeper into the open. As it happens, the Memphis banker they recruit as willing bait may be the very man everyone's looking for. Before the true identity of the cosmopolitan financier becomes clear, however, he leads Fein & Co. on a merry chase. Meanwhile, several of the intrepid reporter's allies develop severe conflicts of interest and betray him in one way or another. At the close, it takes Fein nearly a year to sort out who's been doubled or tripled by which intelligence agencies and what outcome is to his own best advantage. Engaging and cunningly plotted--with a wealth of diverting asides on the self-importance of journalists, the duplicity of officialdom, the venality of big-time literary agents, and other of civilized society's burdens.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Random