The main facts of the story of Eli Cohen -- Eliahu Ben Shaul Cohen, the Israeli spy -- are certain to attract attention, as did his execution televised from Damascus and as will the film featuring Alan Arkin, who will have no trouble duplicating his ""bushy mustache."" More difficult to project, however, is the success of this book, handicapped to some extent by the thoroughgoing if prohibitive detail and the complex terrain (Israeli-Egyptian-Syrian, etc.). Then there's the fact that Cohen has none of the easy charm of that five-fingered Cicero: he was always reserved and in the last years understandably ""nervous and bad-tempered."" Initially described as a hard-working employee, exemplary husband and uncomplicated man, one never meets him on closer terms. The story to be abstracted is of course an interesting one: Cohen stayed on in Egypt in 1950 to secure a degree in electronics; he also built a network of connections and was recruited into the ""Zionist Gang"" of a Major Dar until the increasing sequestration of, and retribution against, the Jews returned him to Israel. There he married but never stayed home for very long since he was rigorously trained in Syrian affairs before taking up residence in Damascus; there the apartment from which he transmitted was also used as a romantic rendezvous by officers high up in the Syrian Command. Eventually it was raided and he was arrested, tried and hung in spite of protests and appeals. The Ave atque Vale to his heroism at the close has been substantiated throughout even if the authors have never succeeded in making Cohen a more than functional figure.