Critical raves by highly sophisticated reviewers salute the novels of I. I. Magdalen, whose Anna P (Overlook: $16.95) should be available at your bookstore about now. Frankly, I had my troubles with this one, possibly an instance of pearls cast before a swine. I found it perhaps too stylistic, although it deals brutally with the horrid nether world of espionage, and with the inhuman machinations of both East and West. The moral reasoning, I suppose, is that you kill tens of thousands to avert a million deaths. In arithmetic, that makes some sense. We do hang murderers, do we not? Ah, well, ah, well--for less than this, they slipped the hemlock to poor Socrates. I was enormously disturbed, but I was not thrilled.
And now to the heart of the matter--the Soviet Union itself, and more specifically to the KGB and the traitor Povin, once its chief of foreign intelligence. Throw in the exquisite Ina Karsovina, a KGB careerist, and KGB chief Kazin, plus an astounding mix of motivations, and you've got a fascinating tale of Moscow at its most complex. Wheels within wheels, all of them whirling horridly within a moral vacuum--that's Nocturne for the General by John Trenhalle (Congdon & Weed: $14.95). Ask not, of course, for whom that horrid bell tolls next.
Peter Neisewand, international journalist, scores a scoop, could I say, with The Word of a Gentleman (Stein & Day: $15.95), which revolves bloodily around a coup to subjugate an island nation. Yeah, sure, the CIA has got its bloody claws in this, abetted by home-grown venality. What sometimes puzzles me is who was actually to blame for horrors such as these before the CIA was set up for this nasty sort of business. We of this last half of the 20th Century, unclean of hands, only ape the patterns of the horrid past.
Mirroring the murderous passions of the Middle East, where terrorism is the only way of life--and death!--Levantine by Peter Delacorte (Norton: $15.95) spotlights an American newspaper correspondent, an exquisite French actress, various sleazy malefactors and of course the crazy zealots who have made the area a hell on Earth--all this recalling our own recent instances of tragedy. Exciting though it reads--and lethal violence seems fascinating when you're not involved--I find all this too close to factual for me, not too much different from the front pages of The Times.
And here's a hot new thriller writer, Ridley Pearson, who makes his debut with Never Look Back (St. Martin's: $14.95). A West Coast musician, Pearson has come up with American secret agent Clayton, detailed to balk, capture or kill Dragonfly, the secret agent who murdered Clayton's twin brother. You like action mixed with passion? You'll get an overdose of both in this vengeance saturated debut.
And to conclude this gruesomely Bloody Sunday, here's a super-thriller that I should have tackled months ago--would have, I'm sure, except that my resilience to these horrors finally wore out. I took to dreaming that I, too--but let's skip that. Here we have The Last Spring in Paris by Hans Herlin (Doubleday: $15.95). The year of the action is 1944, and the long-awaited Allied landings on the coast of France are near. Within the German Reich there are those, exhausted with war, sick of the opiate dream of dominating Western Europe, who at last begin to plot the death of Hitler as a step toward peace. And there are also those determined to defend him to the last--and did. And died with him.