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FICTION : DEEP LIE by Stuart Woods (Norton: $15.95).

March 30, 1986|DON CAMPBELL

What's a crack, but honorable, Soviet submarine commander supposed to do when he finds that he's being manipulated for sinister purposes? With a nice instinct for timing, novelist Woods has zeroed in on a sensitive political situation that--until the recent assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme--had attracted few international headlines: the almost constant (200 incidents a year) incursion of Swedish water by Soviet submarines. Why? For what purpose? It's on this "What if?" basis that Woods, author of the well-received "Chiefs," which, in turn inspired the six-hour television miniseries, has woven this fast-paced, action-riddled, tale of Soviet-CIA confrontation. Why has the Russian navy high command transferred Senior Lt. Jan Helder to its ultra-secret training camp on the coast of Latvia--ironically code-named "Malibu" because of the pleasures of the flesh that are available there to its elitist corps of mini-sub experts? And then the plot hops over to Washington to pick up Katharine Rule, head of the CIA's Office of Soviet Analysis, a high-spirited and unlikely bureaucrat with a strong dash of Chuck Norris derring-do in her make-up. Frustrated by her superiors' refusal to take her warnings of a devious Russian plot seriously--including her ex-husband who is trying, not too subtly, to ease her out of her job--Rule takes matters in her own hands. Clearly, there are deadly double agents, moles, at work high in the CIA and in the Swedish government. And, unknown to Rule, Soviet sub commander Helder, has put the same pieces of the same puzzle together.

With "Deep Lie," comparisons to last year's successful submarine thriller, "The Hunt for Red October," are inevitable which is both fortunate and unfortunate. "Deep Lie" is every bit as much as a page-turner, heaven knows, but in some respects is better--less preoccupied with "Red October's" sometimes overly clinical, technical, aspects of submarine strategy, and with heavier emphasis on good old cloak-and-dagger skulking, murder most foul, romance and the delicious, final, unfrocking of the traitor within the CIA. You'll love Rule, a pretty, old-fashioned girl with a great working knowledge of the throat-chop.

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