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Fiction

August 23, 1987|Jim Stinson

SEE CHARLIE RUN by Brian Freemantle (Bantam: $15.95; 288 pp.). In the espionage thriller, "See Charlie Run," British, U.S., and Soviet intelligence compete for a pair of Russian defectors while individual spooks play their own power games, and almost everyone lusts for the blood of British agent Charlie Muffin. Muffin--a rambling wreck so scruffy his middle name might be "Rags"--moves just fast enough through London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Macao to outrun the pack and bag the game; though as usual, nobody really wins.

Freemantle's gift is for story. Except for the flawed, ruefully attractive Charlie, the characters are only as round as they need to be. The exotic locales are sketched accurately if lightly, and the dialogue is punch but often just a hair off--especially the British rhythms.

No matter: The reader is captured by the narrative. The author handles story logic, tension, pace and surprise with sure control. He hauls you aboard and won't let you off until the roller coaster stops.

If only the prose gave as smooth a ride. Clinkers abound ("The tiny station and the single exit from it enabled the man complete surveillances") and the author has a fatal weakness for creative speech ascriptions: " 'All wrapped up,' praised the Director."

Apparently in haste, blamed the reader.

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