A spymaster's dream caper is played out in this gem of a love letter to Cold War espionage fiction. British SIS agent James MacKay is jolted by a press photo of newly elected U.S. President Logan Powell's press secretary, Andrew Dempsey, recognizing him as a former American student in Paris who was active in the French Communist Party under diamond dealer Viktor Kleppe, a deep-cover KGB agent. Suspecting that the KGB is behind Powell's sudden rise from nowhere to the political bigtime, MacKay contacts his CIA buddy Peter Nolan and they convince director Morton Harper to order background checks on Dempsey, Powell and Kleppe. When witnesses support MacKay's suspicions but they are murdered before they can sign statements, Harper tries to get a CIA go-ahead to prove the agents' case before Inauguration Day and avoid a national disaster. The spiny task of unmasking a high-ranking political appointee and confronting an elected president add to the tension as Nolan hurdles bodies and dodges bullets in a race to find witnesses and keep them alive long enough to foil the beautifully crafted KGB plan. Allbeury (Deep Purple) is a master at spycraft and fashions a thoroughly credible Cold War scenario spiced with the dry wit, measured violence and circumspect sex that are his trademark accelerants to a flawlessly structured plot. A few Briticisms in the mouths of American characters don't mar the otherwise spot-on American settings, and the dapper MacKay smoothly melds with his U.S. counterparts as they joust with the Soviets. A satisfying finale will please any Cold War aficionado. First published in Britain in 1981 as The Twentieth Day of January, this is a welcome addition to the list of Allbeury titles available in the U.S. (May)
Forecast:This one may be difficult to find on bookstore shelves, but true connoisseurs will seek it out, and it'll be a welcome addition to library collections of Cold War thrillers.