cover image Charlie's Apprentice: A Charlie Muffin Mystery

Charlie's Apprentice: A Charlie Muffin Mystery

Brian Freemantle. St. Martin's Press, $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-10951-6

British spy Charlie Muffin, the wonderfully unorthodox hero of several seriocomic adventures by Freemantle, has been put into semiretirement, reduced by his new superiors to training fledgling agents. Charlie adjusts as best he can, forming a personal attachment with his first apprentice, John Gower, and a platonic relationship with the new director's secretary. Meanwhile, in Russia, KGB agent Natalia Fedova, having realized that Charlie had saved her life and career by aborting her planned defection to the West a few years back, decides to track down the rumpled spy in order to let him know that she's borne him a daughter; at the same time, she must guard against the jealous manipulations of a subordinate who wants to destroy her. And in Beijing, a Jesuit who doubles as a British agent finds himself in increasing jeopardy of exposure but refuses to leave his post, prompting the London office to send the unseasoned Gower in to bring him home. When Gower is captured and imprisoned by the Chinese, Charlie must rescue him before an international incident erupts. As usual with Freemantle, secrets hide within secrets, and one way or another, Charlie will have his revenge on those he finds wanting. The delightful way in which that revenge dovetails with Natalia's own designs makes for a most satisfying conclusion, reached amid a flurry of surprises and revelations. Superior work from a master of the form. (June)