cover image The Color of Night

The Color of Night

David Lindsey. Warner Books, $32 (496pp) ISBN 978-0-446-52361-5

Unlike many suspense writers, who publish annually, Lindsey offers a novel every two to three years (his most recent was Requiem for a Glass Heart, 1996). The extra time has consistently paid off in supple prose and stories resonant with insight. But his sales, though respectable, haven't matched his skill, peaking in 1990 with Mercy. Lindsey's new novel should continue that trend. Though replete with finely shaded characters and settings, its languid pace ill suits its genre--post-glasnost espionage thriller--and its plot turns can defy credulity. Like many of Lindsey's works, the narrative launches (after a Venetian prelude) in Texas, in Houston, where art dealer Harry Strand observes a lovely young woman at his club's swimming pool. Harry then learns that a potential client has rare drawings to sell; the client is that woman, Mara Song, with whom Harry strikes up a friendship that turns to love. Meanwhile, in Europe, members of a defunct American espionage ring are being threatened or killed. Very slowly, it is revealed that Harry is a former spy who controlled the ring and who, in penance for colluding with diabolical criminals to further his espionage agenda, decided, along with his ring, to sting the worst of these criminals for several hundred million dollars. That criminal, a German financier named Wolfram Schrade, has discovered Harry's treachery and wants his money back--and vengeance; and Harry's spy agency wants the money, too. As Harry, in Europe with Mara, counterplots to defeat Schrade, the lovers are drawn into great danger. Scene shifts from Geneva to Paris to London and elsewhere help move an interlude-laden plot that, despite much conspiring, lacks the sort of vigor that more action might have given it, while coincidence mars the showdown between Harry and Schrade. A novel to admire more than to relish, elegant rather than robust, this is, ultimately, a series of rich character studies cast not quite successfully as a thriller. Simultaneous audio. (Apr.)