cover image Brothers


Michael Hastings, Michael Bar-Zohar. Fawcett Books, $21 (425pp) ISBN 978-0-449-90511-1

Despite a tantalizing setup, this Cold War thriller quickly descends to the level of soap opera. Bar-Zohar, whose previous espionage fiction ( The Devil's Spy ) has appeared under the pseudonym Michael Hastings, opens on a scene from the Stalinist purges--the trial and execution of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Writers Committee. Tonya Gordon, a poet whose husband has been sentenced to death, escapes the same fate by marrying NKVD officer Boris Morozov in order to save her son, Alex. Boris and Tonya have another son, but eventually the purges catch up to Tonya. Boris avoids his own fall long enough to smuggle Alex to Tonya's sister in Brooklyn and to stash his own son, Dimitri, in a harsh military orphanage. Later, Alex embarks on an academic career in Russian studies while Dimitri ends up as a top international killer for the KGB. A CIA agent, planning to get at Dimitri through Alex, engineers a reunion in Paris. The brothers fall for the same woman (a Romanov, no less) and straight into espionage stereotypes. Exposed to Dimitri's evil nature, Alex joins the CIA to wage lifelong war against his KGB brother; each rises to head his organization. The early Soviet history and the stunning finale aren't enough to salvage the cliched characterizations and plot. (May)