cover image Second Sight

Second Sight

Charles McCarry. Dutton Books, $19.95 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24985-6

The author calls this the last chapter in the Paul Christopher saga that has occupied him on and off since The Miernik Dossier (1973). Christopher has remained a somewhat shadowy figure, though there is no denying McCarry's remarkable narrative gifts, his imaginative use of little-known information and his insider's knowledge of the CIA. All have been put to better use in previous Chrstopher books than here, however. Second Sight is, to put it mildly, overstuffed, with a narrative that goes all the way back to biblical times and embraces pre-WW II Germany as well as the present. It's a complex tale involving Christopher, his heroic German mother, his daughter who was brought up among a lost Israeli tribe in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, an exotic psychic, an elaborate plot to destabilize the Outfit (read: CIA) and kill Jews, and the current and former Outfit directors. At times McCarry's political views blur his usual sharpness, as in a ludicrous portrait of a highly successful, leftist TV guru; at others, the arcane knowledge he usually interweaves so skillfully seems wilfully dragged in. It's a tribute of sorts that he makes such a high-flown saga readable at all, but his inability to create human characters rather than symbols and his fatal lack of le Carre's wit and sophistication in dealing with often similar material make this an ambitious, if intermittently entertaining failure. 35,000 first printing; author tour. (July)