cover image Little Boy Blue

Little Boy Blue

Mark Linder. Random House (NY), $22.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40981-6

There are no clear-cut villains in this intricate, humanely characterized account of the FBI/Mossad conflict. When the Bureau nabs Martin Ellis, an Jewish U.S. naval officer passing American defense secrets to the Israelis , Navy Security screams foul at the early bust, claiming they were letting the spy run free so they could rope in his contacts. Smelling a case that careers are made on, Justice divisions joust for jurisdiction; and CIA, Navy Security, State Department and FBI brass fight for control. FBI agent Matt Blake and Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Halpern win the chance to work with the Navy to trap Ellis's Mossad allies before they can rescue their man and get him to Israel. Linder ( There Came a Proud Beggar ) skillfully details the legal legwork, red tape, gauntlet-running, tedious research, interagency sabotage and hours of waiting that lead to a few minutes of glamorous spy work, documenting the toll it takes on the personal lives of his dedicated protagonists. But his style, more le Carre than Clancy, meanders uncertainly between musing and action; like his character Blake, the author ``pays the price of the generalist'' and sacrifices focus in his desire to cover all aspects of a high-ranking agent's life. ( June )