cover image Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box

Clive Egleton. Severn House Publishers, $28.95 (241pp) ISBN 978-0-7278-6591-5

This spy thriller from British author Egleton (A Spy's Ransom), a reissue of 1982's The Russian Enigma under a new title, still has pertinent things to say about the background of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and about espionage in general. Charles Winter, head of British SIS, becomes concerned about the suspicious death of a double agent, but he's also increasingly suspicious about the reliability of a Russian who has just defected to America. Suspicion is, in fact, the overriding mood of this novel; nothing and no one can be taken at face value. As the action bounces between continents, the viewpoint shifts between Winter and several of his associates, showing how their tedious investigations eventually do produce bits of fact that can be connected to reveal the truth. Or at least what looks like truth. Readers also get glimpses of the players on the other side as they work to construct convincing lies and cover their tracks by violence when necessary. Egleton's ingenious skittering through the outline of history-as-we-know-it does succeed in suggesting that there may have been-and may still be-much more going on than we imagine. Even the loose ends in the plot are appropriate to the inherently messy subject.