cover image The Presidential Archive

The Presidential Archive

John Griffiths. Carroll & Graf Publishers, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-0316-6

Secrets abound in this intelligent, tightly focused espionage thriller from Griffiths (The Last Spy), and the tension escalates when those secrets test the bonds of family and friendship for young scholar Cassandra Wolfe and her father, Nick, a CIA-agent-turned-journalist. Cass, in Moscow, has surreptitiously been offered evidence that implicates her uncle Nick's brother-in-law, Republican presidential candidate Hal Reynolds, as a highly placed Soviet agent code-named Oracle. Is the evidence authentic? Or is it part of an elaborate sting designed to undermine Reynolds's candidacy? According to Nick, Oracle was discovered and removed from Reynolds's staff in Brussels in 1984. But Brussels also saw the end of Nick's friendship with Reynold, over a woman who may have been Reynolds's mistress, as well as the suicide of Cass's mother. Focusing on the intimate acts of suspicion and betrayal behind these events, Griffiths uses the personal relationships of his main characters to ground a larger story of international betrayal. Although structured as a thriller, this is above all a study in character, where the back-and-forth struggle between Nick and Cass to trust each other as father and daughter mirrors their attempts to decipher tantalizing clues aimed at undermining their trust of Reynolds. Among the ambiguities stands one certainty, however: that Griffiths can be relied on to deliver on his intriguing premise with clarity, smarts and emotional clout. (Aug.)