cover image THE SISTERS


Robert Littell, . . Overlook, $24.95 (312pp) ISBN 978-1-58567-418-3

On the heels of Littell's 2002 bestseller The Company comes this reissue of a gripping spy thriller originally published in 1986. It is the height of the Cold War, not long after the Cuban missile crisis. Francis and Carroll, dubbed "the sisters Death and Night" by their associates, are two odd yet powerful veteran CIA operatives with vague responsibilities ("If you mentioned the Sisters in an interoffice memo, almost everyone tucked away in the Company's cradle-to-grave complex knew who you were talking about. But only a handful with 'eyes-only' authorizations in their dossiers had an inkling of what they actually did for a living"). In one of their clandestine brainstorming sessions, the Sisters devise a plot to commit what they consider to be "the perfect crime," although the motives for this crime are largely unclear. They set their plot in motion by deftly manipulating the "Potter," the former head of the Russian KGB's espionage school, into revealing the identity of his most talented student, the "Sleeper," a spy still hiding in the United States awaiting KGB orders. Armed with his identity, the Sisters covertly send the Sleeper on a treacherous and near impossible assignment in the U.S. The Potter, wishing to atone for his betrayal, escapes from the Sisters' clutches and embarks on a cross-continent trek to save his protégé from committing a crime that could change the future of the world. On his journey, the Potter is joined by Kaat, a mortuary hair stylist and the Sleeper's ex-lover. The unlikely pair blindly race across the country after the Sleeper, while desperately trying to evade those who would kill them to protect his mission. Littell brilliantly weaves quirky characters and puzzle-piece vignettes into an intricate, bizarre and highly entertaining tale. (June)