September 03, 1979 12:00 PM

by R. E. Harrington

Can a shy, low-ranking clerk at the CIA be disguised and trained to replace a lady-killing double agent? As Alfred Hitchcock has proved, stories about ordinary people who take on dangerous assignments have the suspenseful appeal of fairy tales. This spy yarn has all those elements working for it. As in almost all current spy fiction, the villains are top CIA executives, here fighting for control of a massive bureaucracy that is lumbering along in typically irresponsible and immoral fashion. The novel’s beginning is a bit off-putting because of its complexity, but once the reader becomes interested in the new spy, his beautiful lawyer lady and his elderly friends in a residence hotel, the preposterous plot becomes quite serviceable. (Putnam, $8.95)

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