March 03, 1986 12:00 PM

by Bryan Forbes

The game is espionage, and no one writes about it better than the British. All the characters in this crisp novel are devious to the end. The story begins when a man who is taking inordinate pains to disguise himself and cover his tracks shows up at a nursing home to see a woman who has few visitors. He injects the old woman with a deadly drug and steals a snapshot from her table. But as in all good thrillers, nothing is as it appears. The murdered woman had been an agent during the Cold War. Barely 50, she had been turned into a cripple by the Russians, who broke her and then traded her back to the British. It is only after all this happens that the hero shows up. He is a British agent who once loved the murdered woman. Now the only thing he believes in is “good old-fashioned evil. That way you never get disappointed. Expect the worst, and all the rest is a bonus.” The author is a director-screenwriter (The L-Shaped Room) who has four other novels to his credit. He is superb at delivering those intimate details that make this preposterous sort of stuff believable—as long as the book is open. The suspense is cracking right from the beginning. (Random House, $17.95)

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