Grove/Atlantic, Jan 2003, 24.00, 416 pp.
In 1956, Nikita Khrushchev visits England. Because he can speak Russian, having moved from there as a child, Scotland Yard Chief Inspector Frederick Troy is assigned as Khrushchev's escort, his (and the English) interpreter, and English spy. Most cops would loath the assignment, but Frederick even more so because of his espionage assignments during WW II and his gut belief that his father was a spy and traitor.
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As Khrushchev gets ready to depart (to Troy's relief), in Portsmouth Harbour the mutilated body of a navy diver Lieutenant (R) Arnold Cockerell is found though his wife says the corpse is not him, but provides no explanation as to where he is. Evidence leads to the conclusion that Cockerell, a furniture salesman, apparently was a spy, but no one confesses that he was employed by them, leaving the police to wonder for whom did he work? Troy is involved in that case and wrapping up his spying on Khrushchev, but also has personal problems to contend with, as his family detests the past resurfacing and his former deadly KGB old flame making a return into his life.
OLD FLAMES is a powerful espionage tale that plays out on two levels. First, the story line is an atmospheric Cold War spy novel set at a time when England and the West are shocked by the Philby-Burgess scandals and Khrushchev is screaming nuclear burial. The ploy also provides a subtle humor to all the spy and counterspy activity. Troy keeps the tale together as the audience receives a terrific espionage thriller cleverly inter-wrapped with a probing police procedural like a Moebius Band.
The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner