Secret Lovers (1977) by Charles McCarry – In the early 1960’s Paul Christopher is in
to receive a package from Horst Bulow, a long time low level agent working for American intelligence. The transfer is successfully made. Moments later a car roars past Christopher and strikes Bulow killing him. Berlin
Christopher learns that the package contains the hand written manuscript of an epic Russian novel on life in the
Soviet Union. It is effectively an expose of Communism. I was reminded of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s masterpiece, The Gulag Archipelago. The writer, Kiril Kamensky, has recently been released from prison camp. He has been working on the book for decades. The manuscript has been smuggled to the West through a series of couriers.
Christopher is puzzled by the killing. If it was the KGB that has killed Bulow why would they wait until after the transfer and why have the earlier couriers not been immediately captured and interrogated.
Christopher, after returning to
, consults the aging Otto Rothchild and his much younger wife, Maria, about the manuscript and the circumstances of Kamensky. The aging and ailing Rothchild was raised in Paris before the Revolution of 1917 and has a comprehensive knowledge of the people and events who have shaped European history in the almost 50 years after the Communists seized power. Russia
Should the manuscript be published now or when Kamensky has died or left the U.S.S.R.? What will be the consequences for Kamensky if published now? What is gained and lost by publication?
Christopher, always in tight control of his emotions, also spends time in
with his stunning wife, Cathy. She is the bored and spoiled child of wealthy Americans. She is unfaithful to Christopher and makes sure he knows it. The story is uncommon in a thriller or mystery in the lead character accepting an unfaithful partner. Rome
McCarry has a powerful description of secrets and the effect upon their relationship:
“I wish I had another life, the way you do, Paul,” she said. “Maybe I could stay inside it, as cold as you, and learn the secret you told me when I told you about Franco.
“Of how to love, and feel nothing.”
Christopher sets out to determine who was responsible for Bulow’s death. It is a difficult search. He moves around
Europe seeking out information. Christopher must dig deeply into the major conflicts that have defined Europe during the 20th Century. The answer is deep in the shadows of the world of espionage during the height of the Cold War.
It was an interesting book but the story did not catch me. I do want to read another to see if I feel differently. It has somewhat of a Le Carre feel to the story. McCarry is uncompromising in his portrayal of international intrigue. (Apr. 26/12)