Picks and Pans Review: The Amateur

updated 06/08/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/08/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Robert Littell

A cipher clerk who works for the CIA becomes enraged when terrorists in West Germany kill his fiancée, and he blackmails his bosses into sending him to Czechoslovakia to get revenge. Littell, a former magazine editor and author of five previous novels, is a good writer, and he provides rewards for those who like imaginative spy fiction, rich in exotic detail and full of entertaining rascals. The cast of characters seems to come out of those wonderful 1940s movies starring Sydney Green-street and Peter Lorre. Littell also has some literary fun by having his hero prove the long-held theory that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays. That solution is no more convincing than Littell's having an amateur confront three of the world's top terrorists. But farfetched as the plot is, there is a high gloss to this escapism, and a literate quality redeems the book. (Simon and Schuster, $12.95)

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