Picks and Pans Review: The Villa Golitsyn

updated 03/08/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/08/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Piers Paul Read

The gloomy villa of the title is in the heart of Nice. It is home to a wealthy former British foreign service officer with a tainted history: He is suspected of an especially vicious act of treason in Indonesia in 1965. A friend who knew him at school many years earlier is sent by Foreign Office Security to try to verify the charges in order to clear yet another suspect, who is due for a top job. Piers Paul Read, who wrote the non-fiction best-seller Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, is a superb reporter, and that can be an asset in fiction as well as in journalism. In a few words he can make a character or a place vivid. Readers will be caught up in the tale after a mere 30 pages although, in fact, this is just another adventure and kinky-sex yarn. But the novel has a serious theme: the belief of the hero that "a man's first duty is not to the country, or even to his friends. It's to himself." The conclusion, which in books of this sort is too often perfunctory, is satisfaction itself. (Harper & Row, $13.95)

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