Picks and Pans Review: Solo Run

updated 08/01/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/01/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Hans Herlin

When, at the beginning of this novel, a West German intelligence bureau courier is shot at the Czech border, the Germans decide they want to call in an old agent from the post-World War II days. They send him to Prague to obtain the minutes from a secret conference being held by Soviet satellite intelligence services. Just as in John le Carré's Smiley tales, there is a decades-long duel going on between two intelligence chiefs; in this case it's a West German and his East German counterpart. There is a woman, of course, and in this case she's the reason the aging agent is selected for this particularly dangerous assignment—they were once in love. This is a beautifully constructed spy novel, and the writing, translated from the German by J. Maxwell Brownjohn, is exceptionally effective. (Herlin, who now lives in France, is a former German journalist.) Many of the offhand details—and details are always all-important in this sort of story—have their own truths. The author says of a woman whose marriage is failing, for instance: "She came upstairs polishing her wedding ring on the sleeve of her woolen dress. It was a habit she no longer noticed." The suspense grows steadily, too. For fans of this genre, Solo Run deserves an unqualified recommendation. (Doubleday, $15.95)

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