Picks and Pans Review: Dzerzhinsky Square

updated 10/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by James O. Jackson

This novel begins like a spy thriller but soon becomes something entirely different. It tells the life story of Grisha, a Soviet boy whose parents are brutally murdered when he is a child in the 1920s. After roaming the countryside and barely staying alive by eating anything this side of human flesh, he is sent to an orphanage and learns a trade in a factory. He falls in love with an engineering student and, just before World War II, marries her. When the war ends, he is returned by the Americans, who had released him from a German prison camp. But he has only false papers, so he must live out his life as a spy—if the U.S. ever calls on him. Unable to contact his beloved wife, Grisha is in terror of being found out. At the end he is told to report to the dreaded Lyubianka, headquarters of the KGB; he fears his secret has been discovered. There's plenty of suspense, and the issue of U.S.-U.S.S.R. disputes over espionage is timely. The strength of this modest book, however, is that it gives a fresh view of what life must be like for many Soviet citizens. Jackson is Moscow bureau chief for TIME, and his Russia seems frighteningly authentic. (St. Martin's, $15.95)

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