Picks and Pans Review: The Deceiver

updated 09/23/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/23/1991 01:00AM

by Frederick Forsyth

Sam McCready is Britain's best spy. He is tough and brave and knows what moves to make when dark streets are rife with danger. He has little patience with rules, even less with figures of authority.

His enemies fear him. The upper layers of the Secret Service resent him. So it's no surprise to McCready when he is summoned by his superiors and told that now seems a perfect time to consider the pleasures of early retirement.

But McCready is a man acknowledged as a master in a profession built on lies. He is not the type to retire peaceably, nor does he seem willing to go without bringing down a foe or two in the process. In Forsyth's skillful hands, McCready's life is laid out, embraced by a ring of falsehood. In from the cold or out in the sun, there has never been a spy quite like Sam McCready.

Forsyth is, like McCready, a master deceiver. His thrillers—including The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File—are among the best the field has to offer. The Deceiver, while not in the class of his earlier works, certainly deserves an honorable mention.

Forsyth plots, as usual, in a waste-free manner. Yet in a genre where most characters are, at best, one-dimensional sketches, Forsyth lays out his spies as failed human beings, simply looking to make it past the night.

His writing abilities are good enough to make Tom Clancy take cover. And the alphabet-ruled world of spies is clearly drawn, with all the tension and distrust clearly mapped out.

It is a world of KGB agents looking to escape to the West and betray their oath, Provisional IRA members willing to do anything for arms, sinister agents in German Intelligence staying steps ahead of their more relaxed British counterparts, Caribbean island rulers playing dangerous games with other dictators and drug lords.

All of it as seen through the eyes of McCready, a man shaped by 30 years of devotion to his cause, a man no one can really trust. A man who is—Mr. le Carré should pardon the expression—a perfect spy. (Bantam, $21.50)

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