One of the best of the Cold War thrillers. Never a dull moment in its 630 pages that combines life in the Soviet Union with a plot to undermine America with deep cover agents. Along with the thriller elements the book also portrays life under the KGB with their control of the population and the government.
The story focus on two people at the American embassy, Col.Sam Hollis, a spy and Lisa Rhodes who writes press releases just the way she’s told to by her American employers. She’s in the embassy mainly because she speaks Russian. There’s a triangle of sorts between Lisa, Sam and the CIA station Chief Seth Alevy. It never bogs things down in the absorbing storyline.
An American tourist gets lost and comes across a man named Dodson in the woods. He tells him about the sarcastically named Mrs.Ivanova’s Charm School. He makes a panic call to the American embassy but Sam gets to his hotel too late. The tourist has been killed in an “accident.”
The Charm School is the home of American pilots who were POW’s in North Vietnam. They were brought there to teach Red Air Force pilots how to think and act like Americans. The students would then be sent to America to take up typical lives until called upon by the KGB.
Along with the thriller elements there is a lot about life in the Soviet Union and an excellent sequence where Sam and Lisa hide out in a rural village. There are many scenes of Soviet life and the total authority of the KGB. The book is very absorbing as Sam and Lisa move towards the Charm School. There is a great villain in the character of a KGB Colonel.
The book works on all levels and to go into greater detail may spoil the experience leading to the slam bang finish which has a number of surprises. This is a great read.