See Charlie Run

After a cleverly ambiguous prologue that sets the reader puzzling over who is the hunter and who is the hare, SEE CHARLIE RUN moves to London, where Charlie Muffin’s daily routine as a desk-bound spy provides him with constant irritations. His feet bother him, his office mate sabotages his relations with the boss, and the assistant director of his service blocks his access to departmental funds until past expenditures are accounted for. Called away from the paperwork on a British defector--itself an unhappy job in his eyes--Charlie finds that his director wants him to explore a CIA request for assistance in bringing a top KGB assassin’s wife across as part of a double defection in which the man would go with the Americans.

Convinced from the outset that the assassin’s complicated arrangements are something other than the precautions he claims, Charlie goes to Tokyo with directions to get both the man and his wife for the British--if he can. The Americans, he assumes, have the same duplicitous intentions; furthermore, they are out for revenge, since Charlie’s past actions, which cost them a senior official, make him a traitor in their eyes. The CIA agents’ arrogant incompetence is no match for Charlie’s quick-witted professionalism, however, even if they start with an advantage over him. In the end, only the Soviet agent is Charlie’s match, but once Charlie figures out his opponent’s game, the chips fall his way.

Freemantle’s spy has the calculated intelligence of Dick Francis’ jockeys and other heroes, but with less humor. Like his author, Charlie pays loving attention to details; Freemantle writes dense, convincing conversations, but they bring the reader into an alien world sometimes without the benefit of a full briefing. Still, SEE CHARLIE RUN raises positive expectations for the next Charlie Muffin novel Freemantle is said to be writing.