Lie Down with Lions

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Ellis Thaler apprehends a group of terrorists in Paris, his girlfriend Jane, a young radical, learns he is a CIA “spook.” Jane rejects him to marry an idealistic French doctor bound for Afghanistan. Once there, however, Jane discovers to her horror that her husband is also a spy--this time for the other side. He has been keeping the Russians abreast of rebel troop movements, then healing the survivors only to inform on them again.

Jane, pacifist and humanist, desperately tries to aid the rebels without betraying her husband to them, and for awhile she succeeds. When Ellis arrives in the Valley of Five Lions determined to get Afghan signatures on a pact uniting the rebel resistance, their love is rekindled. When Jane’s husband betrays Ellis’ presence to the Russians, Ellis, Jane, and her newborn baby must begin a trek across one of the wildest mountain ranges in the world, along the ancient and deadly Butter Trail.

One of Follett’s greatest strengths is his ability to discuss complex political situations involving espionage in terms that most people can understand. He handles an intricate plot with consummate skill, breathing life into even the minor characters. Afghanistan people are portrayed with hard-edged realism; you can almost hear the bombs drop when the Russians swoop overhead. A former journalist, Follet balances a matter-of-fact style with his considerable descriptive powers in portraying a proud and ancient people at war with a terrible foe.