The Memory Church

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Tim Sebastian, a journalist for the BBC expelled from the Soviet Union in 1985 after being accused of spying, has written three previous novels, THE SPY IN QUESTION (1988), SPY SHADOW (1990), and SAVIOR’S GATE (1991), dealing with issues and situations foreshadowing the collapse of the Soviet Union. THE MEMORY CHURCH looks at the consequences of the demise of East Germany for German, British, Soviet, and American intelligence operatives.

After killing a young woman while driving drunk, James Martin is given a chance to redeem himself by Francis Keen and Harry Fenton, his supervisors in British Intelligence. Posing as a defector, he spends four years in East Berlin, seemingly working for the Stasi, the East German secret police. When the Wall comes down, Martin returns to London with news of an ostensible British spy working for the Soviets and is greeted quickly by two assassination attempts. Who is trying to kill him? The East Germans, the mole, his own side, or a complicated combination of these forces?

Sebastian sets up three main candidates for the mole: Keen, the cousin of Martin’s mother and the one who recruits him into the service; Fenton, whom Martin has never liked and who has married Martin’s girlfriend, Cassie McNeil of the CIA; and Clarky, Martin’s old school chum and the first person he goes to in a crisis. Martin’s unraveling of this complex web is presented in an elliptical style in which nothing is superfluous. The human side of espionage is emphasized as Martin feels authentic pain over betrayal and death. Only the stilted dialogue of the romantic scenes flaws this fast-paced thriller.