Mortal Games

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Andre Kohl is leaving his work in Paris as a newsman to marry the daughter of the director of the CIA when an attempt on his life sends him into hiding. A second attempt, in which he and his new bride are seriously wounded, convinces him to feign his death so that he can go underground to discover who is out to kill him, and why. His father-in-law creates a new identity for him, and, as Peter Burke, he investigates the murder of Andre Kohl. He finds himself once more amid the labyrinths of international intelligence networks, an area to which he had recently gained entry when as Kohl he investigated charges that the president-elect of France had been a Nazi collaborator. As Kohl comes closer to discovering those who want him dead, more people around him meet violent deaths. The masterminds of the plot against Kohl are finally unmasked through the cooperation of the CIA director and his counterpart in the KGB.

The authors of MORTAL GAMES combine realistic detail and political fantasy to provide the reader a chilling portrait of what might really happen within complex contemporary government bureaucracies. Though occasionally marred by stilted dialogue and strained metaphor, the novel nevertheless is carefully plotted, and the metamorphosis of Kohl from newsman to detective focuses as much on the inner transformation as on the outward activities in which he is engaged.

Kohl’s anguish over having to deceive his wife about his death, and his considered, tender attempts to woo her in his new identity, add a touch of romanticism that improves the texture of the work; through these scenes, Salinger and Gross manage to give their fantasy-world character a truly human dimension.