May 18, 2008
Scribe have wisely decided to reinvigorate cold war spy novel The Miernik Dossier , which centres around paranoia, suspicion and misconceptions. A mixed band of secret agents (American, British, African and suspected Soviet) travel from Switzerland, through Eastern Europe to the Sudan. American spy Paul Christopher attempts to decipher the motives of the Pole, Tadeusz Miernik, an ugly, shy and pitiable man. All of the characters are faced with violence, past and present. Ilona Bentley, for example, had been in Bergen-Belsen as a child. Now, her emotional scarring manifests itself through the creation of sexual power structures.
Tadeusz begs Christopher to aid the rescue of his sister, Zofia, from Czechoslovakia, and the men and women all end up traveling together. The mix of cultures and locations make for as much intrigue as the slow reveal of suspicions, often unconfirmed, which leave the reader pondering beyond the closing pages. Intensity comes from the reader’s realisation of the way that suspicious parties will find evidence to confirm their suppositions.
Characters converse on the effects of violence and politics, and are poignantly played against one another through their double-standards and dealings. The novel has a subtle, building, anxious intrigue throughout. It is presented as a series of case notes, recordings, and diary entries, which skillfully never detract from the depth of characters or story. It is not only enjoyable but intellectually satisfying, and surprisingly un-dated. The female characters do lack a small amount of dimensionality but make up for it in intrigue. The reader, in many ways, can ponder the blanks.
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