News & Politics

Spy Dance

“A guilty pleasure, best read on a plane.”

 Chevy Chase author Topol tells the story of ex-CIA agent Greg Nielsen, who, to avoid trial for a crime he didn’t commit, poses as a Russian émigré in Israel named David Ben Aaron. After having plastic surgery and burrowing deep into his adopted country, he thinks he’s safe—until, years later, he receives a phone call from someone identifying him as Nielsen.

 From there, the story takes off at warp speed. In true spy-novel fashion, everything and everyone David cares about is put at risk. He plummets, of course, in a downward spiral into the proverbial web of deceit, wherein he meets and either kills or saves many people. One of the latter is a sexy Mossad agent named Sagit. The two complain that the isolating nature of espionage makes personal relationships impossible. They long for “normal lives” and blame their failed romances on the thrill of the spy life. Says Sagit, “Sadly, it’s the old spy dance. You go round and round in circles, sometimes you change partners, but the music never stops.”

 Besides a few Washington references—a murder on Rock Creek Parkway, dinner at the Cosmos Club—most of the novel alternates between the Middle East and France. Although extensive descriptions of each locale show that Topol has done his homework, some scenes could have taken place anywhere, with specific locations marginally relevant.

 As predictable as it is, Spy Dance has the potential for mass appeal because of its readable pairing of romance with action and politics. It’s a guilty pleasure, best read on a plane—you can finish it in about two cross-country flights. Then wait for the multimillion-dollar movie the author clearly hopes will follow.

Allan Topol

Onyx Books