§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The Miernik Dossier by Charles McCarry

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Miernik Dossier by Charles McCarry

When I recently read Charles McCarry’s The Old Boys, about over-the-hill-spies conducting an operation, I remembered McCarry’s spy thrillers from the 70ies and 80ies, and I remembered the four of them I bought to reread in my old age. I’m not even sure I read all of them before. I didn't remember this one.

It's organized as a “dossier” which includes all the statements of the principals and the reports of the various intelligence agencies on a project where agents from various intelligence services accompany a mutual friend, the son of an Amir in the Darfur region of Sudan (they were having trouble with bandits then too), from Geneva to deliver the gift of a Cadillac to the Amir. The group usually meets for lunch in Geneva where all are based and evidently know but don’t talk about their occupations. There’s Paul Christopher, an American agent; Nigel Collins, a British agent; Ilona Bentley, a British citizen and Bergen Belsen survivor who is actually a Russian agent, and, along with Kalash, the Sudanese Amir’s son, there is Miernik, a Pole who works for the United Nations. He’s interested in Sudan, has studied its history and is writing a book about it. He speaks Arabic. No one knows for sure, though, whether he too is an agent.

The four men set out in the Cadillac. Bentley, who is Collins’ lover but has also had a fling with Miernik, flies and joins them in Italy. The Americans are conducting an operation where they hope to install the Amir’s son, Kalash, an Oxford grad and thoroughly Europeanized African, as the head of a rebel group called ALF to prevent it from being used by the Russians. Each of the travelers knows of the operation and writes a diary or reports to superiors, but they don’t talk to each other about their intelligence roles. And they don’t share information relative to intelligence matters or to the ALF operation. A further complication is that Miernick talks the American into going into Czechoslovakia (where of course Americans were not welcome during the cold war) to bring out his sister, in an operation planned by an old friend who’s a known KGB agent.

All go back and forth (privately) on Miernik. Is he a Polish (or Russian) agent or just the bumbling academic he seems to be? Is his sister really his sister?—he is big, dark, hairy and homely; she is blond, small and beautiful. He says she's a student at Warsaw University but research shows no such person enrolled. The sister joins the group which is now 4 men and 2 women and they drive the Cadillac down the Nile and into Sudan where the desert gets more dangerous and the roads eventually stop.

The conclusion presents a moral dilemma for the American, Paul Christopher, who is the main character, when he thinks he made the wrong decision and tries to convince his superiors.

A very clever book.


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