Author: Roger Neetz
Publisher: American Book Publishing
ISBN-10: 1589825926
ISBN-13: 978-1589825925 

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Roger Neetz’s third novel is a mixed-bag. On one hand, he draws from his personal experience with the CIA and other governmental agencies to give his yarn believability. On the other, his story-telling shows the tell-tale signs of a writer for whom writing is not his first love.

Embassy Intrigue revolves around academic scientist Eric Kempner who is drawn into diplomatic service in Moscow during the Nixon administration. Devoted to science and the open exchange of ideas between the superpowers, Kempner discovers the secret that the Russians are using microwave transmissions to eavesdrop on the American embassy which results in a high cancer rate among the embassy staff.  None of his superiors want to hear about it. Instead, Eric becomes a pawn in the conflicting agendas of American policy makers, the Russian KGB, not to mention Israel’s Mossad. The microwave matter is swept under a rug while issues of Israel gaining nuclear arms, Russian Jews being able to emigrate and where the cream of these exiles get to go are bigger parts of the tug of war in which few participants know the full score.

One of the strengths of the book is that Neetz is able to capture the speech cadences of all these diplomats, spies, and scientists who all sound appropriately intelligent, cagey, and seasoned. Because of the talkiness of the story, however, Neetz seemed to need to insert scenes that made things a bit more active. For example, there’s one episode that’s the very definition of gratuitous sex, a scene that seemed to be added to complete a spy novel check-list. Fortunately, as Neetz has a long cast of characters, the pace keeps up as he jumps from one character, couple, or group to another, allowing for an increasing number of perspectives and layers to the puzzle. Not all the characters are fully formed, but their ranks, roles, and motivations come through clearly enough as the vista of competing agendas widens.

For me, the major downfall of the book is the ending. While providing spoilers is not the task of a reviewer, it is believable that Eric Kempner should find himself on the run in the mold of many an innocent man before him in fiction and film—but not the circumstances of the last pages. When a character for whom the reader has invested so much emotional interest is dispatched so off-handedly, one wonders why the cut-off had to be so abrupt.

In many ways, beyond the historical setting, Embassy Intrigue is another offering in the genre of innocent Everymen drawn into the murky world of espionage from The 39 Steps to Three Days of the Condor to half the spy comedies ever made. The concept of the repercussions of the microwave transmissions is a fresh twist and, again, the dialogue does his characters justice. Embassy Intrigue is also another member of the burgeoning sub-genre of former CIA officers drawing from their pasts to spin novels built on the author’s bona fides.  In this case, Embassy Intrigue is a quick read, just nothing to compete with past masters.


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