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Review: Deep Lie, by Stuart Woods 1986

This is a book report for all the people who have read Woods’ Stone Barrington novels and have him pegged as a guy who churns out entertaining fluff, which is what he does. Like Robert B. Parker, he has developed a formula in his later years and sticks with it. Nothing wrong with that. It’s darned good fluff, from both of them.
But back in the day, Woods took the time to do some research and write at least one complex, well-crafted novel. This is it. It stars Katherine Rule, a middle level bureaucrat in the CIA who stumbles upon a plot by a Russian army officer megalomaniac to invade Sweden. At first it’s only just a whiff of something odd, nothing her superiors want to hear about.
She keeps digging, until her bosses make it clear that she will not dig any further without incurring their wrath and quite possibly jeopardizing her career. Of course she keeps unearthing little scraps of information and manages to find a friend or two sympathetic to her cause. One of them is Will Lee, a mid-level government guy with whom she is having an affair. Him we can trust. Others may or may not be actually on her side and may be working both sides of the fence. One never knows.
Meanwhile the Russian officer, who may well be certifiably nuts, has this huge, incredibly complex invasion plan ready to go in a matter of days. There are spies inside Sweden. There are secret soldiers inside Sweden. There are huge planes that can fly just a few feet above the sea and deliver massive numbers of troops with special weapons. There is even a mysterious buoy that has been delivered by a mini-sub to a spot just offshore. It can be activated electronically and will rise to the surface and perform a special function that remains mysterious.
Basically, it’s Katherine rule versus the mad Russian. But Woods is careful to include a full cast of characters, including Katherine’s ex-husband. He’s in the CIA, but acts more like one of the bad guys. So do most of her bosses. There’s just enough ambiguity with many members of the cast that it makes sense to pay attention. Good writing. Good book.

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