Two men possess vital information on Russia's Star Wars missile defense system. One of them is Cardinal -- America's highest agent in the Kremlin -- and he's about to be terminated by the KGB. The other one is the American who can save Cardinal and lead the world to the brink of peace . . . or war. Here is author Tom Clancy's heart-stopping masterpiece -- a riveting novel about one of the most intriguing issues of our time.
"Both America and the USSR are pushing for supremecy in the arms race, and the focus has turned to missle defense. Both sides are working feverishly on laser-based missile defense systems, to fry satelites and shoot down ballistic missiles before they can do damage to their targets. The US has a highly placed spy, the Cardinal, in the Kremlin, who has been passing them information for decades. Colonol Filiotov was a Hero of the Soviet Union, decorated for his valor in battle numerous times, but his patriotism had come to turn him against the party and the current power structure after the way his sons and then his wife had died needlessly. So he turned to passing information to the US. As the second-in-command of the Defense Ministry, he was perfectly placed to know all of the particuars about Bright Star, the Soviet missle-defense system. And the Soviets had made an important breakthrough. This valuable information had to get out. So Filitov proceeded to send it out by its usual means, but a small hitch in the courier chain, the inadvertant dropping of the film canaster aboard a subway, was witnessed by an off-duty KGB agent, who recognized the film for what it had to be, and followed the person who dropped it. That accident led to the whole chain falling apart. But the US didn't know how far back the chain had been followed, or if suspicion had fallen on Filitov. The slides on the film were exposed by the agent as soon as he realized he was being followed, but a few partial frames remained, showing something of the Bright Star installation. That limited where the leak could have come from, and suspicion fell to Filitov and his deputy, Bondarenko. Meanwhile, the Americans knew of the compromise, but they also knew that the information that Filitov had was invaluable, so they made another attempt at getting it out, using a brush pass with Mrs. Foley, one of the undercover CIA agents in Moscow. But Filitov was being closely watched, and the pass was broken up just before it happened, and Filitov was taken into custody. After a week of imprisonment, the Soviets broke him, and knew of his activities.
Meanwhile, Ryan was involved as the intelligence analyst on the negotiation of a new arms treaty with the Soviet Union, and the progress of the missile defense systems of both sides was a key to knowing how to negotiate. Cardinal provided essential information about what the Soviets were doing, ad Ryan also investigated the Americans' own progress. But the loss of Filitov complicated matters. Not only was it a major intelligence loss, but it also threatened to destabalize the Politburo, the Soviet ruling council. When it became known that a high-ranking member of the Defense Ministry had been compromised, and with another Politburo member in the pocket of a challenger because of his daughter's involvement as a courier for the CIA, it became clear that the whole power structore of the Politburo could be shifting away from the current leader, Narmanov, and is more open policies to Gerasimov, the head of the KGB, and a return to hardline doctrines. So Ryan and the CIA take action. Ryan puts himself out as bait, sending a message through to the Soviets that he is interested in becoming an informant if the Soviets can help get him out of some supposed FTC problems with some stock trades. They take the bait, and agree to meet with him the next time he is in Moscow for negotiations. But he puts one stipulation on the meet, that he must meet face-to-face with Gerasimov. When this happens, instead of turning informant, he confronts Gerasimov with the threat of making the caputer of the Red October public, as well as other things that would destabalize his power. Ryan tells Gerasmov that instead of making a power play for the Politburo, he and his family, along with the captured Filitov, must defect to America.
Gerasmov makes one last play, sending KGB agents to kidnap Major Gregory, a young genius working on the American missle-defense system. And they are successful in snatching him, but a simple traffic violation leads eventually to their failiure, as the Hostage Rescue Team is called in to recover this most valuable hostage. Had it worked, the great intelligence gained from Gregory might have been enough for Gerasmov to overcome the liabilities of the information the Americans could reveal, but with the failure of his play, Gerasmov decides to give in. He and his wife and daughter agree to the defection. His wife and daughter take off for his wife's home in Estonia, where she is met by John Clark, who has boated in off a US submarine holding just off the coast. Gerasmov himself goes to the prison and takes custody of Filitov, and they drive to the airport, where the US diplomatic delegation is getting ready to depart for home after negotiations. Gerasimov ties up his own driver, releases Filitov, and meets the US plane at the end of the runway. But Golovko, a KGB agent, and some others, have started to figure out that something is going on, and are racing to figure out what it is. They end up getting to the plane just as Gerasmov and Filitov are getting aboard. The Russians get out alright, but Ryan is left standing on the runway. After a few tense minutes, he is brought outside of the city to Prime Minister Narmonov's residence, where he fills the PM in on what has just transpired, or at least some of it. He is then returned to the American Embassy.
This is yet another great book in the Jack Ryan series. Worth reading. Even though some of the geopolitical elements are dated, the action and the characters give it life. And in this one, espionage takes center stage."
James (5 out of 5 stars)