2.5.13

THE CHARLIE MUFFIN SERIES, by Brian Freemantle

CHARLIE M, HERE COMES CHARLIE M, THE INSCRUTABLE CHARLIE M, BLIND RUN, SEE CHARLIE RUN, and many others
Freemantle has created in the wackily-named Charlie Muffin a character of such depth and cunning, a man both honest to a fault and a devious, conniving, cold-blooded manipulator, that I’ve checked all dozen plus books in the series out of the library and am reading until three AM.  Charlie M, first of the lot, was published in 1977; but don’t let that put you off, the pacing and plot - except for the electronics - are timeless. A Russian spymaster working a web in England is uncovered by Charlie, shambling odd-boy-out at British Intelligence (hard to use that word after you read this tale). But, Charlie knows, the game’s not over…what’ll come next? A Russian general makes serious defection noises. Charlie’s boss - despicable, credulous and complacent - and his nastily bizarre American counterpart, arrange for the general to defect. Charlie, able to manipulate all but the final glory of the defection which is stage-managed by the two directors, must see the entire process to its end game. And what a surprise you’ll get at the end! It’s a 5. And so are all the others in this decades-long series, if only for their subtle plotting and the last five pages of surprises. Freemantle does a fine job of setting up the next in the series as well. All of them 5's.