Sunday, September 23, 2018

A leopard to end all moles

This is a novel by Colin Forbes (Raymond Harold Sawkins), a British author of spy thrillers. I read “The Stone Leopard” as a teenager in a Swedish translation. It was relatively good, surprisingly so, since the plot is extremely unrealistic! I almost believed it anyway, suggesting that Forbes is a good writer – or his translator is. It seems the novel has been quietly forgotten, which seems to happen to most of the few novels I pick up…

The plot revolves around an attempt by the Soviet Union to take over France in the middle of the Cold War. A large Soviet fleet is slowly but steadfastly moving towards the French Mediterranean coast, as the French president is supposed to visit Moscow for peace talks. Unknown to almost everyone, the Soviets have infiltrated the French administration at top level. Their mole is a kind of “agent to end all agents”, codenamed the Stone Leopard.

In the alternative history universe of the novel, the Communists created a soviet republic in southern France at the end of World War II. When their Red republic was crushed by the Western Allies, the Leopard – who was one of its top commanders – swore revenge. For decades, this agent has been working deep undercover, until at last he has become sufficiently high placed to get full access to the presidential palace and all its secrets. Only a handful of old men recognize the Leopard (who was notoriously secretive already during the war). One heroic police officer in Paris suspects foul play and plans to interview the war veterans. However, time is running short since a Communist death squad wants to find them first…

I won't disclose the dramatic revelations at the end of the novel, except to say that they crave “suspension of disbelief” more than once. In fact, the story would probably work better as a comic album featuring some stray superhero fighting a dark cosmo-conspiracy. However, if realism isn't what you want from a spy novel, this might actually be interesting!
Four stars.

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