Title: The Children’s Game
Author: David Wise
Wise, David (1983). The Children’s Game. New York: St. Martin’s/Marek
Date Updated: March 25, 2015
Far less original than Wise’s thriller-debut Spectrum (1981), this serviceably entertaining spy suspense features ex-CIA superstar William Danner—who, in the déjà vu-ish opening chapters, is forced to return to action: there’s a mole in the CIA somewhere, and only Smiley, that is, Danner has the smarts and objectivity to track him down.
All around the world, you see, CIA agents and schemes have been revealed or sabotaged; furthermore, it seems that the “old boys” —a group of angry, fired, ex-CIA agents—is involved with these bloody foul ups. So Danner starts sleuthing—and keeps sleuthing even when the KGB kidnaps his beloved eleven-year-old daughter Carrie in an effort to get Danner off the trail.
Is the primary motive behind all the dirty work an “old boy” scheme to undermine the current CIA director? So it seems, as Danner tracks down the old-boy ringleader in Zurich—with assorted hi-tech investigatory techniques. But when Danner identifies the source of the old boys’ inside info (more hi-tech, decoding a disguised-voice on tape), he learns what the reader has already been clued into: the old boys have merely been pawns in a plot by the CIA chief himself, who has been secretly trading secrets—for mutual political benefit—with the head of the KGB! So, in the novel’s last section, Danner must (if Carrie is to survive) somehow foil the CIA chief’s latest, greatest machination with the KGB: the planned Moscow assassination of the unstable USSR president, whose would-be assailant (disguised as a circus clown) just happens to be Danner’s new true-love/bedmate, CIA agent Julie!
Ending up with some escape-from-Russia border action: a busy, piecemeal, farfetched plot—lifted a notch or two by Wise’s pleasantly conventional filler (sex, sentiment) and his lively sprinklings of convincing CIA lore/atmosphere.