Title: The Charm School
Author: Nelson DeMille
DeMille, Nelson (1988). The Charm School. New York, NY: Warner Books
PS3554.E472 C48 19
Date Posted: January 3, 2017
Starred for excellence in set decoration, a thriller whose Moscow backgrounds make up for a pivotal gimmick not far off from The Step ford Wives. Gregory Fisher, a 24-year-old MBA graduate, is driving through Russia in a glorious Pontiac Trans Am roaring with Janis Joplin and Bruce Springsteen when–just outside Borodino–he is accosted by an American fighter pilot (taken in Vietnam) who has escaped after ten years’ internment in a nearby secret Russian POW camp called The Charm School. The pilot tells Fisher he must warn the defense attaché in the American embassy in Moscow that nearly a thousand POWs are in the camp. But when Col. Sam Hollis, a damaged ex-fighter pilot and the Air Force attaché sets out to bring Fisher into the embassy, he finds that Fisher has been kidnapped and murdered by the KGB. Hollis and Lisa Rhodes, a cultural liaison, spiral ever deeper into a KGB plot centered around hiding the Charm School not only from the West but also from peacenik politicians rosy with glasnost and detente. Hollis is slightly at odds also with Seth Alevy, the CIA chief at the embassy, who is Lisa’s ex-lover. Both Hollis and Alevy believe the summit and arms talks should be dead and buried. Eventually, Alevy penetrates the Charm School after the KGB kidnaps Hollis and Lisa, and tries to turn them into spy-instructors. . .for what the Charm School does is turn out perfect Russian spies who have been groomed by American POWs: in the past 20 years, over 3,000 flawlessly well-spoken spies have been infiltrated into the States, become sleeper agents, agents in place, agents of influence, whether as computer operators or trash collectors at the CIA, not as conventional spies but something even more insidious: a Fifth Column encased in hyper-real Americanism. DeMille’s strong new maturity as a suspense novelist engaged with deep-running themes, first seen in 1985’s Word of Honor, has been set aside for highly engaging super-suspense padded with zipteen entertaining yards of Nick & Nora Charles sex banter and the intracultural ironies of spycraft.