Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Parsifal Mosaic - Robert Ludlum

Oh! This book is a bundle of surprises. 
The story is so well spun, that it surprises you at each and every page. 

One man by name Michael Havelock is an intelligence officer at the state department of US. He witnesses his partner and love interest Jenna Karas being executed at Costa Brava because she is believed to be a KGB double agent. He meets a man by name Pyotr Rostav who confirms that Jenna was not a KGB agent. Michael later sees Jenna alive in a train station in Rome. She flees upon seeing him and Michael pursues her. 

He meets Colonel Baylor a former source at the US consulate and begins a search for Jenna throughout Europe. In the mean time, Michael is proved to be schizophrenic and terminated. 

One Anton Matthias, Secretary of State acknowledged by the entire world as a genius and trusted with powers far beyond those his office allow him, has gone completely insane. Before anybody realized that he was insane, he negotiated treaties with parties he believed to be representing the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People's Republic of China, each agreeing to a nuclear strike against the third party, but in fact with a man who identified himself as Parsifal. Parsifal demands a huge ransom to keep the documents from being released, thereby triggering a nuclear war. Once the ransom is paid, however, he does not touch it, having confirmed how desperate Washington is. Havelock, who as a child had been one of the few survivors of the massacre at Lidice, has a special bond with Matthias, a fellow Czech who had advised him in graduate school. Somehow Matthias's insanity is linked to the order to terminate Jenna Karas.

For her part, Karas has been told that Michael is a Russian spy and that he is trying to kill her. Consequently, she is not especially eager to meet him.

When Michael finally traces Jenna to an isolated farm in Pennsylvania, they realize that they were both deceived and that each had been told that the other was an enemy. They then work together with the President of the United States, Charles Berquist, and several trusted advisory to find Parsifal and stop him.

They are opposed by Arthur Pierce, a brilliant and murderous Soviet mole highly placed in the State Department. Pierce has ordered the murders of the strategists of Consular Operations ( two of them are crushed by a bulldozer in their car and driven off a cliff and another is shot), and then a string of successive killings - all in his own quest to gain evidence of Matthias's insanity. Pierce is working not for the regular KGB, but the VKR (Voennaya Kontra Razvedka), a fanatical branch of Russian intelligence identified as an offshoot of the OGPU. He is also, for that matter, a paminyatchik - an agent under deep cover, who has lived in the United States since infancy. For much of the novel, Pierce's true loyalties lie undiscovered. One of Havelock's allies, Undersecretary of State Emory Bradford, realizes that Pierce works for the VKR, but he is murdered by the ever-alert Pierce before he can warn anyone else. Pierce also solicits the murder of Rostov, who loathes the VKR and has tried to help Havelock.

When Michael finally finds Parsifal, a friend of Anton and a Paminyatchik who is less fanatical than Arthur Pierce, he finds out that the documents were not produced to provoke nuclear war, but rather to demonstrate that no one man could be trusted with vast amounts of power. Pierce, however, has had his operatives murder Michael's bodyguards and breaks into Parsifal's house just as he agree's to burn the documents. However hearing that Rostov has been murdered, Parsifal decides to sacrifice himself by using his body to block Pierce's gun allowing Michael and Jenna time to get out. Michael and Jenna then kill Pierce's operatives by stabbing them and Michael then flanks Pierce and guns him down. They conclude that the documentary evidence of Matthias's insanity is best destroyed. Havelock tells Berquist of this; he is informed, in turn, that Matthias has just died. Finally safe, he and Jenna move to New England, where Havelock accepts an academic position.

Great read as it gives insights on the Cold War. Robert Ludlum as always amaze me with his elegant style and theme. 

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