A nervous courier delivers the handwritten manuscript of a dissident Russian novel to Paul Christopher early one morning in West Berlin. Minutes after the handoff, the courier’s spine is neatly snapped by an impact with a passing black sedan. Meanwhile in Rome, Christopher's wife Cathy takes a famous film director as a lover to stir her husband out of the stoicism that defines his personality.
These two seemingly discrete events set in motion a spiral of operational and personal intrigue that leads Christopher from meetings with an aging agent in the cafes of old Europe to a rendezvous with an operative on the front lines of the Cold War in the Congo as he secretly arranges the publication of a novel that could bring the Soviet system to its knees and races to identify the leak that compromised the messenger—and possibly his entire mission.
The Secret Lovers is McCarry at his best—an exploration of the epic scope of "the great game," but also a riveting psychological portrait of a man ensnared by a profession that never failed to exert its insidious influence outside the professional boundaries that, like the facade of diplomacy that outwardly held the Cold War in check, could never contain its violence essence.