Children of Tender Years, by Ted Allbeury. New York: Beaufort Books. 232 pp. $14.95. It's the main character who makes this spy novel worth reading. British Secret Service agent Jake Malik, born in Poland of Jewish parents, spent his childhood in Auschwitz, where his mother died. Jake is burdened by his painful past, his feelings of being an outsider in his adopted country, and his hatred and fear of Germans.
When he is sent to West Germany on an assignment, he finds himself teamed with a young German policeman and falls in love with the policeman's sister. Jake's relationship with these new friends is compromised by his professional duties in his investigation of a blackmail plot against the Soviet Union.
Although the suspense is slow to develop, the compassionate handling of Jake's problems and the bleak picture of a spy's life make fascinating reading. Mallory's Gambit, by L. Christian Balling. Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press. 287 pp. $15.95.
This spy novel is a real page-turner. In 1944 Max Ryder and Richard Mallory, two Americans working for the British Special Operations Executive, parachute into Nazi-occupied France to kill a German nuclear physicist with the help of Marie, a member of the French Resistance. Marie and Mallory fall in love, the mission is betrayed, and Mallory makes a hair-raising escape with the unwitting help of a German officer.
Twenty-six years later, older and embittered by their past experiences, these same characters reassemble for a cold war operation: helping an East German intelligence officer, who knows the identity of a KGB mole in the CIA, to defect.
The World War II episode is appropriately fast-moving and exciting; the cold war episode, which moves more slowly, provides a chilling look at both the machinations of the intelligence agents and the scene of the action, East Berlin.