Love and Treason, by David Osborn. New York: New American Library. 272 pp. $13 .95. The China Option, by Nancy Milton. New York: Pantheon Books. 300 pp. $13.95. Touch the Devil, by Jack Higgins. New York: Stein and Day. 256 pp.$14.95. Ringer, by David R. Slavitt. New York: E. P. Dutton Inc. 256 pp. $13.95. The Shattered Eye, by Bill Granger. New York: Crown Publishers. 288 pp. $12.95 .
There's an intriguing mixture of people, places, and events in this selection of recent espionage novels, with the result being some very readable material. George Seymour's Archangel isn't as much a classic espionage novel as it is a look at what happens when a spy gets caught, but it packs in enough twists and turns along the way to satisfy the most die-hard spy enthusiast.
When British businessman Michael Holly is recruited by British intelligence to carry a small package into Russia, the novice would-be spy certainly doesn't expect to get caught. And when he is apprehended, he also doesn't expect to be sent to a Siberian labor camp. But neither do his captors - accustomed to prisoners' listless acceptance of their lot - expect that he will fight back with every means at his disposal. Starting with a fire in the camp commandant's office and proceeding to escape attempts and a general prisoner uprising, Holly continues his refusal to give in, with each act of defiance earning a cheer from the reader. To call this espionage novel a tribute to man's indomitable spirit might be a bit presumptuous, but it does make for some intriguing reading.
Love and Treason by David Osborn is just as readable in its own right, presenting the scenario of a strong career woman faced with the knowledge that her husband - the secretary of state - may, in fact, be a traitor. Confronted with that possibility, former network-news personality Alexis Volker determines to find out for herself if the suspicions are true. Just as hot on the track are members of the upper echelon of the FBI, who will use whatever means necessary to determine the truth. Suspenseful, intriguing, and at times chilling, the novel will appeal to those who enjoy a strong, intelligent heroine.
Another such character can be found in Nancy Milton's The China Option. American reporter Anne Campbell has been given a dream beat - China. While the country's outside appearance is calm, she soon discovers that just under the surface are the beginnings of violent peasant protest against the government and its entanglements with the US and USSR. In the course of her investigations, she also uncovers a shattering scoop, a Pentagon plan to help strengthen China's nuclear arsenal. Her main problems: persuading her paper to print the story and staying alive long enough to complete it. Adding to the novel's readability is the extensive background supplied by author Milton, who taught at the Peking Institute of Foreign Languages.
Jack Higgins fans will no doubt add Touch the Devil to the best-seller list. Bringing back Liam Devlin (of ''The Eagle Has Landed'' fame), Higgins again deals with the subject of assassination. This time Devlin is ''hired'' by British intelligence to spring assassin Martin Brosnan from Belle Isle, the notorious French prison. The French want Brosnan to eliminate a former compatriot now in the Soviet KGB. But what they don't know is that Brosnan also has another target in mind - Britain's prime minister. The accent here is on action rather than depth.
Another passable novel, this one ''based in history,'' is Ringer. In 1942 a German submarine landed several German saboteurs on Long Island. Their mission: to blow up Jewish-owned department stores in New York City. The premise of the novel is that some members of the group had another mission - the assassination of Albert Einstein at Princeton, N. J. Among the saboteurs is an American, Peter King, who's determined to foil the attempt. Of course, he must avoid both the Germans who know he has betrayed them and American agents who don't. There's a smattering of sexual explicitness, which some readers won't like. Yet our foreknowledge that Einstein wasn't assassinated detracts only a little from the novel's appeal.
Rounding out the selections is a bit of heavier reading, Bill Granger's The Shattered Eye, which takes us from the 1968 Paris student uprisings to present-day events. American intelligence is receiving - through its untappable ''Tinkertoy'' computer - indications of an ominous Warsaw Pact troop buildup in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, at the USSR's Frunze War College, military leaders are playing an all-too dangerous series of computerized war games. The results could lead to an all-out nuclear confrontation with the US.
Enter William Manning, a disillusioned spy who is sent to Paris to contact a woman he had betrayed 15 years earlier who is now a member of the Mitterand government. His assignment is to betray her again to get information needed to deal with the developing crisis. She, too, must be asked to betray compatriots who are planning to assassinate the Socialist prime minister. Though the multiple plots don't unravel easily, the novel is a top-drawer story.