There's a 40-year time spread in the latest batch of spy novels, with locales ranging from Peking to Casco Bay, Maine. Evelyn Anthony's Albatross continues the exploits of Davina Graham, still paired uneasily with Colin Lomax. The job now is to ferret out the traitor in the British intelligence establishment who, among other things, was responsible for the assassination of Davina's husband. While the plot line seems a bit contrived, the character development of Davina herself is such that you want to read on anyway. And the novel's conclusion hints at the possibility of doing just that in yet another volume.
If a World War II setting is your preference, The Casco Deception, by Bob Reiss, offers the scenario of a post-Pearl Harbor German attack on Portland, Maine - the closest US harbor to England and a refueling and training center for the North Atlantic fleet as well as a thriving shipyard. In contrast to ''Albatross,'' here it's the intriguing premise that is the novel's strongest feature. The characters are rather stock: an American-born mercenary leading the German attack; a relatively young American security chief who must foil the attempt; and a woman who fears one, loves the other, and (in protecting her father) is caught between the two. It is nonetheless somewhat suspenseful. You don't have to be from Maine to enjoy it, but one can't help feeling that that's where its most approving readers will be.
East-West political intrigue also has its entry in the race for thriller readers, Erika Holzer's Double Crossing. Here, the plot twists and turns around the defections of a prominent American doctor to East Germany and a Russian doctor to the West. Full of machinations between the Soviet KGB and their not always friendly counterparts in the East German secret police, the novel provides fair to middling suspense, although the ending does strain credulity.
Much more intriguing is The Peking Mandate, by Peter Siris. Set during the summer of 1976, it deals with the power plays after the death of Chairman Mao Tse Tung. The central player in the drama is China-raised American industrialist Marc Slater. Known and trusted by China's moderate leaders, he has the duty to help counter a two-pronged threat - a coup by Mao's widow, Jiang Qing, and the notorious ''gang of four,'' and a possible Russian takeover of China's rich oil fields.
If you can accept the premise that China's leaders would call on an American industrialist for help with internal problems, ''The Peking Mandate'' is a wonderfully good read. More than anything else, it causes one to want to find out more about just what did happen in the chaotic days that followed the chairman's passing.
Arthur Maling's A Taste of Treason - the fifth novel featuring securities analyst Brock Potter - concerns the sale of microtechnology secrets to East German agents. Potter's one-time friend and convicted traitor has been killed in prison to keep him, Potter suspects, from revealing the names of the agents he worked with. It's up to Potter to try to find the agents, his only clue being that one is an acquaintance. Suspenseful, fast-paced reading, it provides a novel twist to the usual espionage theme.
Finally, Rubicon One, by Dennis Jones, provides the chilling prospect of a nuclear-armed Middle East and an extremist leader in the Kremlin. The only alternative to global thermonuclear war, according to the CIA's master computer, is Rubicon One, a last-ditch plan to avert a war by engineering a Kremlin coup. The one jarring note in an otherwise passable novel is a somewhat casual acceptance of a limited nuclear war. If author Jones's attempt is to heighten an antinuclear message by understating it, he certainly succeeds.