By Tim Powers
As a tender double agent infiltrating the Soviet secret agent community in Nazi-occupied Paris, Andrew Hale unearths himself stuck up in a mystery, much more ruthless conflict. 20 years later, in 1963, he'll be pressured to confront back the nightmarethat has haunted his grownup existence: a deadly unfinished operation code-named claim. From the corridors of Whitehall to the Arabian desolate tract, from post-war Berlin to the streets of chilly battle Moscow, Hale's determined quest attracts him into foreign politics and gritty espionage tradecraft -- and inexorably drives Hale, the fiery and lovely Communist agent Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga, and Kim Philby, mysterious traitor to the British reason, to a perilous disagreement at the excessive glaciers of Mount Ararat, within the very shadow of the great and dangerous Ark.
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But it changed all their lives forever. At first, the five men were terrified by what they had been asked to do. Litvinenko spent the remaining days of 1997 and the first month of 1998 in a stupor of indecision, wavering between his usual response to an FSB order — obeying it — and a deep-seated fear of what might ensue if he did so. Marina recalls the emotional turmoil he went through over the New Year period. I remember that December vividly because Sasha was so gloomy and so upset. Every time I suggested he come along to one of the concerts we were putting on, he just said, 'Marina, I can't think about concerts right now.
The Russians had, she said, apparently failed to understand that Litvinenko was under police supervision rather than in custody for any crime and that the British government could not in any event control what is and what is not carried by the media. Blair had told the cabinet meeting that he viewed the UK's long-term relationship with Moscow as the key issue to bear in mind in the current climate, which some ministers had interpreted as a sign that he wished to minimize fallout from the affair and perhaps restrict the police investigation into the presumed murder.
He'd been through a lot — the war in Chechnya which he did, and all those gangster wars; and fighting organized crime in the 90s sometimes involved being... You know, they recruited agents from the milieu, basically criminals and you tried to make them work for yourself. So he was very familiar with all that milieu and that was his life. I dare say people do get... You can't come unscathed out of all that... and I dare say he was too. Even away from the fury and passion of Chechnya, there are persistent stories about Sasha's life that cast doubt on his widow's idealized portrait of him as a kindly, sensitive paragon of virtue.