Volume 2, Number 2, April, 1984

Double Crossing

By Erika Holzer

Putnam, 29l pages, $13.95.
April 1984

Not B2

If you're looking for the perfect book to read on a cold, snowy night when you have time to read until four in the morning, Erika Holzer's Double Crossing is a very good choice —it's almost impossible to put down. Holzer has done a fine job creating the story of two doctors, one an American and one a Russian; and the American journalist that loves first one and then the other. The author has researched her subject well enough to make the story's settings —East Berlin and the USSR—very realistic. East Berlin in particular comes alive for the reader, and "The Wall" is displayed with an unforgettably grim (and horrific) accuracy.

The enduring image left by the book, however, is one of an old spy movie—visually and philosophically black and white. Missing is the provocative picture of a "good" communist in conflict with the "good" anti-communist that Rand showed in what I think is (for this very reason) her best novel. We the Living. Nor is there any sign that some of the Soviet people may have somewhat happy and ordinary lives. Her Soviets and East Germans are either evil or trying to escape to the West. But as someone famous said "You may have to eliminate some details if you' re ever going to make a point" and Holzer does make a point about the relative freedom available in the East and West. More than that; she does it in a competent and fascinating way.

But I have one more nit to pick, and it is something that I should perhaps ignore since this is Ms. Holzer's first novel, but I cannot. One of the very worst aspects of Ayn Rand's fiction (at least from the libertarian perspective) is her limited vocabulary. Most of her characters use certain key words over and over again "bromide" is one that comes most readily to mind. I have often swore that the next time I found the word "bromide" used in a libertarian novel (for any other purpose than describing a chemical compound) I would throw the book out the window. To my distress, Ms. Holzer used that word and a few other words, phrases and ways of describing her characters that are too distinctly Randian. It's to her credit, however, that the book was far too exiting to throw out.

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