Translated by Antonina W. Bouis
242pp. Head of Zeus. Paperback, 7.99 [pounds sterling].
One man invents the perfect, untraceable poison. A handful of others are trained to administer it. The result is a new, seemingly foolproof way for Russia to deal with its individual enemies, at home, or, as described in this dazzling novel, abroad. The prick in the neck feels like a wasp sting and, as the toxin rapidly enters the bloodstream, there is little time to complain about it. Vyrin, an emigre who was once in the Soviet espionage business, chooses his excursions carefully in his new country; but tradecraft has entered a different dimension when killing can be as discreet as this. It is the work of a mastermind, an artist who works with chemicals.
The roots of the diabolic enterprise in Sergei Lebedev's Untraceable (translated by Antonina W. Bouis) go back to 1945, when redundant Nazi expertise found a new Soviet home. But Kalitin, a distinguished scientist who over forty...