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First edition cover (UK)
|Genre||Spy Novel Thriller novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||Breakheart Pass|
|Followed by||The Golden Gate|
Bruno Wildermann of the Wrinfield Circus is the world's greatest trapeze artist, a clairvoyant with near-supernatural powers and an implacable enemy of the East German regime that arrested his family and murdered his wife. The CIA needs such a man for an impossible raid on the impregnable Lubylan Fortress where his family is held, to remove a dangerous weapons formula from a heavily guarded laboratory under cover of a traveling circus tour, Bruno prepares to return to his homeland. But before the journey even begins a murderer strikes twice. Somewhere in the circus there is a communist agent with orders to stop Bruno at any cost.
Literary significance and criticism
The story, written in third person narrative, includes espionage, murder, romance and humor. Many MacLean fans do not consider this to be one of his finer works. It is typical of his later period works, in that while it is quite well plotted (if stretching the bounds of believability), it is simplistically characterized, with dryly sardonic and superbly competent protagonists (particularly Bruno Wildermann, the trapeze artist-cum-secret agent), a ravishingly beautiful and virtually helpless female protagonist, and almost cartoonish Communist antagonists.
In popular culture
In the 1978 film The Comeback, character Nick Cooper is reading the novel in bed.
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