Books: Rise And Fall WINTER

by Len Deighton Knopf; 571 pages; $19.95

Like fiddlers who want to conduct and comedians who yearn to play Hamlet, thriller writers sometimes show symptoms of hankering after respectability. John le Carre has handled this problem by surrounding his plots with a Jamesian density of details and implications. Now Len Deighton, known to millions of readers as the author of The Ipcress File and Funeral in Berlin, has, temporarily at least, given up suspense altogether.

Winter deals fictionally with the rise and fall, and then the rise and fall again, of Germany during the first 45 years of the 20th century. This vast subject is interesting in a...