BOOKS: INTELLIGENCE MATTERS

A CLEVER THRILLER ABOUT HONOR AND LOYALTY IN THE SPY GAME, THE NEWS BUSINESS AND AMONG FRIENDS

Resolute cynics may roll their eyes and conclude that David Ignatius' clever and unsettling thriller A Firing Offense (Random House; 333 pages; $23) is merely an elaborate dance of the oxymorons. Its plot, after all, places military intelligence, the archetype of self-contradictions, in opposition to another giggle inducer, journalistic ethics.

Giggles aside, however, important and quite nasty skullduggery still goes on in the world. If you are Eric Truell, the young Paris bureau chief of a grand old American newspaper, you might, fizzing with nerve and careerism, sneak past police barricades and into a hostage standoff to interview the terrorists and...

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