In The Cardinal of the Kremlin, Tom Clancy's cutting-edge research takes readers inside Soviet and American attempts to develop a Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI). The Soviets have begun successful tests of their system, located near the border of Afghanistan. Americans race to implement their own system, Tea Clipper, so as to maintain strategic parity.
Cardinal of the Kremlin, however, is more about the shifting allegiances of the intelligence community and the unstable world of late 1980s U.S.-Soviet relations than it is about military technology. Colonel Mikhail Filitov is the Cardinal, the CIA's ear in the Kremlin and a steady source of the latest Soviet secrets. Passing microfilm through a chain of agents that begins in a Turkish bath, the Cardinal exposes a double agent in the American SDI program. Unfortunately, the KGB also knows that they have a mole in their midst. In tightly crafted narrative that rapidly cuts from the Kremlin to Afghanistan to Washington, D.C., the Americans rush to pull Filitov and his associates out before his cover is blown. Jack Ryan returns as the moral centre in a world often dominated by egos and politicking, and John Clark, ex-Navy SEAL and current CIA agent makes his first appearance in a Clancy novel (though his early life is chronicled in Without Remorse).
Clancy hits his stride in this outing, meshing a plot that earns the name "thriller" with bang-on depictions of SDI systems and a varied and interesting cast of characters. Moving beyond black-and-white depictions of the "evil empire", he delves into the altogether greyer world where political ideals meet reality. --Patrick O'Kelley