Sam Durrell, deep in the shadowy world of espionage in the cold war '60s, has said goodbye to his longtime girlfriend Diedre; a year later, she is set to marry America's first astronaut, Adam Stepanic, who has the misfortune of veering off course on his return trip from orbit and landing behind Communist lines. It's up to Durrell to go behind the Iron Curtain and rescue him in Assignment Mara Tirana, an admirable entry in Edward S. Aarons' long-running spy series.
I have been chewing through a big stack of these Sam Durrell novels that I snagged off of ebay some time ago and have yet to find a lemon. In fact I am willing to say that the series, from what I have read, is the equal to some more well-regarded series of the time period, including Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm and even Ian Fleming's Bond.
This entry is a bit different from the norm as it tells a parallel story, following the astronaut's nerve-wracking attempt to escape from the Eastern Bloc while Durrell closes in on him from the other side. The Mara Tirana of the title is a fiery woman who ends up grudgingly helping the astronaut while various complications impede Durrell's progress, but all ends up rather neat in the end.
I read this in a single day while staying at a cabin at New Harmonie State Park. A good entry in the series, and I am eager to dive into another.