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Literature / Triple

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"Triple" is a spy thriller written in 1979 by Ken Follett.

In 1968, Nathaniel "Nat" Dickstein, aka "The Pirate", is an Israeli Mossad agent tasked to secretly steal enough uranium for the Jewish state to produce its own nuclear bombs. He must accomplish this before Egypt can finish building its own bomb, which would surely be used to wipe Israel off the map. Dickstein's mission is complicated by opposition from his old acquaintances David Rostov and Yasif Hassan, once Oxford students, now spies like himself- one in the KGB, the other Egyptian Intelligence.

Along the way, Dickstein falls in love- with the half-Arab Suza Ashford, who Nat's boss assumes is an enemy agent. Will Dickstein be able to get the uranium his country needs and still save the girl?

Triple provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Professor Ashford treats his daughter, Suza, as an Expy for his dead wife. Eventually she realizes that he treats her as a servant rather than a daughter, but it's rather too late by then.
  • Action Girl: Suza Ashford starts out as an airline stewardess who is not terribly worldly. By the end of the novel she has taken a level in badass and helped sink a Russian spy ship.
  • Badass Bookworm: Nat looks like a shorter John Lennon, including the glasses, borrows books even faster than he reads them, and both speaks and reads Hebrew. He's also a crack shot who can snap necks.
  • Badass Crew: Dickstein brings a group of veteran Mossad agents with him for the final assault at sea.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Everyone Dickstein knew in 1948 comes back to either help or haunt him. Almost literally in one case- Suza Ashford is almost the ghost of her mother, Lampshaded by multiple characters.
  • The Chessmaster: Rostov and Dickstein both play this part, although Dickstein also uses the occasional Indy Ploy. Bonus points because they actually played chess against each other as students at Oxford.
    • Pierre Borg, Nat's boss, wants to be one, but is frustrated because Dickstein refuses to keep him informed of what he's doing in the field.
  • Cool Old Guy: Notable examples: Papagopalous, a Greek smuggling tycoon; Franz Pedler, a German factory owner. Both are integral to Dickstein's plan.
  • Dirty Business: Too many examples. Just for starters:
    • The book opens with the capture and interrogation of an Israeli spy in Egypt. He is tortured to death by Kawash, the double agent, so he can't reveal any information.
    • To obtain a list of vulnerable uranium sources, Dickstein blackmails a homosexual bureaucrat (1968, remember) and then beats and threatens his lover to guarantee their silence. Rostov later kidnaps the same man to learn what he told Dickstein.
    • Nat hires a prostitute to seduce a sailor from the ship he wants to hijack, then drugs the man so he can't report to his ship; thus, Dickstein's agent replaces him when the ship sails.
    • In a similar incident, Rostov's team stages a hit and run to cripple a sailor, so one of their men can go to sea in his place.
    • Even when Nat is willingly helped by a Jewish businessman, he still has to guarantee his silence by threatening to kill his wife if either of them reveals that he assisted the Mossad.
  • Double Agent: It's a spy thriller. Examples abound.
    • Kawash is a highly placed operative in Egyptian Intelligence who is also feeding information to Pierre Borg.
    • Hassan works for both Egyptian Intelligence and the Palestinian Fedayeen.
    • After Suza falls for Nathanial, she is forced to play double agent when Hassan and her father, assuming she is loyal to the Arab side, want her to help Hassan foil Dickstein's uranium theft.
  • Double Reverse Quadruple Agent: Suza goes to America with Hassan, so she can contact Al Cortone, because Hassan wants to find out what Dickstein was doing in America. But Suza wants to pass a warning to Nat through his old friend. But Cortone can't trust her, because she might be using him to set a trap for Dickstein; so he takes her to Sicily with him, because she might be an enemy agent, but then again, she might not be. Confused yet?
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Suza's generation exemplifies this trope. She can tell she is in love with Nathanial when she no longer wants to just have casual sex with someone else.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Rostov personally takes the job of stopping Dickstein because he needs a promotion in the KGB. Why? So he will have enough influence that his genius son will get into the most prestigious school in the USSR next year.
  • Expy: In-universe, Suza is seen by almost every man she meets as a younger version of her deceased mother, Eila.
  • Fingore: An Israeli sailor is interrogated by having his fingers cut off by the Fedayeen.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Dickstein saved Al Cortone's life in Sicily during WWII. They became instant friends. Cortone's Mafia family later help Dickstein pull off his uranium heist.
  • Intimate Psychotherapy: This is how Suza resolves Nat's frigidity, the result of the experiments he was forced to participate in while in the concentration camp.
  • Jerkass: Pierre Borg certainly qualifies.
    • Professor Ashford betrays one of his old students to another basically as an intellectual exercise, knowing full well that it will mean his death.
  • The Mafia: Al Cortone is the head of a family by the time he reappears in 1968. His wartime friendship with Dickstein turns out to be vital because of this.
  • Neck Snap: Yasif Hassan and David Rostov both get one. Rostov survives, but according to the epilogue, has to wear a neck brace every moment of his life.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Israeli Prime Minister Moshe Dayan and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat appear in the story, but their roles are fictionalized and the latter is not named.
  • No Holds Barred Beat Down: Dickstein delivers one to Hassan, to steal the uranium, and later to Rostov, to rescue Suza.
  • Pocket Protector: Nat carries a lucky pocket watch worn by his grandfather. It stopped a bullet in WWI.
  • POW Camp: Nat survived the concentration camps, although "survived" is a generous description considering the psychological damage he suffered. Not until he meets and falls in love with Suza does he fully recover.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Subverted. The whole point of the uranium job is that there would be no headlines. Historically, it was never quite certain (even to this day) where Israel got the uranium to make their bombs.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: Nat has to board the Russian spy ship Karla to rescue Suza.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Just before that, Dickstein went on one of these against Hassan, believing the Arab spy had turned Suza to the Fedayeen cause. He was wrong, as he soon found out.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: The Fedayeen hijack the Coparelli before Dickstein can get to it. Their plan to murder the crew becomes unneccesary because Dickstein has already had all but his own man removed.
  • Sexual Karma: Nat and Suza. Inverted with Rostov and his mistress, who are both very bad people, but still manage to have good sex (maybe because Evil Is Sexy).
  • Shown Their Work: The author goes into great detail on spycraft, the nuclear industry, and uranium, among many other things.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Dickstein and Rostov played a famous chess match as students, before they became spies.
    • Rostov's youngest son plays chess against his father, mother, and older brother simultaneously, beating all three.
  • Spy Versus Spy: Versus spy, versus spy, versus spy......
  • What a Piece of Junk: MV Coparelli, the freighter full of uranium that Dickstein plans to hijack.
  • Where Are They Now: The epilogue sums up Nat, Suza, and Rostov's fates.
  • Worthy Opponent: Rostov regards Dickstien as almost his equal, but is certain that the KGB's resources and his own skills as The Chessmaster guarantee him victory.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The book reads as one long game of this.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Hassan is secretly a member of the Fedayeen, Palestinian terrorists who believe they are justified in whatever they do to recover their land from the Jewish aggressors. Their leader, Mahmoud, subverts this in that he genuinely regrets the innocent deaths he has caused, but still believes they were neccesary.