By Mark Harris
Updated May 23, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT

The already bruised images of two venerable American institutions — the CIA and the press — get another bloodying in a shrewd, rueful thriller about a journalist who learns the hard way that using the CIA as a source isn’t the wisest way to play the game. Washington Post editor David Ignatius brings several assets to his fourth novel, A Firing Offense, including his understanding of the grimy, bureaucratic trudge of putting out a daily paper and the compromises that are made to get a story. He has a notable gift for elegant plotting and pacing and a finer ear for language than most thriller writers. And his portrayal of the CIA as dangerous and dry-rotting feels authentic. A-