EDWARD D. HOCH “The Spy Who Came to the Brink.” Short story. Jeffrey Rand #3. First appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, December 1965. Collected in The Spy and the Thief (Davis, digest-sized paperback; 1st printing, December 1971 (Ellery Queen Presents #3.)

   As you might easily deduce from the title, the 1971 collection of tales reprinted from EQMM is evenly split between those of Jeffrey Rand (7) and those with master thief Nick Velvet (also 7). I’ve always liked the Velvet stories more, but the ones with Rand are also extremely good.

   Rand is head of Britain’s Department of Concealed Communications — a spy agency, that is to say, one dealings primarily, but entirely, with codes and ciphers. It’s a job that keeps him busy, with dozens of his adventures to have been told, many of which have taken him around the world several times over.

   In “The Spy Who Came to the Brink,” Rand must puzzle out why a small time TV actor who has gone to great length to steal a secret diplomatic code is shot to death on orders from Russia before he could do so.

   It isn’t that he knew too much, as Rand finally concludes, but rather that he knew too little. Hoch had a devious mind as a writer, second to none, and how he managed to tell short stories as short as this one (ten pages) and still include a strong amount of actual detective work in them, is a absolute mystery to me.