The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen: A Novel

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Overview

A former soldier turned movie star turned spy must stop a catastrophic nuclear weapons deal.

This gripping thriller from Thomas Caplan propels readers around the globe-from Hollywood to Rome, the Black Sea to the Mediterranean-and to the very brink of nuclear abyss.

The novel's charismatic hero, former covert operative Ty Hunter, has become, almost by accident, the number one film star in the world. When he is recruited on a clandestine mission...

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The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen: A Novel

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Overview

A former soldier turned movie star turned spy must stop a catastrophic nuclear weapons deal.

This gripping thriller from Thomas Caplan propels readers around the globe-from Hollywood to Rome, the Black Sea to the Mediterranean-and to the very brink of nuclear abyss.

The novel's charismatic hero, former covert operative Ty Hunter, has become, almost by accident, the number one film star in the world. When he is recruited on a clandestine mission to thwart the transfer of nuclear warheads into rogue hands, he must deploy every skill he has as an actor, soldier, and spy. Donning his fame as a disguise, Ty matches wits and muscle with the enigmatic billionaire Ian Santal and his nefarious protégé Philip Frost-two supremely sophisticated adversaries- even as he falls in love with the entrancing young woman closest to them both, the jewelry designer Isabella Cavill.

In prose that is both elegant and powerful, The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen gives us a breakneck parable of good and evil-and a hero in the tradition of James Bond and Jason Bourne, who is sure to become an icon of the genre.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Leading man Ty Hunter, “the number one box-office star in the world,” uses his good looks, acting ability, and celebrity the way other action heroes use their ninja warrior and advanced weaponry skills in this well-crafted but subdued thriller from Caplan (Grace and Favor). At the Cannes film festival, Ty attends a party aboard a yacht owned by a wealthy businessman, Ian Santal, who with the help of Philip Frost, an American in Russia working to decommission surplus nuclear weapons, has managed to steal three of the nukes. Soon after the party, where Ty falls under the spell of Ian’s ward, the beautiful Isabella Cavill, the U.S. president asks Ty, a former covert operative, to lead an investigation into the theft of the nukes. The rather tepid action that follows will lead readers to hope for more gunplay, explosions, and thrills in Ty’s next adventure. Former president Bill Clinton, a roommate of the author’s at Georgetown University, provides an introduction. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Founder of the Pen/Faulkner Award for fiction and the author of three novels, Caplan jumps into frothier territory with this thriller featuring covert operative-turned-Hollywood superstar Ty Hunter. Asked to help keep a bunch of nuclear warheads from passing into the wrong hands, Hunter uses all his actorly skills as he goes up against billionaire Ian Santal. Sounds promising, and you can't ignore the introduction by President Bill Clinton.
Library Journal
After the American CEO of an international construction company pulls out of a Russian deal, he and his family are murdered. Philip Frost, who certifies decommissioned nuclear weapons and is a protégé of billionaire international deal broker Ian Santal, engineered the killings as part of a conspiracy to sell nuclear weapons to Middle Eastern buyers. Ty Hunter, a former military intelligence officer, has become Hollywood's number-one star, and his social connections allow him to mingle with Santal and company on Santal's immense yacht in the Mediterranean. Personally recruited as a spy by the U.S. President, Ty is the world's only hope of preventing nuclear disaster. Like James Bond, Ty uses charm and secret government resources to succeed against all odds. VERDICT Caplan's business and international background, reflected in three earlier novels (e.g., Grace and Favor), give authenticity to this fantastic tale of intrigue. Wordiness, brand name-dropping, and sometimes trite dialog mar a thriller that otherwise rivals Ian Fleming in page-turning action and film appeal. [See Prepub Alert, 8/1/11; Caplan is also a founder of the Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction.—Ed.]—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Kirkus Reviews
Caplan's (Line of Chance, 1979, etc.) adventure novel shoots for high concept by assigning hero duties to a soldier turned film star turned spy. Ty Hunter is an accidental actor who made it big in Tinseltown. He was a special-ops–tested military intelligence officer recovering from injuries when he met a film producer. But Caplan doesn't rush Hunter into play. First there's a stop in Kansas City to meet Wilhelm Claussen, owner of an international construction company. Claussen's ready to back out of a deal with a Russian group. The scene shifts to a missile installation near Russia's Sea of Azov where warheads are being removed. Next it's the Cannes film festival. There Ty enters the narrative and encounters Ian Santal, once a science guru, once a money manipulator, and now a billionaire financier. Also on the scene are Santal's protege, Philip Frost, part of the official nuclear-weapons watchdog team at Azoz, and Isabella Cavill, celebrated jewelry designer, Santal's goddaughter and the novel's requisite love interest. Ty is next called to Camp David to meet the president and his top security adviser. They enlist Hunter to go undercover. Rumors are circulating that Santal has nefarious contacts. It develops that Santal's megalomaniacal idea is to assure peace by reframing the balance of nuclear power--while earning a tidy profit. Ty's mission-almost-impossible is to discover if Santal threat is real. Caplan litters the pages with exotic locations, beautiful people and more than enough scene-setting, exposition, sparkling conversation and back story to present a tutorial on the lives of the mega-rich. The denouement comes at Gibraltar, where good guys and bad guys meet aboard Santal's yacht, Surpass. That's a fitting moniker, since everything within the story involves stratospheric superlatives--"sleek furnishings," "most amazing stones," "great eclectic mansion," "far too sophisticated." Characters are stock players, including Middle Easterners with disposable billions, a quartet of computer nerds and a bad guy escaping to plague Hunter in Caplan's next Bondian escapade. An adventure where atmosphere dominates action.
From the Publisher
“There is wisdom as well as considerable pleasure to be extracted from the stylish, involving, utterly contemporary puzzle that is this novel.… The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen will keep you under its spell and stiffen your resolve to make the world a safer place for our children.”

—President Bill Clinton, from the Introduction


"Thomas Caplan has crafted an absorbing thriller of intrigue and menace that draws you into a vortex you can't escape until the end. The Spy Who Jumped Off The Screen is the most ingenious thriller I've ever read."

—Clive Cussler, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Kingdom


“A fanciful, enjoyable romp that centers on three stolen nuclear warheads—the fate of mankind!—even as it carries us deep into the world of people who are as dangerous and degenerate as they are rich. . . . [Caplan’s] portrait of [decadent billionaires] is a delight.”

—Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post


“A fascinating thriller.”

—Greta Van Susteren, Fox News

"You can trust the former president when he tells you to read this diverting spy thriller, which stars Bond-Bourne love child Ty Hunter. He’s a triple hyphenate—actor-soldier-spy—and he’ll need all three of those personas. . . . There’s really nothing more menacing than the threat of nuclear annihilation. You’ll believe Caplan’s well-constructed, globe-trotting story—and that his hero has the goods to save the day.”

—Los Angeles Magazine

“A kick-ass premise. . . . The novel boasts great, James Bond–style supporting characters. . . . And it has a story that, with its action and intrigue, is guaranteed to keep readers glued to their seats. . . . An excellent, don’t-dare-miss-it kind of thriller.”

—Booklist (Starred Review)


“With a dashing hero, an attractive jewelry designer, and a megalomaniac billionaire villain worthy of James Bond, Caplan brings to you a thriller for the modern day. You’ll sail on a luxury yacht and get lost in foreign locales. Filled with passion and betrayal, technology and money hungry men, this book will bring you up to a new level of story telling, and keep you there for the entire ride. . . . Caplan gets into the minds of the main characters, showing faults, quirks, loves and regrets, and how history affects the present. . . .  Be ready for an adventure worthy of another classic battle between good and evil.”

—Suspense Magazine

"Thomas Caplan channels Ian Fleming in this gracefully written, fast moving, all too pertinent thriller."

—Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers


"A highly sophisticated and entertaining thriller! With enviable finesse and accelerating tension, Caplan introduces us to a world of high and low life, West Wing officials and computer paladins, Hollywood stars and global financial wizards. Don't pick up this book if you have made plans for the evening."

—Philip Bobbitt, author of The Shield of Achilles and Terror and Consent


"The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen is a thrilling novel of espionage and derring-do, high jinks and high stakes, that unfolds rapidly against a canvas of seductive international glamour. But its grace note is the siren song of Hollywood that, out of nowhere, attracted then transformed its astonishing hero."

—Kevin Starr, author of Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance


"What an exuberant cast of characters—arms dealers, spies, movie stars, beautiful maidens, stolen nuclear warheads -and in Thomas Caplan, a gifted and sophisticated writer to direct the ensemble. The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen is an entertaining romp."

—David Ignatius, author of Bloodmoney


"An elegant thriller by an author with keen insight into the world of international intrigue, with finely crafted characters who will stay with you long after you have closed the book."

—Ted Bell, New York Times bestselling author of Warlord


"Caplan's business and international background, reflected in three earlier novels (e.g., Grace and Favor), give authenticity to this fantastic tale of intrigue.”

—Library Journal


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670023219
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/10/2012
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.31 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Caplan, a founder of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, is the author of three previous novels, Line of Chance, Parallelogram, and Grace and Favor. He lives in Maryland.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
What would happen if a business tycoon and his protégé stole nuclear warheads and then arranged to sell them to the highest bidder? And what would happen if a former intelligence officer and now a world–famous movie star tried to stop them?

That is the premise of Thomas Caplan’s masterful thriller The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen. A scenario involving the theft of weapons of mass destruction is hardly far–fetched in today’s political landscape. Hundreds of nuclear warheads are unaccounted for and the possibility that they could end up in the hands of terrorists or an irrational dictator is a very real threat.

The story begins with the murder of Billy Clausen, a billionaire business contractor with a spotless reputation. Clausen becomes the front man in a plan to convert a former Russian nuclear weapons depot into a resort, thus concealing the theft and transfer of several decertified warheads. When Clausen withdraws from the project, he puts himself on the wrong side of the two villains, Ian Santal and Philip Frost.

Santal, a former academic and now one of the world’s biggest brokers, and Frost, a physicist/trader who worked for Santal, have engineered a heist that will make them extremely wealthy and put nuclear weapons into unknown hands. When U.S. surveillance turns up suspicions of such a plot, President Garland White calls upon former intelligence officer and current box office sensation Ty Hunter to get inside Santal’s inner circle. Hunter gets invited to a party on Santal’s boat, meets the ravishingly beautiful Isabella Cavill, and soon finds himself irresistibly drawn to her despite her engagement to Frost. Hunter needs all his charm, acting talents, and spy skills to uncover Santal and Frost’s plot—and to stay alive. He’s up against ruthless men with unlimited funds, impenetrable security, and a frightening compulsion to succeed at any cost.

A white–knuckle thriller and a love story, The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen deftly explores important issues in a ripped–from–the–headlines narrative. Above all, The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen gives us a charismatic new hero in Ty Hunter. He’s a man who is comfortable in the spotlight yet doesn’t seek it, who is equally adept at martial arts and the art of seduction, and whose ingenuity complements his daring. He jumps off the silver screen to play his most dramatic role ever—where the stakes are considerably higher than box office success.

ABOUT THOMAS CAPLAN

Thomas Caplan, a founder of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, is the author of three previous novels,Line of Chance, Parallelogram, and Grace and Favor. He lives in Maryland.

A CONVERSATION WITH THOMAS CAPLAN
Q. What drew you to write a novel about the theft and sale of nuclear warheads? How dangerous is this issue right now? What is being done about it?

Actually, the character of Ty Hunter came to mind well before the plot to hide, steal, and sell three MIRV’ed nuclear warheads. What both ideas had in common, however, was that they occurred more or less out of the blue. I can still recall the moment, driving to see friends for dinner outside Baltimore, that Ty Hunter—his name was not yet on tip of my tongue, but I could visualize him and knew that he was both a spy and a film star—popped into my mind. The same was true of Ian Santal’s scheme to divert warheads from a former Soviet missile installation. It was much later, but the pieces of that puzzle also fit together suddenly. It was early morning in Los Angeles when that happened. I had just finished a swim at a hotel pool. The sun was rising over the canyon and I thought, if this is – or was—possible, we are in real danger. I immediately called a friend in Washington who is an expert in such things and ran the scenario by him. He kept silent the whole time I spoke. He could think of no reason, he told me finally, why such a theft could not have been executed. Ironically, this took place almost around the corner from La Casa Encantada, the not quite forsaken mansion Ty has bought and begun to restore to its glory days in the novel.

As to the last part of your question, right now I think there is general agreement among those responsible for national security, in the United States and elsewhere, that the greatest danger we face is the possibility that nuclear weapons, from whatever source (and, sadly, there is an increasing number of these), may find their way into hands that would be prepared or even delighted to use them. In that event, as President Clinton observes in his Introduction to The Spy Who Jumped Off The Screen,[change this title to the same font as the rest of the text; I couldn’t] “our world will not be the same thereafter.”

A great deal is being done by many brave and ingenious people to prevent such an incomparable horror from coming to pass. Their task is all the more daunting for the myriad routes by which our enemies might proceed toward their nihilistic and nefarious goal.

Q. Why did you decide to make your hero, Ty Hunter, an actor as well as a former intelligence agent?

It was not a conscious decision, arrived at by a process of reasoning. As I’ve said, the idea, which is to say his character, came to me fully formed. As I wrote, he inevitably changed. At first I had thought of him as a few years younger, on the verge, perhaps, of fame as his twenties waned. Then, as he accumulated dimensions in my imagination, it was clear to me that Ty was already settled into his new life and into the relatively sudden, unexpected fame that would be his cloak. In this respect, he reminds me of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Q. How much research did you do for The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen?[see comment above about the style of this title] Is it difficult to integrate facts and real situations into the fictional world of a novel?

I did a considerable amount of research, although the frame of the story is supported by places I know well or at least have been familiar with over a long period of time. The Sea of Azov would be the sole exception to this and, for that reason, I studied it and the Soviet protocols for dealing with nuclear arms, especially at the time of the country’s dissolution, with particular thoroughness. Fitting fact into fiction was not difficult. In this case, it was pure fun.

Q. Did you plot out the novel before you began writing or let the story carry you along? Did you know how it would end when you began?

A bit of both, to be honest. Once I knew Ty Hunter and that the story would center on an attempt to market warheads that had been secreted for some time, I had [this does not necessarily follow] a general sense of where the story was going. That it would begin in Kansas City and end on a westbound QSST, I had no idea. Nor did I know what role Oliver Molyneux would play as Ty’s sidekick, nor Zara Chapin as his quintessentially glamorous friend with benefits. From the start, I had a sense that the Mediterranean would serve as the backdrop for a lot of the novel’s most important action, but I’d no idea exactly how, or that other landscapes, Prague or London or Rome, would come into play. I knew that Ty would fall in love and that it was very likely that the object of his affections would, in due course, return them, but Isabella appeared on the page as I wrote, becoming more defined—and, I hope, alluring—with each draft. Bingo Chen and his crew, of whom I am particularly fond, also pushed their way into the story, for which I am wildly thankful—to them and to God.

Q. Philip describes the loss of his morality in the corporate world, going from assisting raiders and their hedge fund backers to insider trading, trading against his own customers, and eventually to murder. “It had been a short enough journey,” he says, “from destroying a person’s livelihood to destroying his life” [p. 234]. How prevalent do you think this kind of moral erosion is in the world of high finance?

Perhaps Philip is a shade too quick to draw this conclusion, but I do believe that there has been considerable moral erosion in the world of high finance, as well as in many other arenas of modern life, over the past few decades. Of course, this is a prevalent theme at the moment, much in the news, but even so, it is difficult to escape the truth of it in view of the headlines. In many quarters, a handshake used to mean more than a contract does now. Builders and destroyers, who could once be easily told apart, are today too often rated only as winners and losers. An ethic of service has been trumped by one of gain at any cost, even to the soul. My grandfather had a saying: “That man thinks he is going to live forever.” It was the perfect description of a certain sort of person, ostensibly successful yet adrift from his moorings in what was once legitimately called the civilized world.

Q. The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen [see earlier comment about styling this title] is an exceptionally cinematic book. Are there any deals under way to get Ty Hunter back on the big screen? Have you thought about who might play the lead?

Thank you. I do hope the book is cinematic, most of all in the sense that it affords the reader a crystal clear view of certain places and contexts. These may be exotic, beguiling, or simply essential to the story. The important thing is that readers experience them as though they were present as events unfold.

In his next outing, having soon enough tired of his sabbatical, Ty will be back on the big screen—on location in a place you might not at first expect.

As for the possibility that this novel will eventually become a motion picture, there are just beginning to be rumblings. Not knowing much, I can’t say much—yet. I did not write the book with a movie in mind, but would be pleased—thrilled, actually—if a good one was to come out of it. There are any number of actors I could imagine in the lead, including several who are not yet household names.

Q. How accurate is the high–tech hacking described in the novel?

It is very accurate. I went to great lengths to be sure of that. As I am not a hacker or a geek myself, I consulted a number of those who are in order to be sure that the verisimilitude of these scenes would match that of the novel’s other set pieces. Of course, I inflected some of the quartet of geeks’ banter and antics with humor, as when Jonty Patel floods his Mumbai–based current account with all the treasure of Switzerland. If this represents exaggeration, it is of an obvious sort, entirely in character and all in fun.

Q. Judging by your book’s introduction, you and President Bill Clinton share a passion for spy novels. How did you discover this? How close are you with the former president? Did he inform your characterization of Garland White?

I think we’ve always known it, certainly since reading Ian Fleming and John le Carré in college and watching, with rapt attention, films such as that of Len Deighton’s The Ipcress File, starring Michael Caine. It is not suspense alone, but the importance of what is at stake, as well as the importance of atmosphere, that causes spy stories to rivet our—and so many others’—imaginations.

President Clinton and I have been close friends since we met as Georgetown freshmen, when he had just turned eighteen and I was about to, in September 1964. Such friendships, which are among the finest and most enduring of life’s gifts, cannot be quantified or ranked. Obviously, it is because of this friendship that I have had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Camp David and other rarefied venues associated with the American presidency, but Bill Clinton is not, in even the slightest way, a model for Garland White.

Q. What novels and films have exerted the most influence on your writing?

There are far too many to list, but among the books would be: The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, A Coffin for Dimitrios, Brideshead Revisited, Appointment in Samara, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,; and The Day of the Jackal.

Such films would include: Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Brief Encounter, Northby Northwest, Dr. No, Lawrence of Arabia, The Graduate, and Dr. Zhivago,; as well as the BBC television series based on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’sPeople.

Q. Do you think we will we see any familiar characters we meet here in your future novels?

Oh, absolutely! I have nearly finished a second Ty Hunter novel in which not only Ty but Oliver and Zara return, as do Bingo, Delilah, Jonty, and Nevada, and.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Why does Caplan begin the novel with the murder of Billy Clausen? How do the opening chapters set up what follows and create a sense of suspense and mystery?
  • What makes Ty Hunter such an appealing protagonist? What are his most engaging qualities? In what ways is he both like and unlike other heroes of the genre, James Bond and Jason Bourne, for example?
  • In a moment of playful banter, Zara tells Ty that being an actor and a spy are “two sides of a coin” [p. 97]. In what ways are acting and spying similar? How does Ty use his skills in both areas in The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen?
  • How does Ian justify stealing and selling nuclear warheads? Is there any truth to his argument that having more warheads loose in the world will actually lessen rather than increase the chances of conflict by empowering weaker nations with the means to protect themselves from aggression?
  • What kind of man is Philip Frost? What motivates him to do what he does? How does he justify his actions? What does Isabella mean when she describes Philip as “a symphony of frost and flame” [p. 201]?
  • Why are Ty and Isabella so drawn to each other? How does their romance both complicate and accelerate the plot of the novel?
  • Oliver tells Ty, “This is not our grandfathers’ world, where the righteous and the evil retreated to their separate base camps. We live side by side in a world of very few uniforms now” [p. 194]. In what ways are good and evil ambiguous, or hard to separate, in the novel?
  • Why does Philip kill Ian? What does he gain by doing so? How does he feel about murdering his friend, mentor, and business partner?
  • What methods, both conventional and unconventional, do Ty and Oliver use to recapture the warheads? How are they able to uncover Philip and Ian’s plan and then thwart it?
  • The growing number of missing nuclear warheads is a very important issue, though it receives little media coverage. How does The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen dramatize that issue and make it easier to comprehend?
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 4, 2011

    Best Thriller in Ages!!!

    An advance reviewer's copy of The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen found its way to me through a friend who works in a bookstore. How nice to discover a thriller that so credits the reader's intelligence! I absolutely loved this mesmerizing story of spy and sidekick, with its rapidly evolving conspiracy and ultra-glamorous settings. The book immediately grabbed my imagination and swept me away on a fabulous intrigue-filled trip all over the world. I was pulled into every scene, not merely in modern Hollywood or the ancient capitals and ports of Europe, but into the cicles and conspiracies of some of the world's most fortunate - if sometimes amoral and occasionally evil - people. It certainly did not hurt that my guide was Ty Hunter, the most fascinating action hero I've come across in ages. As for action, there is a heart-pounding race across the Mediterranean, in which the fate of the world is at stake. Piracy, treachery, kidnapping and murder all twist the plot, as does an unparalleled manipulation of financial markets by a brilliant, yet often comical quartet of geeks. But watch out, and pay attention! Just as in real-life, many of the most important events take place when you aren't expecting them. There isn't a sentence that doesn't surprise, inform or contain a clue. Good luck putting this novel down. Far better to prepare for a few late nights...

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2012

    The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen

    A so-so book.

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  • Posted January 20, 2012

    Intriguing!

    Starting with Bill Clinton's introduction in the beginning of this book all the way to the last page, I was riveted to this story. Who wouldn't love a Hollywood type who is recruited by the government to track down missing nuclear warheads from a secret Russian site? The author had a unique way of letting the reader into the minds of his characters which was a special treat to me. Although this book took longer for me to read than most because of the long narrative passages, it was well worth it in the end.

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  • Posted January 18, 2012

    An Adventure Worthy of Another Classic Battle Between Good & Evil

    With a dashing hero, an attractive jewelry designer, and a megalomaniac billionaire villain worthy of James Bond, Caplan brings to you a thriller for the modern day. You'll sail on a luxury yacht and get lost in foreign locales. Filled with passion and betrayal, technology and money hungry men, this book will bring you up to a new level of story telling, and keep you there for the entire ride.
    The hero: former covert operative, now number one box office movie star Ty Hunter, recruited by Washington to track down missing nuclear warheads from a decommissioned Russian military site. The villains: Ian Santal, a billionaire with twisted justifications for any action and Phillip Frost, Santal’s ruthless second in-command. The lure: Isabella Cavill, Santal’s goddaughter, a British designer working in Rome. The problem: the warheads are en route to their eventual owners, fanatics who sponsor terrorism. Hunter must use both his skills as an operative and an actor to thwart those who would try to control world destiny.
    This novel is filled with long narration and in depth philosophical passages. The action is analytical, logical, and decisive. Caplan gets into the minds of the main characters, showing faults, quirks, loves and regrets, and how history affects the present. Don’t expect a quick read, but be ready for an adventure worthy of another classic battle between good and evil.
    Review written by Stephen L. Brayton, author of “Beta” for Suspense Magazine

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

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