This first superpower suspense thriller by Cornford, a seasoned Australian news reporter and author (a previous novel, The Outcast , was published in England and will be issued here next year) is a zinger. Archreactionary D. M. Lysenko, powerful member of the Politburo Central Committee, is assassinated by an explosives-wielding assailant who then blows himself up as well, leaving only smudges in the blood-spattered snow as forensic evidence. Colonels Klimenti Amalrik and Simis Nikishov are called in by their KGB bosses to investigate. The Russians are convinced the CIA is behind the killing until a conservative U.S. senator, the American equivalent of Lysenko, meets the same fiery fate. Credit is claimed by the Vigilantes for Peace, a group seeking total nuclear disarmament. Cornford's smoothly intricate plot, ricocheting through realistic settings and featuring vibrant, believable characters, earns the reader's full attention. Though he will inevitably be compared to Martin Cruz Smith, Cornford brings his own distinctive, original voice to the the genre. (Aug.)
The ``Vigilantes for Peace,'' a mysterious terrorist group, is assassinating prominent Soviets and Americans who support a strong military. Charged with finding and stopping them is Colonel Klimenti Amalrik of the KGB. The Vigilantes always seem to be ahead of their pursuers, leading Amalrik to suspect everyone, from Soviet reactionaries to the CIA and KGB. Complicating the situation is Harry Bannon, a CIA agent who is having an affair with Amalrik's daughter Nadya. Set in contemporary Moscow, the novel successfully creates an atmosphere of fear and privation, but the story is slow to build and contains a confusing number of subplots. Cornford displays an obvious writing skill, but his plot gets in the way. This has been done before and better.-- Roberta Pessah, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, N.Y.