Coonts's latest Jake Grafton ( Under Siege ) espionage thriller takes on the most critical issues in global politics and turns them into first-rate adventure fiction. Now a rear admiral and deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Grafton learns from a Mossad hitwoman that Jewish media kingpin Nigel Keren was the victim of a complicated poisoning engineered by the CIA. Grafton and ``Toad'' Tarkington, his trusted sidekick, are threatened with similar poisoning and, just as they are dispatched to Moscow to oversee the dismantling of the Russian nuclear arsenal, they discover bugs in the DIA offices. Thus begins a dizzyingly complex adventure of apocalyptic importance, staged on three continents, filled with convincingly fictionalized portraiture (there are characters based on Robert Maxwell and Colin Powell; Saddam Hussein himself plays a pivotal role). The issues Coonts confronts--the frighteningly unprotected and undermaintained nuclear devices in the former Soviet Union; factionalism in the U.S. intelligence community; unrest in the Middle East--make this one of the most compelling post- glasnost thrillers to date. BOMC selection; major ad/promo; author tour. (June)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Best-selling Coonts returns with another convoluted Jake Grafton tale of international skulduggery, beginning with the clever poisoning--with "binary chemicals"--of a British official. Grafton has been promoted to deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency--a desk job, in other words. But when Boris Yeltsin runs into trouble keeping 20,000 nuclear warheads out of terrorists' hands, only Grafton will do to save us all from death or a fate much worse. An ambitious reporter, Jack Yocke, and Grafton's earthy cohort, Toad Tarkington, also figure in the mix. Gadgets abound, and everyone is bugging everyone else. For the good guys, there's the usual genius hacker at work, and for the bad guys there's a "rogue" CIA operative who stages terrorist acts to incriminate the parties he's working against. Coonts has a knack for working up scenarios out of headlines: his swipes both at Bush and Clinton are gratifying, while his thinly disguised, admiring portrait of Colin Powell ("Hayden Land") will be a crowd pleaser. His portrait of Moscow--as a place where the food is radiated, the water undrinkable, and the prices are out of reach--is agreeably sour. (In Coonts' view, the Russians skipped capitalism, going straight from communism to highway robbery.) Coonts has a rushed, pedestrian style, none of his characters represents anything but pure escape, and his story is only slightly less perishable than yesterday's newspaper. But he beats the in-flight movie.
Rear Admiral Jake Grafton, aviator-hero of Coonts's Under Siege (1990), etc., now saves the world from potential Armageddonand gets to meet Boris Yeltsin and Saddam Hussein in the bargain. The nearly nonstop action begins when an Israeli spy gives Jake's assistant Toad Tarkington a photo that leads Jake and Toad to suspect a CIA cabal at work in numerous evil deeds, including the murder of publishing magnate Nigel Keren (read: Robert Maxwell) by way of "binary" poisonpoison that, because of the duo's sleuthing, may next be used on them. But despite the threat, Jake and Toad soldier on with their next assignment: to monitor the dismantling of Soviet nuclear missiles. The pair's sojourn in Russia allows Coonts to indulge in his usual soapboxing ("In case you haven't noticed," says Jake, "Russia is a third-world shithole") even as Jake and Toad meet with beetle-browed generals and try to avoid being poisoned by the CIA cabal. Meanwhile, an anti-Yeltsin KGB faction blows up a Russian nuclear-weapons site, causing a meltdown that may kill a million ("`Another million,' Jake Grafton roared savagely. `God in heaven, when will it ever stop?"'). As Russia erupts in panic, Jake learns that the meltdown covered up the theft from the site of several warheads that were then sold to Saddam Hussein. After Jake confers with Yeltsin, the admiral and Toad's pilot-wife take to the skies to bomb the reactor's remaining missiles, shooting down renegade KGB jets in the process. Jake then exposes the CIA cabal and retrieves the stolen warheads through a raid on Iraqwhere both the outlaw KGB leader and Saddam himself make a big mistake by getting in Jake's way. Coonts's plots aregetting as overcomplicated as Tom Clancy's, but his flying-and-fighting scenes are as exciting as ever. Chalk up another red, white, and blue ace for the author and his jet- jockeys.