It's no surprise that this fey first novel from British TV comedian/writer Laurie (Jeeves and Wooster, etc.) should feature an updated Bertie Wooster pitched headlong into international intrigue, terrorism, and really embarrassing scrapes. Thomas Lang's an inoffensive sort who hasn't done much since mustering out of the Scots Guards. One day, apropos of nothing in particular, a Canadian arms-dealer offers him $100,000 to assassinate industrialist Alexander Woolf. Not wanting either the money or the opprobrium of having kept quiet about it, Thomas hies himself to Woolf's house, where he finds—not Woolf, but a minder who tries to break his arm, and Woolf's well-armed daughter Sarah, who could easily break his heart. Worse, after Thomas is taken in and questioned minutely, yet ineffectually, by the Ministry of Defense, he realizes that the Canadian power broker who set him up was none other than Woolf himself. It's only the first act in a farcical series of adventures that will have Thomas changing his name and cover story more often than most readers change their bedclothes, as he careens from the American Embassy in London to a terrorist cell in Switzerland to a climactic bit of derring-do with a killer helicopter over Casablanca, playing by turns Sarah's solicitous protector, Woolf's avenger, and a Minnesota adjunct terrorist who has to prove his loyalty to The Sword of Justice by killing a Dutch finance minister. Throughout all this balderdash—as Thomas goes through all of James Bond's paces (unarmed combat, ritualistic double-crosses, soft-focus sex with Third World terrorists)—the jokes are reliably funny; but since the premise and its development are nowhere more outrageous than in straight-faced examples of the genre, the japery eventually grows monotonous. Still, every episode is awash with giggles, even if the whole production seems directed at audiences who think Get Smart would have worked better as a six-hour BBC series.
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