THE MAHDI by A. J. Quinnell


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In the thick of the Malayan jungle, with his virgin handmaiden and cognac snifters and fresh Havanas, lives Pritchard--the world's most fabulous triple agent, his finger in every nation's networks. Now ""retired,"" he has sucked CIA biggie Morton Hawke into an elaborate scenario to control the Middle East by creating for Islam a ""miracle-working"" Mahdi, or messiah, who will actually be an unwitting CIA stooge. What no one (including the reader) knows, however, is that Pritchard has planted his own son as the man who will become Mahdi: Abu Qadir--a mystical, mild-mannered, Koran-quoting shepherd-carpenter. So Britain's MI-6 and the CIA are working together to come up with a miracle with which to certify the Mahdi in Islam's eyes: when two million faithful pilgrims are in attendance at Mecca, the about-to-be-confirmed Mahdi will offer a lamb in sacrifice and a vivid green ray will come down from heaven and take up the lamb in smoke. (How? By satellite laser homing in on a direction signal device in the lamb, which also sets off a tiny incendiary.) Furthermore, Haji Mastan, a British mole long in place and now pillar of the Saudi business community, begins to spread news of his dreams of a visitation by the angel Gabriel--with the vision of the Mahdi walking out of the desert. The KGB, however, smells something fishy: it sends in a star-crossed ballerina, Maya, as bait for MI-6 director Peter Gemmel, who eventually supplies them with info while Maya suicides in his arms; as preparations for the staged miracles begin, the Russians demand to be part of the plot. And a few final twists await, with the faithful arriving at Mecca and the US having last-minute troubles with its satellite laser. Foolishly farfetched, perhaps--but deft, swift, ingenious entertainment for those who like their espionage twisty and whimsical.

Pub Date: Feb. 12th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow