by Kenneth W. Goddard ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 1, 1983
Those Palestinian terrorists are slipping: after coming up with some imaginative, scary, grand-scale stuff in novels like The Fifth Horseman and The Last of Days, now they're wasting all kinds of time and energy with a scheme to demoralize the police department of Huntington Beach, California--in a violent, slow-moving, utterly unconvincing thriller debut. True, the ultimate goal of Operation Balefire is to ignite a Southern California firestorm on the eve of the 1984 Olympics in L.A., ""to chill the very hearts of the people of this country."" But, for thoroughly unpersuasive reasons, the week before the Olympics start-up (and most of the novel) is devoted to small-potatoes stuff--as super-terrorist ""Thanatos"" arrives in California, ordered by his masters to ""demonstrate that the expensive American police forces are helpless to protect themselves from a single determined terrorist."" Thanatos arranges for petty local crimes to be committed, then sneakily kills both criminals and cops--spreading confusion, panic, and cries of police brutality. He bugs police headquarters, impersonates cops, terrorizes the wives and daughters of the Huntington Beach policemen. And though a few cops eventually do figure out that a single marauder is responsible for all their troubles, the anti-cop publicity makes it impossible for them to hunt down Thanatos officially. So the cops and their women form a secret vigilante operation; they track the wounded Thanatos to his lair; siege/car-chase action ensues; and the Olympics-firestorm scheme is foiled at the last moment. First-novelist Goddard, ""a young law enforcement officer and forensics specialist,"" does do a sturdy job with much of the police: procedural detail here. A few of the Thanatos sequences offer gore and tension. But there's minimal character-appeal--with cardboard cops and Thanatos a pale imitation of more engaging assassins (cf. Day of the Jackal, Eye of the Needle). And, until things pick up with the vigilante comeback, the plot--despite the old countdown format--is static and repetitious. Harder to swallow than other terrorist super-schemes; primarily for police-procedure fans who'll suspend lots of disbelief in order to enjoy the spectacle of a police department in violent (if foolish) disarray.
Pub Date: June 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983
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