Gripping Central American political thriller, by the author of The Mahdi, 1982; The Snap, 1983; etc. When the Chamarrista rebels take over San Carlo and invade the American embassy's compound, they capture Ambassador Jason Peabody and 27 other men, women and children as hostages. To ward off the possibility of an attack by American troops from the carrier Nimitz, stationed offshore, the rebels outfit each hostage with an explosive jacket loaded with three kilos of plastique and wired to a detonator held by a suicidal militant student: ""Pedro will be always at your side. At the first sign of a fascist rescue attempt, Pedro will turn that button, and they will not find one square centimeter of you or any other American around here."" Just before being posted to San Carlo, Ambassador Peabody was the author of the CIA's secret anti-Cuban Operation Cobra, which is meant to overthrow Castro while he's away on a forthcoming visit to Moscow. To wrest the details of the Secret operation from Peabody, Castro's lieutenant now arrives, one Jorge Calderon, a brilliantly aware man as well as torture master. Peabody is separated from the other hostages and subjected to special indignities. Meanwhile, the Chamarristas have demanded a three-billion-dollar ransom for the hostages, an amount they think fair reparation for the rape of their country's mineral and fruit wealth by US corporations during this century. While Calderon puts Peabody through exquisitely designed torture, the US President okays an assassination of Peabody to protect Operation Cobra. Even so, a rescue operation is mounted by Colonel Silas Slocum, a magnificent black Army veteran of 28 years service. Unlike the failed attempt in Iran, this rescue has to be pulled off as a complete surprise, a silent lightning bolt, or the compound will go up in plastique. Thus is the small invasion team mounted on ultralight aircraft guided by handle-bars. Intelligent and brisk, if somewhat low on originality.