ATHABASCA by Alistair MacLean
Kirkus Star


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Industrial sabotage in the Alaskan oil fields allows MacLean (Force 10 from Navarone, Ice Station Zebra) a ton of background padding--which, alas, is more compelling than the foreground melodrama. Part of MacLean's problem this time around is hero Jim Brady, a short, fat gourmand who runs a top security agency, a man given to Olympian know-it-all rhetoric. He's soon tiresome once he arrives at Athabasca, the big Arctic shore where refineries extract oil from tar-sand (a process dependent on digging, not drilling): Brady's job is to tackle the oil companies' security, which has been falling apart in bitter midwinter. True, when Brady surveys incredibly gigantic mobile diggers and miles of unprotected conveyor belting from the digs to the refinery, he feels the security task is impossible. But then a pump station is half-blown up, with two men found shot and charred at the station; and Brady is hurled into action, along with his main investigators, Dermott and Mackenzie, who swing into a yawn-fest of Holmesian deduction. Can the good guys protect this $10 million operation, which can be brought to a prohibitively costly standstill by quite minor sabotage? Well, when a processing plant is half-wiped out (half, so that the victim is still alive and worth ransoming), Brady's suspicion falls upon some security agents, who have the most know-how for the crimes. Then: murder, kidnap (Brady's wife and daughter), a King Kong machine driven into a pit, ransom (one billion bucks), an action rescue. . . and a forensic climax that reveals the chief culprits within the companies. Enough lively moments for the movie (which will drop all the inert dialogue anyway) and reasonably atmospheric machinery for the many MacLean fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1980
ISBN: 0007289200
Publisher: Doubleday