HIDDEN AGENDA by Anna Porter


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Porter, a veteran Canadian book editor, works hard to make this thriller-debut a likable, suspenseful entertainment. Despite an engaging first half, however, the contemporary heroine-comedy (in pale imitation of Compromising Positions) wears thin; the book-publishing atmosphere lacks satiric sharpness; and the plot slides off into the most tiresome, farfetched sort of conspiracy-à-la-Ludlum. The mayhem begins when Toronto publisher George Harris jumps (falls?) to his grisly subway-track death--and journalist Judith Hayes, working on a profile of Harris, wonders if the apparent suicide was really murder. . .especially when N.Y. publisher Max Graf stein is also soon dead, an apparent mugging victim! Furthermore, Grafstein's office has been savagely vandalized: someone, it seems, is desperately searching for the manuscript of a top-secret book--""Untitled"" by ""X""--that Harris and Grafstein were about to publish. So, while timid Judith sleuths in Toronto (in predictable romantic tandem with a sexy cop), her gutsy pal Marsha Hillier--a N.Y. paperback editor--does some investigating in Manhattan and London (where yet another publisher is suddenly dead). Both women are soon being followed, bribed, threatened, seduced, and terrorized (Judith's two kids are briefly kidnapped) by enigmatic agents of two warring conspiracies--one that wants ""Untitled"" to be published, one that doesn't. And eventually Marsha puts her hands on the manuscript, trying to stay alive long enough to get the hot stuff--""It will make The Pentagon Papers look like a Literary Guild Altemate""--into print. Unfortunately, this super-duper exposÉ (real title: Better Red Than Dead?) is ho-hum, anti-""peacenik"" balderdash that's crudely modeled on the conspiracy-revelations in The Spike (which seems downright levelheaded by comparison). Worse yet, the final chapters tediously belabor all the novel's least persuasive notions. So, though there's considerable charm along the way (in divorcee Judith's mom/teen relationships, in the London settings), this ends up as a glossy, over-busy rehash of nouveau-damsel-in-distress clichÉs--with promise of good, straightforward mystery/romance ahead if Porter can settle down a little.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1986
Publisher: Dutton