In Altman's debut novel, an ordinary doctor fights the Russian mob in Paris in order to save his kidnapped lover.
Forty-seven-year-old American urologist Barry Halpern has begun a new stage in his life. After ending his marriage to his cheating wife, he starts playing the field. In November 1984, a trip to a urologic meeting in Paris brings him to the bar of the InterContinental Hotel, where he meets French widow Monique Girard. He learns that her husband was employed by the Renseignements Généraux, the French equivalent of the CIA. Although Monique speaks little English, the instant, mutual attraction between her and Barry needs no translation. Later, he meets 16-year-old Luisa, Monique's daughter. After several more trips to see Monique in France, Barry's ready to make plans for her and Luisa to join him in New Jersey. But when he goes to Paris, he finds that Monique and Luisa have disappeared. He returns to the United States only to learn from RG officer Pierre Manteau that Luisa is dead and Monique has been kidnapped by the Russian mob who killed her husband. Barry decides that the only way he can help Monique is by going to Paris to investigate her disappearance himself. He quickly receives threats telling him to go home and is even stabbed in a hotel lobby. After he illegally obtains a gun, he joins Pierre, other RG officers and gendarmes to try to find Monique and take the mob down. Altman effectively shows how Barry's machismo and surgeon's quick reflexes come in handy when he's caught in gunfights. Barry is a likable character although he comes off as a bit crude at times ("My lust for sex had been beaten out of me"). The story is told from Barry's first-person point of view, but it might have benefited from other perspectives, such as Monique's as she withstands her captor's cruel treatment. Overall, Altman offers a propulsive, engaging narrative, particularly during Barry's search for Monique. Eventually, Barry exacts brutal retaliation as only an urologist would in a strange, gruesome twist.
A short but often appealing thriller.