Libya plots a chemical weapons attack in this novice entry in the Tom Clancy Stakes. Target: the US. And possibly Qaddafi has Israel’s Knesset in mind as a secondary target. So where has he hidden his bombs? And when does he plan to explode them? No one knows. Clearly, the Colonel thinks he’s ahead of the game, but he hasn’t reckoned on the Schmidt brothers, who turn out to be very bad medicine for him indeed. Bill Schmidt is captain of an American destroyer, Jim Schmidt press secretary to the President. There are those who look askance at the two, regarding them as loose cannons, and it’s true they’ve been known to stray from standard operating procedure. Bill, for instance, is much more relaxed with his crew than strict, by-the-book Navy formalists find reassuring. Jim, meanwhile, is too quick with a quip, or so some think. And people remember that once in public he referred to a Cabinet member as a windbag and wasn’t as dismayed by the gaffe as he should have been. But they do get things done, those Schmidts. When high-command counterplotting requires that a Libyan plane be shot down —accidentally,— Jim suggests Bill for the job. Bull’s-eye! One Libyan aircraft dead in the water. When Bill, brilliantly, deduces the whereabouts of the deployed weaponry, it’s Jim he calls. Result: the President is spirited out of harm’s way and the stash brought to light in the nick of time. Thwarted by Schmidt grit and resourcefulness, Libya pays a heavy price for vaulting ambition, while Bill gets the girl. Newcomer Harlow is a retired Navy captain, a former Assistant White House Press Secretary to George Bush, and currently the Director of Public Affairs for the CIA. But he isn’t (yet) much of a novelist. Though some of his characters are engaging and the Beltway stuff interesting, what should be gripping never is.