Freemantle hits pay dirt as the UN Secretariat Tower is hit by a missile that’s shoulder-launched from the East River and loaded with sarin and anthrax.
The plot brings back alcoholic FBI investigator William Cowley, head of the Bureau’s Russian Desk, and puts him in harness again with Dimitri Danilov, now head of Moscow’s Organized Crime Bureau. Danilov worked with Cowley to bring down villains in 1993’s The Button Man and 1995’s No Time for Heroes, and, while he’s now relatively sober, he still measures his Scotches with care. The missile lies unexploded in the Chinese level of the Secretariat building (the structure is an international territory), but, exploded or not, it has raised havoc, killed five people, and caused Manhattan to be evacuated (54 dead in the big rush outta town). Some Freemantle New Yorkers, thinking themselves at the end of the world—as in On the Beach—loot stores or raid the Tavern on the Green for a drunken dance of death in Central Park. When Cowley and a team of bomb disposal experts recover the warhead, they identify it as made from a Russian biological warfare plant in Gorki. Obviously, the Russians didn’t mail it. The bomb was stolen from the Russian plant—and how many more do The Watchmen, the murderous US terrorists who financed this operation, have, and what do they plan to do with them? Thinly drawn info-characters feed the story while Cowley is hospitalized (a booby-trapped boat explodes) and Danilov finds his wife in bed with another man. Then, while explosives proliferate around the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, a hacker message on FBI computers reveals that The Watchmen think that Russia is our enemy. Soon Cowley is off to Gorki with Danilov, tracking lost warheads, then in Chicago pursuing the General of The Watchmen.
Painstaking detail within a lively plot, all in Freemantle’s familiar formula.