REFLEX ACTION by Christopher Fitzsimons


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Fitzsimons (Early Warning, 1979) grabs onto a strong suspense notion here--nearly strong enough to hold UP through accumulating implausibilities, redundant flashbacks, and some second-rate prose. London's Ernest Fisher is a quiet husband, father, and clerk. . . but a dozen years ago he was an Intelligence man in a Central European country (unnamed), an aide to Machiavellian spymaster Helle--whom Ernest blames for his first wife's death; in fact, Ernest sent Helle threats during the first years after he escaped to England. And now Helle is Trade Minister. . . and he's about to visit England--so it's only natural that he orders his operatives to exterminate Ernest, even though happy Ernest no longer has any intention of doing Helle any harm. Poor Ernest. He gets wind of this impending doom, hides his wife and kids in an off-season trailer-camp, and starts deflecting the death-attacks as they come--mostly at the office, where he has set up a surreptitious, round-the*clock existence. Then he's lured into a car by an attractive, naive young Helle agent; she abducts him; he abducts her (and resists her seductions); he desperately tries to convince her bosses (by phone) that he means no harm to Helle. But by now the bad guys have gotten their clutches on Ernest's wife and kids, they trap him, he (implausibly) escapes, and, realizing that he'll never convince Helle, switches from defense to offense--he climbs up the side of a factory chimney to get into position to shoot the visiting minister. . . . Believable? Not very. And Fitzsimons' ragged, back-and-forth plotting is further frayed by some yucky dialogue (""You don't understand the ways of a woman, do you, Ernest?""), ill-timed flashbacks to Ernest's past, and touches of U.S.-pulp prose amid the generally crisp Britishness. Still, the basic situation is solid, with the gritty, detailed desperation of the opening chapters well-done indeed (especially Ernest at the office and his wife under arrest for housebreaking at the trailer-camp). So: flawed but mostly effective hide-seek-and-run suspense from a nicely improving newcomer.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum