The Antichrist rises again--but for once the Beast is in capable hands. And even though Easterman (Night of the Seventh Darkness, 1991, etc.) isn't in peak form here, his brooding, complexly plotted tale of an Islamic leader who threatens the world shows once again why this British author is one of the most provocative thriller writers around. Easterman's skillful prose weaves an unsettling spell here from page one: ``A strange winter had settled on Egypt that year....It was as though wonders were at hand. Or torments.'' The year is 1999, and a bomb explodes in London, killing many--the first wave of terror launched by Abu 'Abd Allah al-Qurturbi, shadowy leader of Egypt's Islamic fundamentalists. British intelligence is worried that al-Qurturbi will take over Egypt--and for good reason: In his first appearance here, the Muslim displays his ruthlessness by driving a spike through an innocent man's brain. To look into al-Qurturbi, the British recruit former agent Michael Hunt, who soon teams up with--and beds--exotic Egyptian archaeologist A'isha Manfaluti. In Egypt, the pair get trapped in a-Qurturbi's coup and its attendant apocalyptic terrors: A plague decimates the land, and, in response, al-Qurturbi orders the leveling of the pyramids and the building of a great wall around Egypt. As Michael and A'isha endure an array of horrors--including massacres, a crucifixion, and crocodile-infested sewers--it becomes clear that al-Qurturbi is the Antichrist, planning to establish a new Islamic world order through terrorism highlighted by the kidnapping of the Pope--who figures prominently in the novel's convulsive, if abrupt, conclusion. Lacking the frenzied, cliffhanging action of Easterman's best (The Seventh Sanctuary; The Ninth Buddha) and distressingly anti- Muslim; but, still, a steadily gripping, evocative nightmare that will have millennialists looking anxiously at their calendars.