STATE SCARLET by David Aaron
Kirkus Star


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First-novelist Aaron, former SALT negotiator and National Security Council staff member, puts his expertise to excellent use in this high-speed thriller about an international manhunt for a nuclear terrorist. Aaron opens at full throttle with Terence Culver, cashiered US Army Officer, calling the White House incognito from Germany with the news that he's stolen a nuclear weapon. The President, an ex-network news anchorman, orders an immediate on-sight inspection of the US nuclear arsenal, sending the Pentagon into a frenzy and allowing Aaron to strut his knowledge of storage of nuclear devices. The inspection turns up over a dozen missing weapons; that evening, Culver calls back: withdraw American atomic weapons from Europe within 72 hours or he'll explode the stolen bomb in a European city. Unwilling to panic the Allies, the President fails to notify them and calls in ex-CIA agent Sean Gordon to investigate. On his way to Europe, Gordon learns that a bomb has indeed been stolen; he soon traces it to Culver and, aided by Culver's girlfriend (no love interest; Aaron sticks 100% to his doomsday storyline here), pursues the renegade across Europe, via Vienna, Venice, Paris, finally to Berlin. Meanwhile, the President's Kissinger-ish top advisor suspects Soviet involvement in the theft (partly true) and pushes him into threatening the Russians with nuclear reprisal if the bomb explodes. Tensions escalate; war seems imminent; Aaron describes in edge-of-the-seat detail preparations for nuclear conflict. The President and Soviet Premier meet secretly in Finland; locating Culver seems hopeless, but they agree to disarm once the bomb goes off. At the last minute, Gordon finds Culver; but the President, eager to proceed with his deal with the Premier, orders him to let the bomb detonate: Gordon takes matters into his own hands. Aaron's insider's understanding of nuclear brinksmanship and Oval Office politicking illuminates this tale; packed with authentic detail, it sizzles with realism and excitement. A real winner.

Pub Date: April 6th, 1987
Publisher: Putnam