The author of Brick Alley, Gage, and Price turns out a sophisticated and timely thriller that intermingles South American drug trade and Iran-contra idiocies with great style. The call from Bettina, Stephen Warfield's one-time lover and National Security Agency co-worker, is brief and cryptic, but Warfield gets the message. After years in hiding following the sensational and very public screw-up of a Central American intelligence operation, Bettina wants to come in from the cold. But when Warfield spots her at their rendezvous, Bettina warns him off without speaking. One of them has been tailed to the site by two foreign and highly unsavory goons, who, failing to nab Bettina, set on Warfield with sadistic vigor. The badly battered Warfield begins an investigation, hoping to find Bettina as well as the goons. Despite widespread mistrust of Bettina and the belief that she has gone native, he has the blessing and assistance of his agency, but they've required his written resignation in case he gets into any situation requiring plausible deniability. A sensible move, since Warfield's investigation puts him onto the trail of some rather high-level collusion with a thoroughly disgusting ex-Nazi. It also reveals the all-too-credible involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in some unusually stupid Central American plots. Good, smart fun.