DESERT FIRE by David Hagberg


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 A lone German detective battles Iraqis and PLO mercenaries seeking to secure Saddam Hussein a powerful atomic reactor that would guarantee him bomb-grade plutonium--in an effectively moody chiller from old pro Hagberg (Critical Mass, etc.). Called in by the BND when a dishy engineer who'd been spying for Deutschland's CIA is brutally murdered and raped in her Bonn flat, Walther Roemer of the Federal Bureau of Criminal investigation finds himself caught up in a baffling, violent case with geopolitical implications. Unbeknownst to Tel Aviv or EC and NATO allies, the Germans have been committed since 1982 (under terms of an ultrasecret deal worth billions) to sell Baghdad advanced nuclear technology. In the wake of his Desert Storm defeat, Saddam deems delivery vital, and he dispatches trusted paladins to ensure the contract's fulfillment. Palestinian Josef Assad Sherif, Saddam's lead negotiator (and enforcer), is soon revealed as the sexual psychopath who killed the BND's undercover agent and, shortly thereafter, a TV newswoman who knew enough to expose the reactor sale. Every bit as alienated as any Dick Francis hero, Roemer stalks and quickly identifies his man. But diplomatic immunity, national-security (plus economic) considerations, and the guilty knowledge that his father (an ex-SS officer wanted for WW II offenses) is living in Switzerland prevent him from arresting Sherif. He also has to contend with Leila Kahled, Sherif's lovely but lethal daughter who's in country as an Iraqi security operative. Roemer eventually precipitates a slam-bang climax, cornering the terrorist chieftain and his hired guns in Germany's largest nuclear complex, which they threaten to detonate after killing the hostages in their custody. An absorbing if wintry tale--especially notable for its broody atmosphere and its driven, world-weary protagonist.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-85496-X
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993


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