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by David Lindsey

Pub Date: May 8th, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-42312-8
Publisher: Doubleday

 With more women in the global workforce every year, it seems inevitable that at least a few will become hired guns. Here, old pro Lindsey (An Absence of Light, 1994, etc.) spins the implausible but nuanced and suspenseful tale of one such working mother. Sergei Krupatin, the vicious chieftain of a world-class criminal syndicate connected to Russia's mafia, employs Irina Ismaylova as an itinerant assassin. Although trained as an art restorer, the drop-dead blond beauty is obliged to retain her odd job because Sergei (a crafty, up-from-the-ranks Chechen) has long held her (and his) young daughter as a hostage. After completing a twofer assignment in St. Petersburg, Irina learns that she's to be Sergei's go-between in setting up a summit conference in Houston with Chinese and Sicilian drug lords; the lethal Irina also learns that she's expected to kill both men, Wei Tsaing and Carlo Bontate. Meanwhile, offshore intelligence sources have alerted the FBI to the Texas meet, which is to be attended by Valentin Stepanov, Sergei's man in America. The feds have turned Valentin and plan to use him to insinuate another undercover agent into his master's inner circle--Catherine Cuevas (a.k.a. Cate), the comely widow of a philandering DEA operative. Bearing a transceiver implant in her right arm, Cate soon encounters and bonds with Irina, who has made a side deal with Carlo to betray Sergei in return for help in recovering her child. The mafioso instructs Irina to follow through on dispatching Wei--and she does so with considerable flair in the course of a three-way group grope with Cate. But the girls must still settle with Sergei, who's gone to ground. Only one of the treacherous trio survives the final confrontation for a tear- jerking postlude. Equal opportunity is a dominant if implicit theme of this violent, broody, overlong international thriller, the only moral of which seems to be that sex kills. (Author tour)