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 The prolific Morrell (Assumed Identity, 1993, etc.) produces another high-speed but hollow thriller. Reporter Matt Pittman, grief-stricken to the point of suicide over the death of his teenage son, pulls the gun from his mouth long enough to do his best friend and former boss, Burt Forsyth, one more favor: write the New York Chronicle's obituary section for nine days, until the paper is shut down. In hopes of reviving Pittman's interest in life, Forsyth assigns him to research a detailed obituary of Jonathan Millgate, one of five men whom D.C. insiders call ``the grand counselors.'' These wielders of great power and influence are never elected but always appointed. Although Millgate has suffered a heart attack, he's not dead yet- -but then he's taken away from the hospital in a private ambulance by suspicious figures who seem intent on rectifying that situation. Pittman's efforts to save Millgate's life get him accused of murder. On the run, everyone he approaches for help seems to get killed too, but the adrenaline of the chase--along with the presence of nurse Jill Warren, who joins him on the lam--finally gives him reason to live. Morrell has made a concerted effort to endow Pittman with psychological complexity, but all the other characters are less than stick figures. The story's ultimate stakes (Millgate was buying nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union and selling them to South Korea) are so flimsily tied to the immediate plot (ferreting out the pedophile in the five counselors' closet) that there is hardly any suspense. The gimmick of having Pittman resort for help to criminals he's written about in the past is as weak as the premise that the forces of law and order are no help to him at all. Fairly gripping in portions, but this has all been done better before. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1994
ISBN: 0-446-51791-7
Page count: 400pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994


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