Gripping, elegant, amusingly Gallic suspense novel, something of an intelligence procedural about stakeouts and surveillance and about an exploding wave of terrorism that has all of Paris trembling. Some French intelligence agents, shadowing a Russian diplomat who has heavy leanings toward peeping-Tommery and likes to watch kids making out in the bushes, have their smashingly interesting surveillance operation interrupted when 60 pounds of explosive in a battered Volkswagen abandoned in a tunnel blows up, killing nearly every motorist in the tunnel and starting an enormous gasoline fire that prevents any ambulance or fire engine from reaching it. Ten minutes later a second bomb blows out the first floor of an office building and, similarly, the official rescue teams cannot break through gridlocked traffic to get to the scene and save the building. The first clue to unraveling this horror comes when a motocyclist, hit by a truck, is found to be beating photocopies of top-secret minutes of the June meeting of the National Defence Committee, all addressed to the editor in chief of l'HumanitÃ‰, a member of the political bureau of the Communist Party. The investigation is handed over to intelligence officer Alfred Baum, whose digestion is distinctly liverish and who bears an Olympian sense of sorrow for the sins of man. Ordered to utter secrecy by the President, Baum finds that the case is a powder keg that can blow up the Government and the Prime Minister. He devises a plan to see that the secret photocopies are allowed to continue on their way so that their passage will reveal the terrorist network. Meanwhile, the terrorists continue bombing and killing like perfect maniacs. Baum mounts a highly sophisticated surveillance operation, the climax of his career, to subvert the terrorists' grand political coup: to send some mortar shells into Paris' greatest yearly parade. Reads like the first installment of an Alfred Baum series, which would be welcome, judging by the pace and humor of this volume.