An evil genius and a naïve nerd fight to the death as a fearful world waits trembling.
Kenneth Cooke, director of the secret government project Mirage, is sore as a boil that he’s being shut down willy-nilly with no warning, no explanation beyond the fact that suddenly what was secret isn’t secret anymore, which means the powers that be—whoever they are—are running scared. Not fair, Cooke fumes. Not after all the applied brilliance it took to develop Neo-Ketamine, a mind-altering drug so efficient, so cutting-edge that it will lift terrorism to a whole new level. Whoever “they” are, he vows, will be made to pay. And soon enough he’s asking payment from a party of anarchic Serbians as well: $70 million and the drug is theirs. To prove how extraordinary his elixir is, Cooke is prepared to arrange six simultaneous disaster-demonstrations: six bombings in six major American cities to be triggered by six drugged-up mules, who, thanks to the action of Neo-Ketamine, will have no interest in surviving. That sounds good to the Serbians, and Cooke would be riding high were it not for pesky John Berger, his mule turned accidental nemesis. The wimpish wuss Berger has proven to be stubbornly, mysteriously, dangerously Neo-Ketamine–resistant. Moreover, he’s annoyingly elusive. No matter how often and how cleverly Cooke tries to arrange his demise, Berger flops into a safety net. Finally, in a blood-spattered denouement, crackpot Cooke and his puppet Berger—his brain partially washed, partially dried—go at it one on one, world peace in the balance.
Passman (The Visionary, 1999) inches closer to getting it right. His plotting is still way over the top, but his feckless, clueless, fearless hero is almost appealing enough to save the day.