DEATHWATCH by Elleston Trevor


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The USSR plans to decimate the US with a lethal new virus--in this farfetched, raggedly paced, but energetic new thriller from the author of The Theta Syndrome (1977) and, as Adam Hall, the Quiller spy/adventure series. The US starts the crisis--when we try to push Moscow into arms-control talks by scaring them with (fake) plans for a super-duper new US particle-beam weapon. Unbeknownst to Washington, however, the scheme backfires: USSR hardliners respond to this new threat with total bloodthirstiness--developing a plan, involving a just-discovered DNA-recombinant virus called L-9, to wipe out the entire US population. Meanwhile, as the L-9 Plan is being debated and refined in Moscow, British Intelligence gets some inklings of the imminent horror--from a would-be defector and from a UK spy who bugs the apartment of a USSR bigwig (both informers are killed). So British super-agent Charles Clay, a maverick type, will soon be disguising himself and sneaking into Russia in order to figure out what's going on--while the plan goes into action: the USSR unleashes a garden-variety plague on the US, creating havoc and forcing America to seal off all its borders; a defector-ballerina, in love with a Presidential aide, is blackmailed into infecting the White House staff. And at last Moscow is ready to send over a bomber-plane loaded with L-9--but now hero Clay Knows All and is in aeronautical pursuit. . . sacrificing his life so that the death-plane won't reach America. Trevor's narration here is cheerfully unfocused--casually lurching from subplot to subplot (many of them dead-ended), never giving Clay's mission enough central attention. But, despite the grisly premise and the free-form padding (at times suggesting an inflated Quiller episode), this comic-bookish suspense has a jaunty, unpretentious brio: quick, painless, if somewhat crude entertainment for readers turned off by more convoluted spy-dramas.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1984
Publisher: Beaufort