BLACK HEART by Eric Van Lustbader
Kirkus Star


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Two conspiracies, one Cambodian super-killer, one Vietnamese super-killer, several Oriental sex-princesses, and an American hero with Eastern martial-arts skills: Van Lustbader, after the porno-tedium of Sirens (1981), has returned to Ninja territory--with a grossly overplotted, sporadically intriguing tale of politics, vengeance, and murder. The first to die: N.Y. Gov. John Holmgren, from an apparent heart attack during secretarial sex (à la Rockefeller). . . but really from a poison dart of Oriental persuasion. What's going on here? Well, arms-tycoon D. D. Macomber is out to control the US by installing his own puppet-Prez (a blackmail victim)--and Holmgren was a rival candidate. Macomber's chief ally: Cambodian superman Khieu, who (as we learn in 1960s flashbacks) has much reason to hate the US, the Vietnamese, and the Khmer Rouge too. But meanwhile, as handsome Khieu continues killing off obstacles to the Macomber scheme, Holmgren's aide Tracy Richter--a Viet vet and former agent for the CIA-like ""Foundation""--is investigating his boss' murder, with gruff help from sleazy N.Y. cop Thwaite. (They find a unique bug in Holmgren's office--which leads Tracy to Hong Kong for assorted adventures.) Meanwhile, too, agent Kim of the Foundation--a Vietnamese super-hit-man with his own clutch of hatreds--is supposedly on Tracy's side. . . but is really working for an Asian conspiracy called ""The Panel."" (They have their own reasons for wanting Macomber's Prez scheme to succeed--so Kim is ordered to kill Tracy . . . who once saved Kim's life!) And soon all paths are crossing, bloodily, especially since the major characters coincidentally have overlapping obsessions with mistresses, long-lost and otherwise: after killing Tracy's father, for instance, Khieu develops a grand passion for Tracy's dancer-girlfriend Lauren--whom he must kill for security reasons, urged on by his Chet Khmau (Black Heart) training. But Khieu ultimately rebels, running amok. So, just as the Prez scheme seems about to succeed (thanks in part to some Macomber-hired Arab terrorists), a series of grisly showdowns causes everything to fall apart. Outlandish and occasionally confusing--but the sex and violence are equally hardcore, the exotica is thickly vivid (mysticism, Cambodia/Vietnam history), and those who reveled in The Ninja won't be more than a trifle disappointed.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1983
Publisher: Evans