Mathews (a.k.a. mystery writer Stephanie Barron) returns (after The Cutout, 2001) with a spy thriller extrapolated loosely from perhaps-real events in Southeast Asia.
Stefani Fogg is a corporate superwoman just so bored with the life of riches and comfort. Not to worry: a friend is on hand to offer her training in superheroism/secret agency, and her first assignment is to investigate the goings-on behind Max Roderick’s recent troubles. Max has been in a bit of a spot since a Thai hooker turned up dead in his bed. As it happens, he’s the grandson of Jack Roderick, the famous Silk King and operative who was active in Southeast Asia in mid-century. (Jack is based on the “Legendary American” Jim Thompson, whose disappearance is a real-life mystery.) Max is also an ex-Olympic skier. Even before the mystery develops, he and Stef go on many a romantic run together, falling for each other just as people start to try to kill them. The investigations they undertake of one another threaten paradise, but all is resolved before Max nearly kills himself—skiing. Of course, it’s sabotage, but now he’s a quadriplegic. Though he might heal. Some do. But then suddenly he’s dead, having rolled his wheelchair to oblivion. As an added complication, his will had just been altered to leave everything to you-know-who. But was it really suicide? As Stef dips into mystery in exotic locales, so do we go back to Max’s grandfather’s life to see how all this got started. From there, it’s three pages of explanation for every page of action. Back in real time, Knetsch, Max’s evil lawyer, is indeed acting evil, but is he the real madman behind Max’s “accident?” It hardly matters: Stef the industrialist turned secret agent is finally having some fun.
Mathews, an ex-CIA analyst, informs us that the agency signed off on the manuscript. No secrets, then, though there are competent thrills.