MASQUERADE by Gayle Lynds


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An overlong, tiresome debut from erstwhile think-tank editor Lynds. Here, high-ranking CIA renegades are engaged in a sinister scheme to destabilize the EU and make themselves a considerable fortune in the aftermath of its collapse. At the start, though, Sarah Walker is less concerned with conspiracy than with who she is. One fine day, the pop journalist comes to in a Santa Barbara condo with a new face but no recall of her identity. Assured by government men that she's really Liz Sansborough, an intelligence agent who had a nasty fall, Sarah eventually realizes that her putative ID is false. Escaping from the remote complex where she's been sent by CIA gun Hughes Bremner for retraining, Sarah, with considerable aid from scapegrace agent Asher Flores, makes her way to Denver. After a deadly shootout with gunsels dispatched by Bremner (who needs the new, improved Sarah as bait to trap the Carnivore, the world's number-one contract assassin), the outlaw pair heads for Europe to sort out the Liz/Sarah muddle. In Paris, they learn that Sarah (whose memory returns once she quits taking CIA-prescribed pharmaceuticals) was brainwashed to facilitate her use as a pawn in the two-track game being played by Bremner. The perfidious spy (who's been bending the minds of the French cabinet as well) plans not only to eliminate the Carnivore but also to trigger a sharp decline in the value of the franc to enrich himself and his loyal accomplices. Resilient Sarah and Asher, now lovers, uncover the nefarious plot just in the nick (with grudging assistance from a gang of over-the-hill operatives). Meanwhile, sound-bite Sarah has a surfeit of opportunities to comment on the action (""Europe's got enough problems without economic anarchy, darling"") and other weighty matters. A tedious would-be thriller that quickly shows itself to be a sheep in wolf's clothing.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Doubleday