A shaky case that British media tycoon Robert Maxwell, a giant in his own eyes if not his bankers’, might have been given some help in dying when he tumbled from his yacht off the Canaries in 1991.
Thomas (Gideon’s Spies, 1999, etc.) and Dillon (The Dirty War, 1999, etc.) have both long been writing on the nasty subterranean world of intelligence operations, and here they posit that Maxwell did not drown at all, but rather was the object of an Israeli hit squad after he, ostensibly, threatened Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, with disclosing their joint activities if they didn’t pony up some big money to stave off Maxwell’s creditors. It was no secret that Maxwell was a friend of the Israeli state, dishing out financial advice and assistance with largesse, but he was also the Israelis’ conduit for disseminating a leading-edge piece of surveillance software to secret-service organizations in places like Canada, the old USSR, Zimbabwe, and Guatemala (even Osama bin Laden ultimately got one). Mossad had tricked out the software with a “trapdoor” that would allow them to listen in. Obvious fans of the spy game, Thomas and Dillon lard the story with loads of peripheral intelligence details, perhaps fascinating but not germane; address Maxwell’s many financial shenanigans; and delve into vile details his personal hygiene, all to keep up the reader’s interest in what amounts to the unscintillating tale of the Mossad using a friend to gain access to high places. There is just no conclusive proof that Maxwell died after being injected with a “lethal nerve agent.”
The avalanche of minutiae only underscores the tenuousness of the assertions, and the tale drifts along on Maxwell’s paranoia, bullying, and general unpleasantness, so undesirable a character that readers won’t care how he met his end, just as long as he did. (8-page photo insert)