THE NUCLEAR LETTERS by Graham Lancaster

THE NUCLEAR LETTERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Yes, more bomb-minded spy terrorism--but this first novel plays down the implausibilities by ignoring the Big Scheme and concentrating instead on the involvement of one anti-heroic amateur agent: swinging, jet-set dentist Neil Janner. Janner's clientele includes Mideast hot-shots, so British Intelligence blackmails him (they could put him in jail for tax evasion) into helping them; they need to find out what a certain Cairo crook knows about the ""nuclear letters,"" anonymous and secret plutonium-bomb threats that have forced the U.S. to back down in a dozen specific foreign-policy situations since 1972 (Angola, Uganda, etc.). The plan: Janner will inject truth serum into this crook while working on his teeth in Cairo, and a CIA agent disguised as a nurse will interrogate. All goes as planned--except for some terrifying, violent side effects--and the CIA gets the information it wanted: Arabian tycoon Ahmed al-Hata is the man behind the nuclear letters! So Janner, now fully trained as an agent, goes into action again: he must somehow become al-Hata's dentist and then install a homing device in the Arab's mouth, thus leading the CIA to the plutonium stash that makes those threatening letters possible. As it turns out, al-Hata is really just a front for the Soviets, but before the CIA catches on, Janner sits in on chic sheik orgies, wins al-Hata's favor by learning all about falconry, makes it with his CIA colleague, and realizes how empty his life has been. Some cheaply lurid moments and some lumpy writing along the way, but the basic set-up is more swallowable than most, and the dentist-chair scenes are genuinely tense and surprising.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1979
Publisher: Atheneum