PRELUDE TO TERROR by Helen MacInnes
Kirkus Star

PRELUDE TO TERROR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Back to Vienna, Maclnnes' favorite scenery, in a leisurely, literate, and comfortably artificial art-world adventure that's perfect for readers who find the bulk of current suspense too tricky, too gory, or too dirty. Colin Chandler, expert on the Dutch masters, is hush-hushedly hired by a millionaire collector to go to Vienna and purchase a Ruysdael landscape at auction; the picture has been sent ahead by a money-poor Hungarian planning to defect, so Colin must be discreet about the purchase--the check to the auctioneers will be drawn on a local corporation and deposited under a false name in a Swiss bank. Upon arrival, however, Colin is covertly informed by NATO agents that the would-be defector is already dead and that the check will actually go to the funding of Communist-supported terrorists: the millionaire's assistant, the local corporation, and the auctioneers are in Communist/terrorist cahoots! Colin's missions: to find out the terrorists' cover-name on the check (for NATO) and to defeat the auctioneer's attempted switcheroos and hold on to the Ruysdael (for the millionaire). One of the NATO agents, of course, is comely and comforting and kidnapped, so the second, anti-climactic section of the book finds Colin and lady agent in a romantic, remote cottage (Colin's a recent widower), surviving the onslaught of assassins who want to keep Colin from testifying. Look for taut action, complex characters, and surprise twists elsewhere; but look to MacInnes, now as ever, for an observant eye (""Vuitton combined with cardboard boxes tied with string: ostentatious I-couldn't-care-less""), the feel of foreign streets under foot, and the reassuring triumph of decency at the close.

Pub Date: Sept. 7th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich