London antique-dealer James Ryder (divorced, 42) is heading north for a vacation--when he offers a lift to lovely investigative reporter Nora Matheson, whose car has broken down. Nora, it seems, is on her way to visit a civil servant with a big secret to reveal. But, though promising to join Ryder for dinner after her interview, Nora doesn't show up: both she and the civil servant have, in fact, disappeared. Furthermore, the local police seem suspiciously unresponsive. Then the civil servant's dead body turns up in the boot of Ryder's car. So innocent-bystander Ryder must become a sleuth, of course--following up some clues in the notebook Nora left behind, which lead him to two old pros in the Intelligence biz. . . one of whom is promptly murdered by the ubiquitous bad guys. And, after a numbingly familiar series of ordeals (near-fatal car chase, kidnap, drugging), Ryder and his surviving ally try to convince the powers-that-be that someone very high-up in the government is planning a rightwing coup--with the assistance of Britain's most secret, ruthless Intelligence section. Except for one or two final twists: an utterly routine recycling of the most ancient conspiracy-suspense clichÃ‰s--delivered in prose that's sometimes mildly engaging, sometimes amateurish.