TOUCH THE DEVIL by Jack Higgins
Kirkus Star


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Like Helen MacInnes (below), Jack Higgins writes about international terrorism on a comic-book level--but at least Higgins' thrillers have the comic-book virtues that MacInnes' so sorely lack: speed, clarity, and non-stop action. The super-terrorist here is Ulster-born psychopath Frank Barry, a KGB hireling who kills socialists as well as capitalists. . . ""with the sole purpose of causing the maximum amount of disruption possible in the West."" So PM Margaret Thatcher authorizes Brigadier Ferguson of ""Group Four"" (DI5's anti-terrorist division) to eliminate Barry--and Ferguson decides that the one man who's tough enough to take Barry on is. . . Martin Brosnan, a Boston-born, Vietnam-scarred I.R.A. activist now serving a long sentence in the French island-rock prison of Belle Isle. Will Brosnan agree to go after Barry? Well, yes--but only after Ferguson, enlisting the reluctant help of Brosnan's old pals Liam Devlin (The Eagle Has Landed) and Anne-Marie Audin (combat-photographer, lover), convinces Brosnan that Barry was responsible for the horrible death of his beloved Norah. The scenario, then: Brosnan and his cell-mate daringly escape from Belle Isle via the foul sewer, to be rescued at sea by Devlin and Anne-Marie. Meanwhile, however, thanks to a DI5 leak, Barry (currently involved in stealing a new super-weapon from the NATO powers) finds out about Brosnan's escape/assassination scheme. So, before Brosnan can go stalking after Barry, Barry comes stalking after him: shootings ensue at Anne-Marie's French farm; Devlin and Brosnan both survive (thanks to bullet-proof vests and such); Barry kidnaps Anne-Marie; Brosnan kidnaps Barry's KGB contact in Paris; and the climax, back in England, results in Barry's death and the retrieval of that NATO super-weapon. But that's not quite The End--because bitter, weary Brosnan, having learned that he was lied to about Norah's death, must finally consider assassinating the PM herself (who's portrayed here as brave, unflappable, and a believer in ""moral imperatives""). Rife with implausibilities and rattled out in Higgins' most rudimentary prose--but a taut little winner nonetheless: violent yet clean-hearted, busy yet uncomplicated, and fast, fast, fast all the way.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1982
Publisher: Stein & Day