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Back in 1944, Lord Mountbatten succeeded in getting Mao Tse-tung's signature on a promise to extend the British lease on Hong Kong for another hundred years if Mao came to power in China. Now, with the months ticking down on the original lease, a race is on for the last surviving copy of the Chungking Covenant. Sound familiar? It's a virtual rehash of Higgins' last, Thunder Point (1993) -- but don't tell that to stalwart, nondescript Brigadier Charles Ferguson or his dashing one-time IRA enemy and present right-hand man Scan Dillon, fresh from thwarting an assassination attempt against the American President in London. (This preliminary plot winds down so rapidly that you just know the assassins weren't really trying.) Now Ferguson and Dillon are detailed to retrieve the Chungking Covenant from among the personal effects of its late courier, Major Ian Campbell, so that the Prime Minister can burn it before it throws the Hong Kong political situation into chaos. Meantime, though, Palermo's capo di tutti capi, Don Giovanni (!), gets wind of the document and, determined to extend the season on the Mafia's Hong Kong resort interests, deputizes his polo-playing, construction mogul nephew Carl Morgan and Morgan's stepdaughter Asta to grab the Covenant before Her Majesty's authorities can destroy it. The Morgans lease Campbell's manor house from his elderly sister, Lady Katherine Rose; Ferguson, Dillon, and Inspector Hannah Bernstein lease the adjoining hunting lodge. Now begins a battle of wits and nerves, with each side cultivating the other's matey acquaintance and assiduously leaking disinformation about its plans. By the time Lady Katherine suddenly remembers what really happened to her brother's personal effects, the stage is set for one of Higgins' kitchen sink finales, with the principals scuba diving, stealing, kidnapping, parachuting, and assaulting their way into your hearts still again. Nowhere near the top of Higgins' form, but his hordes of devoted fans won't mind this dog-and-pony show one more time.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1994
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam