Kirkus Star


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Mills (Report to the Commissioner) tries to stir up some three-dimensional interest here in the mysterious character of CIA agent Peter Harley--but this novel of drug-smuggling rings in Thailand works just fine as textured, atmospheric action-suspense, with the Harley hoo-hah providing only a minor grace note. Mills' narrator is freelance writer Tony Deniset, who takes a faraway assignment to escape from the guilt-ridden memory of his wife's skiing-accident death. His assignment: get the story on special narcotics agents working to cut off the Thailand-Singapore-U.S.A. connection. So Tony latches on to Peter Harley, the fiercest narc in Bangkok, who has joined forces with ""the only honest cop in Thailand"" to get the goods on sleek, creepy Lichai--the top opium trafficker. Tony tags along as Harley tries again and again, usually in the pre-dawn hours, to catch a Lichai courier in the act or get a Lichai flunky to turn stool pigeon--but strange inconsistencies keep turning up. Why is Harley (who lives with American Embassy lovely Sandra) going out with Lichai's slinky daughter? And why does a mysterious visitor to the Embassy try to bribe Tony into not writing about Harley? These puzzles fade into the background, however, when Harley and Tony head south to totally corrupt Songkhla, where a key link in Lichai's operation might be expose-able--a teen prostitute and her courier brother are willing to spill the beans and gather evidence in exchange for passage to the U.S. But this attempt fails too, and Harley must take vigilante action to win his one-on-one duel with Lichai before disappearing. . . presumed dead. Tony goes on to find ""the truth about Peter Harley""-his chameleon CIA past--but it's the scene-by-scene vividness that lifts this adventure above its fairly routine plotting: superb dialogue, an array of grimily colorful characters, and an easy command of the local habits and habitats--including, for instance, the Thai delight in farting contests. Not quite the Le Carr‚ labyrinth that Mills seems to be striving for, perhaps, but solid, suave, high-class exotic suspense.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1979
Publisher: Dutton