BUZZ CUT by James W. Hall


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 A fiendishly clever saboteur goes up against the uninspired defenders of the Fiesta Cruise Lines in the seventh of Hall's increasingly overblown action fantasies. Butler Jack has a passion for etymology, an integral stun gun installed on his fingers, a consuming hatred of Fiesta mogul Morton Sampson, and a plan to bring Sampson to his knees via a demand for a $58 million ransom he wants to donate to charity. To feed his hundreds of foster kids the world over, Butler plans to override the autopilots of the Fiesta cruise ship Eclipse and Sampson's behemoth, pathetically vulnerable oil tanker Juggernaut. To carry out this James Bond plot, he needs the unwitting help of the hopeless love of his youth, Sampson's missing daughter Monica. Monica, who ran away from Daddy and his dirty millions three years ago to settle down as buzz-cut Florida maid Irma Slater, readily rises to Butler's bait even as Hall's hero Thorn, who comes across more and more like Travis McGee guest-lecturing in Philosophy 101, and his sidekick Sugarman are coming on board Eclipse to foil Butler. But wait! How can either grizzled Sugarman or disillusioned Monica stop Butler when they're actually his own brother and sister? These twisted relationships ought to be the heart of the book, but they fizzle, because Hall (Gone Wild, 1995, etc.), who pumps up his characters to near-mythic status when he first introduces them, tends to neglect them thereafter, and they shrivel like demigods with a slow leak. So you're left with smiling, venal Sampson determined to keep the lid on Butler's murderous sabotage to protect the p.r. for the cruise, a showcase for his TV star wife Lola, Butler's mom; Butler snaking through the ship zapping everybody who gets too close; and Thorn and Sugar spouting manly wisdom like ninjas on Oprah. Butler's a villain worthy of the grotesques in Dick Tracy, but the rest of the cast, including the hero, don't seem any more interested in the familiar plot than you're likely to be. (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-31234-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Delacorte
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996


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