The cold war still simmers on a back burner in this industrious but uninvolving thriller that spins around a plan to assassinate Castro. First-novelist Sanford is good at portraying action, but his protagonist, David Knight, rarely gets a chance to do anything but listen to the various participants in the plot and counterplot who tell him what's going on. He's almost always reacting rather than acting. Sanford tries to make up for that by having him move from Miami to Madrid to various spots in Mexico to Key West and to react with feverish emotion, but the strategy doesn't solve the problem of a too passive hero. Like the author, Knight is a Miami lawyer. He starts the book with two strikes against him: he lost his wife and daughter in a tragic accident and has been kicked out of his counter-espionage job with the FBI because he mysteriously failed a lie-detector test. The cold war is kept on the bubble by the assumption that the KGB wants to restore the old ways in the Soviet Union by killing Castro and pinning it on the CIA in league with Cuban exiles. The story posits a secret pro-Castro but anti-Soviet group within Cuba that gets wind of the plan and intends to stop it. None of this is made exactly believable, which might not matter if the story were faster paced. But Sanford isn't writing a legal brief and needs to put his prose on a diet if he's going to run the kind of race that moves so swiftly there's no time for questions. On the plus side, he's clear and adept at verisimilitude. An earnest, workmanlike but insufficiently gripping debut in the spy-thriller genre.