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Briskly paced thriller from Case (The Syndrome, 2001, etc.), with high-tech gadgetry, old-fashioned melodrama, and much ado about “gray goo.”

What’s gray goo? It’s the McGuffin, of course. Or, as one embattled scientist attempts to explain, “Well, it’s the end of the world. At least.” Flash back to young Danny Cray confronting a gift horse. Intuitively, he knows that this one should have its mouth inspected—thoroughly. And yet the money is so good. And so desperately needed. A part-time sculptor, part-time snooper who wants very much to be full-time the former, Danny has half a dozen wonderful uses for the fat fee he’s being offered for a little elementary p.i. work. Mostly, it will require a few hours of computer jockeying, stuff he’s a natural at. So he says yes to the insouciant Jude Belzer, who later turns out to be billionaire Zerevan Zebek, whom some—not without cause—believe to be the devil.. Still, at first, the guy and the gig truly did seem a no-sweat deal. Someone’s been trashing a major client, lawyer Belzer informs Danny, and if the who and why of that could be nailed down, Belzer would take it from there. Danny does his part, is duly compensated, but is then asked to burrow a tiny bit deeper—for an add-on fee about which nothing at all is tiny. Charmed by his slick and elegant employer into further self delusion, Danny soon finds himself in Italy (Rome, Siena) on a heady whirl, first-class to his eyeteeth. Inevitably, though, there’s an awakening, and, having discovered the dangerous nature of Belzer’s megalomania, Danny has to run for his life, Belzer’s ill-disposed “bulky boys” in hot pursuit.

A standard come-to-realize, run-like-hell plot (consult your Collected Alfred Hitchcock), but Case, who writes so very well, keeps it all at a merry boil.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-345-43309-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2002


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