The indefatigable Gardner is at it again: fresh from his triumphant conclusion of the intricate, masterful Secret Generations trilogy with The Secret Families, he's boiling the pot once more with his eighth James Bond outing, just as predictable and expertly concocted as the others. This season's malign international conspiracy is the Brotherhood of Anarchy and Secret Terror (BAST), headed by a troika of terrorists code-named the Man, the Snake, and the Cat, but actually dedicated to enriching only one of them: Bassam Baradj (born Robert Besavitsky in HeWs Kitchen), who plans to collect the ransom of the century by infiltrating a secret meeting between President Bush; Prime Minister Thatcher, and Secretary Gorbachev aboard HMS Invincible and kidnapping the three heads of state. Bond's boss M gets wind of the threat to Invincible early on and assigns Bond back to active naval duty to protect the ship. Bond's skirmishes with the usual bevy of ambiguously alluring women--blue-blooded WRNS officer Clover Pennington; Neapolitan maid Beatrice da Ricci; Soviet Naval Attache Nikola Ratnikov--are presented with more conviction than usual. And although the plot twists--Bond is fired on during his initial run piloting a Sea Harrier; dangled invitingly in an Italian villa as an assassination target; and debriefed at a NATO installation temporarily (and preposterously) in the hands of his enemies before finally boarding Invincible, foiling BAST with his customary single-handed heroics, and unmasking the bad-guys-pretending-to-be-good-guys-pretending-to-be-bad-guys (and vice versa)--sound like a child's idea of international intrigue, Gardner manages to charm some real suspense out of Bond's attempts to guess who's on which side today. Despite too many acronyms, too much artillery, and too many layers of deceptive identity, this is still one of Gardner's better Bonds, guaranteed to make you feel excited as well as a little foolish.