First-novelist Simpson seems unsure whether he's writing an espionage novel or merely a scenario for future global chaos--and the result is a disjointed, completely uninvolving series of international vignettes. The crisis begins with the assassination of Russia's KGB Chairman by a dissident, which leads to a Politburo shake-up, with a more belligerent Party Secretary taking over. So: troops into Poland, attempts to isolate Berlin, and Soviet support for a coup in Saudi Arabia. America responds with a counter-coup; there's US/Soviet naval confrontation in the Gulf. And finally both the US and Europe seem headed for cowardly isolationism as a European Disarmament Conference gets underway in Vienna. Simpson (political editor at the BBC) fails to make any of this blueprint-for-disaster convincing: the world leader dialogue is implausible (especially with Americans using British-isms); the motivations are sketchy. And the flimsy personal story that weaves in and out--about a British diplomat, his Russian mistress (who manipulates him), and a Russian GRU officer (who is eventually trapped by the British)--is merely distracting, with its tenuous links to the world-wide complications. Neither detailed enough for fanciers of political forecasts nor dramatized enough for fiction readers: an ineffectual (and already dated) first novel.