An engrossing thriller--and first novel--that displays a firm grasp of conspiracy theory and a light touch in making its wickedly outrageous premise at least plausible. The tale is set in 1989--when cold war exigencies still preoccupied intelligence operatives throughout the world--and is narrated by T.C. Steele, a sardonically detached analyst in the upper echelons of the National Security Agency and a Yale alum who knows his way around the establishment. At the heart of the matter is Rebecca Townsend, a gorgeous NSA recruiter who, unbeknownst to her employer, is part of a Rothschild-like clan (the ``Disciples'') that, in the wake of WW II, fanned out from Germany to the four corners of the earth. While making their way in many lands, the 12 branches of the family covertly collected the deepest military/industrial secrets of the US, Soviet Union, and a host of other nations. Four decades on, the self-anointed apostles of a genuinely new world order are preparing to release the amassed information in order to stalemate not only the superpowers but also such traditional foes as Israel and the Arab Bloc. The plot thickens when Rebecca, who's lulled her government masters into a false sense of security, falls in love with seemingly innocent young architect Tommy Wood. Co-opted by the NSA (whose eavesdropping yields bits and pieces of the unfolding story), Wood does constant battle for his ladylove's kin; he's also at her side for a slam-bang climax when she bests the hired guns of a duplicitous villain in a mid-ocean shootout to transmit data that explains, among other things, why Moscow stood by when the Berlin Wall fell. Steele offers an appropriately donnish wrap-up--with a satisfying twist that ties all loose ends into a very neat package. An impressive debut--and an elegantly executed conceit.