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An ex-con and a partner race to head off a nuclear Armageddon in this thriller from Mills (Fade, 2005, etc.).

Wily Brandon Vale is a crack poker player, able to bluff, stare down and out-deal anyone at his table. That makes him the man to carry out a critical international mission that has a circle of protagonists reading each other’s eyes and moves like, well, men at a poker table. The problem is that Vale is a jailbird, falsely sent up for a jewelry heist. No problem, though, because one rainy night, a firm run by Edwin Hamdi, top security advisor to the president, easily springs Vale from prison. Hamdi wants Vale and associate Catherine Juarez to head to the Ukraine and steal 12 nuclear warheads from an organized-crime group. Hamdi tempts Vale with Juarez, who can shoot, karate kick and serve a steak dinner laced with sex appeal. Hamdi’s plea that Vale can save America by keeping the nukes from the hands of terrorists doesn’t hurt either, and soon Vale and Juarez agree to go. But first, they have to come up with money to finance the operation, by hijacking a tractor-trailer headed from Las Vegas to San Francisco that’s loaded with millions of dollars. The extended road-chase action scene out of the way, the team skips off to the Ukraine, in great peril, it’s revealed, because Hamdi’s actual plan is a final solution that will use the nukes to wipe out the Arabs and the Israelis. Vale and Juarez eventually end up in Jordan driving a truck loaded with one of the nukes, which threatens to obliterate promises of new faces and new lives for them in South America.

Vale’s mordant wit is refreshing, but the double-crosses and final outcome are predictable, and the plot more far-fetched than frightening.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 2006
ISBN: 0-312-33575-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2006


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