STALK by Louis Charbonneau


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A wafer-thin suspenser from Charbonneau (The Ice, 1991, etc.), this one resting on a peerlessly rickety premise: What if a man and woman, each on the run using an assumed identity provided by the government, happened to meet and set up house together? Call the man Barney McLean and the woman Angela Simmons (not, of course, their real names). He's a CIA agent abruptly retired after killing the double-dealing linchpin in a South African operation; she's a Mafia bride relocated to California under the witness-protection program. When her Philadelphia mob husband, Louis Marchetti, finds out where she is and comes after her, she takes off with her three-year-old son Tony (a tyke who clearly exists only as a potential kidnap victim), and Barney, walking in on two goons sent to beat her location out of him, naturally kills them both. Meantime, Clark Coffey, a CIA killer who happens to be a partisan of the late South African agent, comes after Barney as he's tracking down leads that send him back to Philly, and Barney finds himself caught in the classic Thirty-Nine Steps dilemma, with both the bad guys and the federal agents out to get him as he searches for Angle and the kid. All the bad feelings involved lead to lots of expert action scenes, yet the excitement is all superficial: all the characters--from Barney's CIA contacts Paul Thornton and Eric Zeller to Angle's Main Line maid-of-honor Stacy Barrett or her bat-wielding brother Brad--are negligible, the principals scarcely less so (there's virtually nothing to indicate the comic or melodramatic tension that might have marked Barney and Angle's two-year live-in), and the outcome a foregone conclusion. Crash. Biff. Kapow.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1992
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Donald Fine