TO RIDE A TIGER by Matthew Heald Copper


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A worldclass arms-merchant lays an elaborate false trail of arms shipments to disguise the delivery of nukes to Angola: this is the stuff of Cooper's (When Fish Begin to Smell, 1984) second espionage thriller. Englishman Tom Hayter, the urbane, ice-cold operator at the center of this web--a villain plucked from Central Casting--is playing a triple game, ostensibly shipping arms through Israel to help the Iranian war effort, while actually assembling a shipment of nukes for South Africa at the behest of a dissident CIA faction, and undercutting them by promising the Russians, for an extra three million, to divert the shipment to Angola. But Hayter has reckoned without Nowak, a dogged CIA desk officer, who makes life difficult for Hayter, without ever quite catching up to him (or making the nuclear connection). Nowak's exertions compel the elimination of the CIA's entire Israeli section; oddly, this causes nary a ripple. Nowak is the sole survivor, but he has lost the confidence of the Director, so must pursue Hayter on his own. In mid-Atlantic, Hayter fires a tactical nuclear shell from a howitzer, to show the Russians he has the goods. This prompts routine sound and fury on the Washington-Moscow hot line, and a blackmail attempt by Hayter that backfires when Nowak, now back in favor as the White House emissary, throws him overboard and sails off into the sunset with the six million the White House had reluctantly earmarked for Hayter. Cooper can manage small-scale finagling convincingly, and he knows how to keep his story (and the globe-trotting Hayter) moving, but the brisk pace cannot save this creaky melodrama as it springs too many unforeshadowed surprises and slides into a ludicrous denouement.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1985
Publisher: Vanguard