The race is on to participate in the quincentennial of Christopher Columbus's search for the nonstop express route to China. Jumping the gun slightly is this first novel by Frohlich, who in 15 years of preparation has at least given himself time and opportunity to get his facts straight. But, still, this labor of love--as much the story of a particularly violent period of history, covering the Spanish Inquisition and the explusion of all Jews from Queen Isabella's domain, as it is a chronicle of Columbus (alias Colon, Colombo, Colomo, Colom) and his years of adventure and despair before finally gaining the Queen's approval--uses a scattershot plotting to cover the widest possible range of historical drama. Dynamic action scenes abound--from a savage Moslem raid on an unsuspecting Christian town to the bloodbath of the Inquisition, which enriched the Queen's coffers and enabled her to mount an expensive war against the Moslem foothold in Europe, to Court intrigues and the insidious presence of the barefooted Grand Inquisitor Torquemada--but missing from this patchwork are the stitches to bind it all together. Columbus is larger than life as a passionate lover and crafty dreamer and schemer, but he falls to unify the story; his visits to Isabella are used as benchmarks for the progress of a Jewish assassination plot against her--a baldfaced contrivance at best--and one of his departures in particular serves ludicrously as the cue for the assassins to make their move. An uninspiring effort, despite the evident scholarly legwork.