THE ZERO TRAP by Paula Gosling


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Gosling (Fair Game) doesn't write at all well--stagy dialogue, clichÉ characters--and her plotting strains credibility at every turn. But this relatively small book packs in so many ingredients--a cup of hijacked hostages (a poor-man's Cannibals and Missionaries), a pinch of Christie's Ten Little Indians, an ounce of survival ordeal--that a good many readers may be fairly well entertained. It all begins when a handful of people board a plane in the Mideast headed for Europe. . . and wake up a few drugged hours later in an isolated mansion somewhere near the Arctic. The hostages are the familiar motley group--a genteel professor, a sexy nightclub singer, a cop with an accused murderer in tow, an engineer with wife and cute kid, a soldier, heroine Laura--and while they get on each other's nerves and await the sporadic visits of masked guards, Laura's father (a U.N.-connected general) receives photos of the hostages and the anonymous terrorists' demands: $3 million in gold, prisoners released, cancellation of an Arctic model-city, and a concert of some mysterious unpublished music. Can professor Skinner (who's a super-hero, of course, beneath the milquetoast) figure out how to give clues to the hostages' location in the periodic photos of the hostages taken by the guards? Who among the hostages is really a traitorous secret agent on the run? Is Laura falling in love? (""She realized she desperately wanted this soft-spoken professor of astronomy."") Then one of the hostages is murdered (one of them must be a killer!). And then the house's generator fails--and the novel turns into an icy survival ordeal, the hostages huddling in a makeshift tent. . . till the house burns down. Plus: a long finale that includes a rescue, a chase on mountains, and a double-surprise murder solution à la Christie. . . . True, not one element in this derivative mÉlange is carried off wish much style; and the terrorist mastermind's motives are cartoon nonsense. But it's all undeniably busy and eager to please--an inoffensive mystery/suspense potpourri that works well enough on a TV-movie level.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1980
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Goeghegan