ALL RISKS MORTALITY by Peter Cunningham


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As in his first novel (Noble Lord, 1986, by ""Peter Lauder""), here Cunningham delivers a complex, sinewy thriller in which terrorist conspiracy--this time, nuclear--links into the world of Thoroughbred horse racing. When the world's most heavily insured racehorse, Cornucopia, dies of cancer, Manhattan insurance adjuster Matt Blaney flies to France to investigate. Can he save his partner's one-million share of the payout by proving negligence or foul play? That the horse died an unnatural death seems likely when a pretty groom at Cornucopia's stable is clobbered right after Matt dines with her; it's certain when Matt discovers an injection mark on the horse's corpse. Back in the US, Matt survives a machine-gun attack and accuses Barbara Galatti--disenchanted wife of the billionaire owner of Cornucopia--of complicity in the nag's death. Meanwhile, three parallel plotlines evolve: Galatti's bank calls for payback of a massive loan, leading to the murder of one banker and the sexual blackmailing of a second; an Israeli nuclear scientist, adopted son of Galatti, is extorted into assembling a homemade plutonium bomb; and an Israeli agent tails Galatti. Spiralling one around the other, the plots slowly converge as it's revealed that Galatti is a former top Nazi who, in order to avoid financial ruin, has not only killed the horse for the insurance but has agreed to engineer the nuking of Israel's Knesset for a whopping one-billion payoff from Arab powers. Over the corpse of Mrs. Galatti--killed on her husband's orders for fear of her telling all--Matt and the Israeli agent cross paths; they join forces in a sprinting climax that has them tracking down the scientist, only seconds away from turning Jerusalem to dust. With lovely clockwork plotting but low emotional impact, this kaleidoscopic, fitfully suspenseful thriller is by no means sleepy-time reading but demands--and, for its brilliant mechanism, warrants--hawk's-eye perusal.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1988
Publisher: Little, Brown