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Deadeyed British soldier-of-fortune Jack Elliot--hired in 1978 by wealthy Cambodian refugee Ang Yuon to retrieve the family he abandoned during the evacuation of Phnom Penh--runs into all the obstacles you'd expect, and then some. To start with, Yuon's family has been split up: his wife Serey and daughter Ny are still home, but his 12-year-old son Hau has been conscripted and sent to the Vietnamese border against the coming invasion. Together with Mike Slattery, a hard-driving Australian dying of cancer, and Billy McCue, a tunnel rat who served three tours with the Big Red One, Elliot manages to survive a warm-up betrayal by his Thai supplier Tuk Than and cross over into Cambodia. By the time he finds Hau, though, one of his mates will be dead and the other at his throat. Back in England, more trouble brews, as the death of Elliot's long-estranged wife tips off his dewy-eyed daughter Lisa that her father is alive, and she jets off on his trail--only to fall with indecent haste into the clutches of Bangkok madam La Mère Grace and (of course) Tuk Than. The story's middle section--which crosscuts between Elliot & Co. blazing away with AK-47's at anything that rustles the jungle foliage and Lisa in ever greater peril of the worst that can happen to a white woman--bursts with overripe clichÉs, but the closing turns darker: As the few IRA survivors of Elliot's last job plot against him, the Vietnamese flood into Cambodia, sending Elliot and his charges scurrying over to Vietnam and across the sea to Malaysia before a final sorrowful reunion with Yuon. May (The Man With No Face, 1951) gives his Mission: Impossible yarn the boost of sharp locations, passionate decrials of the world's indifference to the region's suffering, and a distinctly original handling of the genre's conventions.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1993
Page count: 340pp
Publisher: St. Martin's