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It's 1976. Mao is ailing. His wife Jiang is planning a coup. The Russians ""are planning to utilize the coup as a cover for invading China and capturing the Chinese oil and coal fields."" So Henry Kissinger asks his old friend, widower Marc Slater, a China-born industrialist, to become a special US agent. His mission? To alert purged leader Deng Xiaoping to these dangers--and to convince him to unite with Mao's #2 man, Hua Guofeng, to fend off Jiang and the Russians. Off to China goes Slater, then, where he teams up with an assortment of US/Chinese operatives--including CIA beauty Linda Forbes, whose long-lost grandfather happens to be General Liu Teyu, a Deng ally. Meanwhile, of course, the Russians are up to no good--with various KGB agents scheming to foment a Chinese civil war (terrorism, the kidnapping of an English lord), to set off an invasion in Xinjiang province. Also meanwhile, the eccentric Jiang is planning the post-Mao coup: with help from chic jade-trader Alexandra Koo, she's acquiring top weapons (in exchange for art-treasures); she's using her opium-trade ties to arrange for assassination plots; she steals Mao's will (which names Hua as successor) and substitutes a forgery. So, while Linda manages to get evidence of this forgery (largely by coincidence), Mark makes contact with Deng, survives an earthquake (which kills his new Chinese sweetheart), saves the life of General Liu, and avoids a couple of Jiang-inspired attacks. And, after Mao's death, Linda is imprisoned--but escapes in time to arrange for the original will to be secretly returned to the vault. . . while Marc warns Hue of a Russian assassination plan. Unfortunately, however, despite this busy fact/fiction plotting, Siris' first novel is short on action--with much of the scheming chatted about rather than dramatized. And the large cast of characters--except for the ruthless Jiang--remains flat and faceless. Still, the Hong Kong/Peking/provincial backgrounds are informatively sketched; China-history buffs may appreciate the fanciful speculations; and readers who find most thrillers too violent, sexy, or tricky might conceivably welcome a plodding, tame affair like this one.

Pub Date: March 18th, 1983
Publisher: Putnam