BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST by Peter Way

BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another witty, complex, farfetched espionage/conspiracy puzzle from the British author of Dirty Tricks and Icarus--and again downbeat quasi-mercenary Crispin Bridge gets caught up in the tangle. British Intelligence has received a bizarre message: a terrorist named Marcos announces that he'll be arriving at Heathrow at a certain time, that his mission is to prevent a hideous terrorist plot code-named ""Belshazzar,"" and that he requires the assistance of gunman-for-hire Crispin Bridge! Thee Mardellis, the agent who's put in charge of the case, is naturally confused. Can ""Marcos"" be believed? Or is he really planning to engage in terrorism? Furthermore, things soon become even trickier--when ""Marcos"" turns out to be a nervous young woman who eludes Theo's men, hides out with bewildered Crispin, and tells him that mysterious Operation Belshazzar is being masterminded by. . . Colonel Heller, Theo's unpleasant, German-born boss! And then two grocery-clerks in different towns (both Arabs) turn up dead, with all evidence pointing to a plot to spread botulism throughout Britain! Is there indeed such a plot? Is it a South Yemenite reaction to secret merger negotiations between the UK and OPEC? Or is it indeed a plot by Colonel Heller, who seems suspiciously eager for the PM to declare a state of emergency? Thee is frantic, Crispin is desperate (he's in hiding, having been successfully framed for murder)--so together they plot to forestall martial law by convincing the government that the botulism plot can be averted merely by the payment of some ransom money. And, meanwhile, Heller's daughter Daphne (who happens to be Theo's secret bedmate) is on her way to Tenerife--to get evidence that her father is no double-agent conspirator. . . while Crispin starts realizing that the real poisoning plot is aimed not at all England, but at that OPEC conference. Sounds complicated? Is it ever. And the explanation, when it comes, is a shameless eyebrow-raiser. But, though too disjointed for thoroughgoing suspense pleasure, this wicked jigsaw-puzzle thriller features grandly sardonic dialogue, zesty character sketches, and enough real chills to keep Way's whimsy from running amok: a welcome diversion overall, especially in this espionage-poor season.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum