CHOICE OF EVILS by Philip Ross


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Another solid, crisp, unexceptional thriller from the author of A Good Death and Hovey's Deception--this time featuring nobly intentioned kidnappers, vicious South American secret-policemen, and the two quasi-heroes (one government agent, one innocent bystander) who are caught in between. Constanza Alvarado, a grad student in London, is horrified to hear that her father back in Paraguay (a freethinking aristocrat-landowner) has been arrested for treason, imprisoned, and tortured--more because of a government official's greed than politics. So Constanza and two young friends (also Latin American expatriates) decide to kidnap Paraguayan V.I.P. Alfredo von Hochstein-Fernandez (a grandnephew of Gen. Stroessner himself!), who's honeymooning in Austria with his bride Bettina. The caper goes well at first: Constanza and her chums using fake guns, neatly abduct Alfredo and Bettina from a Salzburg restaurant, spiriting them off to an isolated villa; the kidnappers then offer to exchange the couple for Constanza's father. Meanwhile, however, ruthless Major Ruiz of Paraguay's Secret Police is hot on the kidnappers' trail. So Constanza, with reluctant help from American realtor Paul Benedict, must move her crew and her captives to another hideout--this time a castle in the Alps. And also in pursuit is veteran Austrian counterspy Herr Tolz, who will try his wise, weary best to prevent bloodshed, to encourage a peaceful swap of prisoners. . .while Major Ruiz implacably plans vengeance. Ross doesn't manage to make any of the central characters here strongly engaging or sympathetic: Paul's transformation from timid jerk to resourceful hero is especially unconvincing. And the issues involved--ends justifying the means, etc.--are as predictable as the basic plot. Still, the action sequences are taut and plentiful, with enough chases, ambushes, and hand-to-hand scuffles to please fans of old-fashioned derring-do.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1987
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's