The best thing about Shelby’s latest thriller (Days of Drums, 1997, etc.) is his dewy-eyed heroine, who almost, but not quite, saves the day. Hollis Fremont, 26, is intelligent, brave, and beautiful, though certainly more trusting than is good for her. She works for the American Consulate in Paris: works hard, works diligently at what she acknowledges is foreign service drudgery--until suddenly her low-echelon job spews ramifications that no one could have predicted. Thank the thoroughly base Paul McGann for that. McGann, who never met a man (and can’t conceive of a woman) he wouldn—t feel superior to, is chief of mission at the American embassy, reporting only to the ambassador. He also happens to be Hollis’s love, although —exploiter— would be the more appropriate term. McGann is one of those oily thriller-villains who exude amorality from every pore. To cover up a rare operational gaffe, he sends Hollis out on a trumped-up operation. As a result, she’s shot at, suspected of being a terrorist, incessantly double-crossed and, overall, robbed of her innocence. On the other hand, she does meet a nice guy. Nothing oily about Sam Crawford, the regional director of Omega, an elite, hush-hush counterterrorist group, who is every ethical thing that McGann isn’t. And a hunk to boot. It’s Sam who restores Hollis’s faith in men, as together he and she “reach a place in time and space that was meant only for themselves.” Purplish prose and an overfamiliar master-criminal—the kind who intuits the zag before his victims even dream of the zig-- consigns this one to the middle of the pack. Still, likable Hollis will probably keep reader interest from flagging until past the half-way mark.