Kirkus Star


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A very well-done if bleak and cynical chiller from an old pro (The Flames of Heaven, 1993, etc.) in which Army counterintelligence operatives battle hit men from an erstwhile Soviet republic. Purposely kneecapped by a local warlord's top gun during a goodwill trip to a Baltic backwater, Major Christopher Ritter is nearly through rehab when he learns from Colonel Jeb Bates that Charlene Whyte, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Humanitarian Affairs, wants him as an aide. The widowed Ritter (who still mourns his wife, a cancer victim) meets with Whyte in the Pentagon, but refuses assignment to her staff on several counts: He and Whyte had been lovers in college, and in the interim she's become a virulently anti-military dragon lady of the left. After their meeting, however, while Whyte and Ritter are standing in a hallway, an ex-KGB general blows her office and himself to kingdom come, dragging the good soldier into a twisty high-stakes game of the sort he despises. Unbeknownst to Ritter and Bates (who's now a player), Whyte has her own agenda. The dead Russian general had planned to sell her evidence that Korean War POWs were executed by the Soviets; in turn, Whyte was to deliver these proofs to Senator Oliver Cromwell, her political patron and a lackey of commercial interests that want to destroy pictures that could cost them petroleum business in the former USSR. Ritter winds up babysitting the late general's daughter, Nadya Morozova, a dishy psychopath with whom he becomes sexually involved. She, too, though, has considerable personal ambitious, and slips away from the broody Ritter. The whole ugly mess is resolved in a violent, ironic confrontation on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Ritter comes face to face with the Eurasian assassin who crippled him. An elegantly written, engrossing, wintry tale, notable for its conviction that East/West clashes did not end with the Cold War.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1995
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Pocket