A blistering indictment of big-ticket military procurement corruption folded into a sleek, well-muscled thriller. On his way home from his old mentor Maj. Gen. Mickey Farnsworth’s funeral, Lt. Col. John Reynolds stops off to see Emerson Carroll, a former friend now fattening himself at Macon-Bolt Industries. Em wants details about a devastating explosion at the aircraft research site of Macon-Colt’s French competitor, but John can’t tell him anything. Then suddenly Em is dead too; his impossibly beautiful girlfriend, Senate staffer Corry Nevers, is camped on John’s doorstep; John’s jealous lover, guitarist Tish O’Malley, returning Corry to Em’s apartment, finds the place wrecked (Farnsworth’s home has been more discreetly tossed); and Tish goes out to start John’s car moments before a bomb turns the car into a coffin. What’s going on here? John is abducted by a pair of Frenchmen who beat him, demand “the disks,” and assure him that they’re his only true friends. His despised former Intelligence classmate Karl Aalstrom, wangling a meeting, offers him $5 million for the disks. Ex-Gen. Roscoe (“Punchy”) Hunt, Macon-Bolt’s security chief, bumps the stakes up to $10 million. Even the French ante up a hundred thou. What exactly do the disks reveal about the staggeringly costly Next-Generation Fighter-Bomber (NGFB)? Why is everybody willing to pay and kill to get them? And if everybody’s so eager to help John get rich, why do they keep shoving guns in his face? Following the clues dropped by all the heavies who are taking turns interrogating him, John uncovers a suitably fiendish secret about the NGFB, one that’ll lead to a denouement so high in casualties it’s both unintentionally comic and deeply satisfying. Peters (The Devil’s Garden, 1998, etc.) balances all this action and intrigue on a cast just big enough to keep the double-crosses spinning. The result is one of those rare thrillers that actually kills off its villains (and there are plenty) before they wear out their welcome.