Sit back and enjoy the first 200 pages of this two-tone debut novel: the usually very serious Mr. Harris (Freedom Spent, etc.) has concocted a highly serviceable stretch of escapist chase-suspense in the Hitchcock tradition, beginning when New England reporter John Flood wakes up nearly dead from poison in an alley next to the body of a murdered woman. He's been framed, of course, and after he desperately scrambles to destroy the heaps of phony evidence planted in his apartment, he starts investigating. With the help of the dead woman's sister, he learns that the woman was killed by her husband--owner of a local flag-pole company--because she caught on to some Big Secret. And by sneaking around, Flood uncovers that secret: the flag-pole company is a Soviet front that has sold flagpoles to all key U.S. military installations (plus the White House), and in those flag-poles are transmitters that will guide short-range missiles (Flood finds one) right to their targets--the perfect set-up for an instantaneous Soviet military victory! Flood, now chased by both the cops and the Russian spies (who are equipped with killer dogs), must get to Washington and tell the President; and a perfectly paced, terrifically filmable East Coast chase-arama it is. Then at last Flood is in Washington, telling all to the President et al., and. . . it's all anticlimax as Harris starts writing another kind of novel altogether, all about the hypocrisy of politicians and the ruthlessness of government: ""Flood watched them, thinking that it wasn't only the Russians and the Chinese who threatened the survival of the race, it was all the leaders of the world. They were the enemies."" Other novels have blended this theme into suspense fiction nicely, but here it's a hamfisted sermon tacked onto a tale that has been working on a purely formula-entertainment level. A shaky mix, plus: a would-be shocker of an ending that seems unmotivated and gratuitous. Still, Flood is a likably downbeat hero; and those first 200 pages are fast and strong--probably strong enough to pull most readers through that talky, message-y finale.