A densely detailed suspense thriller from Hugo (The Hitler Diaries, 1983) in which paranoia and a slew of second guesses fuel an explosive confrontation. It's almost Christmas when a killer describing himself as ""the incubus of pure terror"" brutally murders David Ross, his wife and three sleeping children. Ross' older brother James, a former British Army counter-terrorist, reluctantly comes out of retirement in the hope of avenging his brother. Was David--also an agent--killed because he was closing in on a shadowy free-lance terrorist known as Kaster? James Ross tracks down a leather-clad killer at the cosmetics counter of a department store and dispatches him with a skewer. But as Ross soon infers, it wasn't Kaster but his look-alike brother whom he's killed. Now, the intelligence bigwigs fear, the real Kaster is on the loose, armed with a porcelain egg of a bomb, containing--perhaps--germs to spread the plague. Spurred on by the expectations of his adversaries, Kaster (if it is really he) gears up for a New Year's Eve blast. Despite some plot convolutions that verge on absurdity (the discovery of The Last Judgment, an unknown painting by Leonardo, in an Egyptian slum) and the author's irritating fondness for epigrammatic pronouncements, this is nonetheless an intelligent take on the countdown-to-apocalypse formula.