Osama bin Laden lieutenant Amer Al Zaroor has a dream: a city in flames, its buildings reduced to rubble, its inhabitants dead, its neighbors maimed, cowed and utterly demoralized. It can all come true, he promises, if only al-Qaeda can hijack a nuclear device from Pakistan. Al Zaroor’s plan is ingenious and terrifyingly plausible. Since the country’s nuclear arsenal will be least secure when it’s being moved into position for a possible war against India, he hires bombers to provoke a crisis between the two nations and a crack team to grab a 200-pound device as trucks carry it over roads that are doubly treacherous. The theft goes off without a hitch—Pakistan even unwittingly cooperates by denying that any such theft took place—but the sharpest eyes over at the CIA aren’t taken in by bin Laden’s broadcast announcement that he has a bomb and intends to detonate it over a major U.S. city on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. As most of the Agency types are scurrying to secure America’s porous borders, Brooke Chandler, a field officer back stateside after barely surviving his last posting to Lebanon, voices a contrary suspicion: What if bin Laden really intends to bomb Tel Aviv in the hope of provoking Israeli and American retaliation against Iran? (Readers who scoff at the unlikelihood that America, attacked by stateless terrorists, would strike back at a sovereign state are gently reminded of our recent adventures in Iraq.) So far, so chilling. But Chandler turns out to be one more Patterson superhero with a symbolically troubled back story, an ideologically challenging ex-lover and improbably greater gifts for intelligence and survival than the disposable supporting cast.Patterson (In the Name of Honor, 2010, etc.) grabs you with an all-too-plausible fantasy of nuclear Armageddon, but the tension oozes away in the wait for his fictional puppets to hit their preordained marks. Sometimes truth is scarier than fiction.