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Can the mayor of Beverly Hills write a passable crime thriller? Yes--but to judge from this only competent and often offensive tale of a Gotham Assistant D.A. taking on terrorists, not one nearly as good as those he wrote when he was simply a hard-writing former prosecutor (No Lesser Plea; nonfiction: The Piano Teacher, Badge of the Assassin). Tanenbaum resurrects most of the colorful cast of No Lesser Plea here, including hero Roger Karp, and again sets bis story in the mid-70's, when Tanenbaum held Karp's Manhattan A.D.A post. The action begins as a band of Croatian terrorists hijack a 727 and plant a bomb in Grand Central. The bomb kills a cop, so after the terrorists--led by legendary Croatian nationalist Djordje Karavitch--surrender, Karp prosecutes them vigorously--only to run into heel-dragging, case-tampering resistance by his boss, by the feds, and by the Catholic Church, which has hired America's top criminal lawyer to defend the killers. What's going on? With back-up from several broadly ethnic colleagues, including his sexy and foulmouthed Italian lover, Marlene Ciampi, Karp is stalked and shot at by anti-Castro Cuban drug-runners; mixes it up with Yugoslavian intelligence: is kidnapped by Israeli Mossad agents--and slowly peels back layers of deceit to reveal a WW II secret: not only is Karavitch under Catholic/FBI protection for his anti-Communist activities (despite being linked to wartime atrocities) but he really isn't Karavitch at all--he's a disguised Nazi war criminal. With this revelation, though, the novel takes a surprising and shocking nose-dive, mutating into a would-be comic geek-show as Karp and Co. indulge in sexual harassment, probable rape, extortion, and misuse of the mentally disturbed to attain a relatively just solution. Chugs along at a fair clip while offering an insider's look at the rusty wheels of Gotham justice: but with its irksomely complex and far-fetched plot, not lo mention its self-satisfied writing and characters, this is an under-par offering from a writer who's done much better.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1989
Publisher: New American Library