A global Third Reich. . . One big Supreme Court, each chair owned by a fanatic . . . that group of men who've come together to promote a kind of violence that'll stun the world, toppling governments. . . ."" Don't Ludlum fans ever get tired of this same cartoon-conspiracy plot, shamelessly recycled virtually every other year? Apparently not. So here it is again, with fewer frills and convolutions than usual: the plot--though stretched out to 650 pages with repetitious talk and minor complications--is surprisingly straightforward this time around. Joel Converse, a young-ish lawyer on assignment in Geneva, is approached by old chum Avery, who (on behalf of an anonymous client) offers Joel $500,000 to undertake a patriotic mission against some world-wide conspiracy. Moments later, naturally, Avery is murdered--and Joel's on his way to Greece, where Avery's colleague outlines the mission: six militaristic super-fascists from six countries (US, UK, France, Germany, Israel, So. Africa) plan to take over the Western world by fomenting violence; to prevent this, Joel must somehow use legal means to undermine the plotters. Implausible? Indubitably. But Joel's off and running nonetheless--meeting the bad guys in Paris and Bonn, trying (idiotically) to infiltrate their group. Not that the bad guys are much more efficient: they capture Joel several times but keep allowing him to escape; they also frame him for a half-dozen murders. And so Joel, realizing that the ""Aquitaine"" conspirators have allies within all the Western governments, is now a fugitive from justice too, trying to get to Washington alive to convince someone in US power about the Aquitaine threat. The only person who seems to believe him: ex-wife Valerie, who rescues Joel in Amsterdam, takes his messages to America (more deaths ensue), and eventually joins him in the long countdown finale--when Joel (with CIA help at last) crushes the Aquitaine leadership, arranges an assault on the Aquitaine communications-center. . . but doesn't quite succeed in averting the assassination-festival which Aquitaine has already scheduled. Sounds familiar? Of course it does: to an even greater extent than previous Ludlums, this reads like second-rank John Buchan with a case of elephantiasis. Still, there's more old-fashioned action here--and much less murk--than in some recent Ludlum thrillers; and if some fans may miss the mysterious atmosphere, others will appreciate the absence of intricate, headache-inducing gobbledygook.