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by Robert Ludlum & Philip Shelby

Pub Date: May 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-312-26343-5
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Like Fellini’s Roma, the jacket cover here says Robert Ludlum’s The Cassandra Compact—a device we hope doesn’t catch on. Clean-prosist and coauthor Shelby wrote Days of Drums (1996).

Ludlum now hops between Covert-One original trade paperbacks bounced out with way-second-billed coauthors (The Hades Factor, with Gayle Lynds, 2000) and hardcovers written solo (The Prometheus Deception, 2000). Covert-One is the president’s personal, supersecret intelligence group unknown even to CIA, NSA, the Secret Service, or Pentagon. Bowing in as Ludlum & Co.’s fresh new hero in Hades was Colonel Jon Smith, Army doctor and virologist, and his beloved Dr. Sophia Russell, molecular biologist, who died during the outbreak of a new virus that might have wiped out mankind. Cassandra picks up Smith a year later, burying a diamond ring under Sophia’s gravestone, where he meets Dr. Megan Olson, a biochemist who has switched from jobs with the NIH and WHO to being the first alternate on the next space-shuttle mission. Will she be his new love, or will it be Sophia’s sister in Moscow, Randi Russell, who may be CIA? The twist this time is smallpox. The virus has been wiped out, but both the US and Russia keep small quantities to work with if needed. The villain is a nut who wants the Russian sample. But smallpox is too slow-acting for bio-warfare, though up in the microgravity of space, whoosh! its speed and growth turn horrendous—if only he could get the sample up to the space lab. No sooner does Smith get word that the Russian sample has gone astray than pow! it’s blastoff into Ludlumland with bodies dropping in fiery fusillades. Even teams of assassins aren’t safe, being killed off by their own bosses. And when the bugs make it into outer space, mankind faces the big chill.

Shaken readers may recite the Twenty-fourth Psalm each page. Anyone for the Apocalypse?