It's the 1990s, America is in big energy trouble, and a top White House aide asks ex-agent Harry Lime to undertake a big secret assignment: Harry (named by his immigrant father for the Orson Welles film character) is--through negotiation and/or ruthlessness--supposed to pressure the oil-producing nations into more generous policies toward the US. The first installment of Harry's tour is an implausibly smooth success--as he uses a threat of war to force Mexico into policy changes (production boosts, cost cuts). But, while Harry becomes increasingly suspicious about why he has been chosen for this assignment, the complications mount. In Europe, Harry is being trailed; his attempts to see the energy ministers in various countries lead him to Venice--where a secret conference seems to be in session: are Europe, Japan, China, and the OPEC nations banding together to counter-balance a possible US/USSR alliance on the horizon? Why is a hit-man stalking Harry? What about the apparent internecine rivalry among the White House, the military, and the CIA? All this, of course, is numbingly familiar US-spy material; and Bass brings no fresh touches to the scenarios--which end with a remarkably blah revelation. Likewise, Harry is an emotional clichÃ‰--wallowing in self-pity over his ex-wife (though finding new love with chance-encounter Cassie), demonstrating the formula blend of macho/tough and teary-tender. Very routine future-crisis spying, then: inoffensive but unconvincing and derivative.