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Stein has given millions of readers solid commercial entertainment or sensationalistic schlock, but not this time: his latest--with a title whose significance will become clear, in one of Stein's few surprises--isn't even competent exploitation. Susan Whitcomb is a young New York lawyer whose 50-ish former teacher, Farlan Adams (who can ""make you wet just by talking""), wants to marry her. But Adams' designs on Susan are blocked temporarily when her father, a career Army officer secretly gathering intelligence on terrorists, is assassinated in Rome, and when it becomes clear that the gang that killed him is after his family. David Smith, the mysterious figure assigned to protect Susan and her mother, falls for her, too, and after Stein establishes an unfriendly rivalry between the two suitors, you'll never guess what happens next: Those terrorists turn up again, kidnap Susan, and threaten her with murder, rape, and the loss of her right ring finger. David, working with his own shadowy organization and the FBI, rescues Susan but is shot, paralyzed, and, in the novel's opening chapter, killed by Farlan. Susan agonizes over what she should do but decides to defend Farlan--even though she's sure he's guilty. Finis. Stein's uncertainty about whether his subject is international intrigue or a romantic triangle (the plots keep elbowing each other aside), his decision to parcel out his story among a dozen different narrators, and his padding the novel with irrelevant episodes (e.g., Susan helps a mom-and-pop record company win a lawsuit)--all guarantee that no matter how compelling individual events may be, the novel carries no conviction. For Stein's fans only, and even they'll need to make allowances.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1989
Publisher: McGraw-Hill