THE SECOND SALADIN by Stephen Hunter

THE SECOND SALADIN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hunter showed a strong talent for cool, crisp revenge-thriller material in The Master Sniper; here that talent flickers frequently--but it can't fully animate a thin, hand-me-down plot (part Follett, part Le CarrÉ) that's been unduly stretched out. A famed Kurdish rebel named Ulu Beg mysteriously appears in Mexico, then manages (with violence and bloodshed) to sneak across the border into the US. And, while Beg makes his sleazy, fearful underground way around America, the CIA starts worrying: why is Beg in America? The one man who may have the answers is ex-CIA agent Paul Chardy, who years ago led the CIA effort to support the Kurdish rebels--an effort that ended (as we learn in overextended, belabored flashbacks) in betrayal and horror: for international reasons, the CIA double-crossed the Kurds; a massacre ensued; Chardy was caught and tortured by the KGB; and both Ulu Beg and American rebel-supporter Johanna (Chardy's love) suffered horribly from the sell-out, So now the CIA wants Chardy's aid in locating and neutralizing the dangerous Ulu Beg, who is expected to turn for help to Johanna (now a Harvard staffer long estranged from Paul). And, when it becomes apparent that Beg is out to assassinate former Secretary of State Danziger (a Kissinger clone who was responsible for the CIA back-stab), Chardy is pressured into becoming Danziger's bodyguard. Chardy's loyalties are divided, however: he falls in love with Johanna again, promising her that he'll save Ulu Beg, not kill him. Furthermore, questions about Beg's motive soon crop up: just revenge or a Soviet-backed scenario? And there are extra murmurings about Cuban intelligence, about a mole in the CIA, about possible secrets which Danziger's forthcoming memohs may reveal. Hunter does best here with the assassin's seedy wanderings--which come to an inevitable bloody conclusion. And the Kurdish material is relatively fresh. But Chardy is a faceless hero, a subplot down in Mexico is dragged out interminably, and the windup is no surprise--making this solid yet undistinguished CIA/assassin thriller fare, something of a disappointment for admirers of The Master Sniper.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1982
Publisher: Morrow