THE CIRCLE by Steve Shagan

THE CIRCLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

What if the CIA--and longtime Washington power-broker Dr. Eric Belgrave--were really behind the 1979 assassination of Korea's strong-man Park? And what if a Reverend Moon-like figure was also involved? And what if Korea's new dictator thus has lots of blackmail power over the CIA--especially since he also has possession of ""Gemstone,"" a secret J. Edgar Hoover file with info on ""a terrifying mosaic of global treachery spanning five decades. . . ?"" And what if the Mafia is lured into the tangle by that ""Buddhist despot"" in Seoul? And what if. . . ? Well, you get the idea: this new conspiracy thriller by the author of The Formula is a complicated but brainless mishmash--one that's doggedly investigated by faceless hero Phil Ricker, U.S. Deputy Attorney General, whose attempt to expose evangelist Reverend Rhee as a Korean spy leads him into the messy, bloody maze. First a key witness against Rhee is murdered (by the CIA?). Then, thanks to the machinations of Korea's robot-like sexpot/agent Sonji (""I am ice. I am fire. . . I am semen. I am blood""), the Mafia starts feuding with Rev. Rhee, a Mafia don is killed, and vendettas begin. . . all because of the Korean despot's murkily motivated Buddhist wish to stir up trouble. And eventually Phil, surviving assorted attempts on his life, is on his way to Sicily--to protect a vengeful, deported don, to fall for double-agent Claudia Cassini, and to get his hands on ""Gemstone"" before the evil forces of demonic Dr. Eric Belgrave (whose Big, Big Secret is revealed in ""Gemstone"") catch up with him. Unfortunately, periodic summaries of the plot (sometimes with charts!) don't help to make it any less confusing, contrived, or implausible. And the overall silliness is merely highlighted by Shagan's comic-book dialogue, his Yellow-Peril rhetoric, and dollops of extraneous sex, from oriental orgies to Washington-style decadence (cocaine, a six-foot black girl, whips). Still, though crude and dumb throughout, this does move considerably more quickly than recent Ludlums, thanks largely to regular jolts of manslaughter; so, with heavy publicity and the popularity of Shagan's The Formula (which had the kind of central gimmick that's sorely missing here), a reasonably large circle of undemanding readers can be expected.

Pub Date: Aug. 6th, 1982
Publisher: Morrow