NEEDLES by William H. Deverell
Kirkus Star

NEEDLES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Tough, wily prosecuting attorney vs. psychopathic Chinese heroin-smuggling mastermind--a taut, raw duel-to-the-death in Vancouver, Canada, with one compelling irony: the prosecutor himself is a heroin addict having trouble finding his fixes. He's Foster Cobb, an ex-con who overcame his youthful delinquency, got a law degree, married the boss' daughter, and kicked his habit. . . till his marriage started crumbling and his career dead-ended. And now he's been handed the job of finally nailing Dr. Au P'ang Wei, the cool emperor of the Hong Kong/Vancouver connection, whose latest castration-homicide (a flunky-turned-Judas) was observed, up close or from afar, by at least three willing witnesses. Plus: when Dr. Au sends his chief hitman to kill two of the three witnesses, the hitman is captured and third-degree'd, providing the prosecution with a fourth witness! Dr. Au remains cool, however, and so does his flamboyant attorney Smythe-Baldwin (""the high-priced spread"")--because Dr. Au's alibi is that at the time of the murder he was having dinner with. . . Corporal Everit Cudlipp, senior officer, narcotics division, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Cudlipp has been heavily bribed, of course, and the highlight of the elaborate courtroom battle is strung-out Cobb's shattering of Cudlipp's testimony--which he's able to manage only after a cop chum notices Cobb's withdrawal symptoms and discreetly slips him some stuff. But the end of the trial is only the beginning of Cobb's ordeal: Dr. Au is set on vengeance, and even when Cobb and his new love, chatty attorney Jennifer Tann, are flown to an island retreat, Dr. Au's henchmen track them down for a finale of rape, hypodermics, shoot-outs, near-castration, and perhaps Cobb's final release from that monkey on his back. First-novelist Deverell may lay on the Fu Manchu routine a bit thick (""He tinkled the piano of the fat man's torso. . . and composed toccatas of pain""), and there are amateurish lapses in the romantic interludes. But the plotting is generous with wicked twists, the cops and lawyers are sweet-and-sourly unromanticized, and the courtroom banter is thoroughly convincing. A rich, textured, just slightly overdone trick-and-treat for unsqueamish action-suspense fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1979
ISBN: 155022543X
Publisher: Little, Brown