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THE CROMWELL FILE by William Harrington



Pub Date: March 31st, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's

Harrington's 13th entry into the suspense lists gets off with a bang when Da Vinci's The Last Supper explodes all over the page. This is the third atrocity perpetrated by a terrorist known only as ""Oliver Cromwell"" to the team of international sleuths that has been assembled to stop him from destroying the religious treasures of Europe. We soon meet our antihero: blond, handsome David Tomas Betancourt, an Anglo-Argentine who has become a KGB operative. This agency has sent him on an anti-Catholic rampage because it believes that blowing up Church treasures will ""send a message"" to the Pope to stop meddling in Iron Curtain affairs. The scenario devolves into a race between Betancourt and his trackers. He is plotting nothing less than the assassination of the Prince and Princess of Wales at an Anglo-French ceremony in Notre Dame. The trackers are gathering in the skeins of information that will finally identify ""Oliver Cromwell,"" determine just what he is up to, and--at the last palpitating second--stop him from perpetrating this dire deed. (Why does the KGB want to kill Charles and Diana? Betancourt has persuaded them that, if it is arranged to look like an IRA plot, an outraged England will invade Ireland--thus shattering the Anglo-American alliance.) Although Harrington is a master plotsman, he can't quite pull this one off. Betancourt, his American girlfriend Emily Bacon, various KGB honchos, the anti-terrorist gumshoes, and the motley group of young people from the IRA who are to do the dirty work in the Notre Dame bombing have no more individuality than a deck of pinochle cards. As always, though, Harrington's great on detail: we learn more about the technology, construction and detonation of terrorist bombs, as well as the logistics of missions of destruction than--let us hope--we will ever need or want. In sum: a preposterous scenario, cardboard characters, but a smashing last act (and a final curtain with more bodies than Hamlet) that rates at least one round of applause.