CRONUS by William L. DeAndrea


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MENTOR is ""the slickest missile computer guidance system the world's ever seen,"" and the US has a jump on the USSR in MENTOR production--thanks to electronics-manufacturer Herbert Fane. But then Fane's daughter Liz is kidnapped by Moscow-backed terrorist Leo Calvin and his hideous gang. The ransom, demand? Liz will die unless Fane calls off MENTOR production. So the top-secret ""Agency"" goes into action, with super-duper-agent Clifford Driscoll reluctantly taking on the assignment to foil Calvin's scheme and rescue Liz. (According to DeAndrea's comic-book plot, bitter Driscoll, programmed since infancy for spy-work, is the offspring of the monstrous Agency spy-chief and a Soviet spy-prisoner, who was cold-bloodedly impregnated, then died in childbirth.) How will Driscoll neutralize the kidnappers' threats? Well, with help from Liz Fane's beautiful actress-cousin, he comes up with an elaborate, implausible scheme to send Fane fake kidnap/ransom demands that order him to continue work on MENTOR--confusing poor Fane, forcing the real kidnappers out into the open to prove their credibility. (Liz, brainwashed à la Patty Hearst, makes a brief, in-person public appearance.) And, while thus smoking out and tracking down the kidnappers, Driscoll is also trying to figure out if there's a Soviet sleeper-spy somewhere close to the Fane family. . . and if this somehow ties in with a long-time, widespread KGB spy-plan codenamed ""Cronus."" Solid mystery-writer DeAndrea (Killed in the Ratings) has a potentially potent idea in the ""Cronus"" secret, reminiscent of Frank Ross' Sleeping Dogs (1978); there's even a promising thematic link between ""Cronus"" and Driscoll's own skewed family-history. Unfortunately, however, these flickers of resonant spy-drama are hardly more than footnotes here--coming at the end of a busy yet sluggish melodrama: pulpy, crude, cartoonishly farfetched.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1984
Publisher: Mysterious Press--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux