John R. Maxim
William Morrow, 2003 (2003)
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Reviewed by Wesley Williamson
his novel is the latest in a series about the enigmatic Bannerman and his various associates, but this is unfortunately the first I have come across, so I am probably missing a great deal which followers of the series will immediately recognize. However, I fully intend to remedy this failing by working my way through the previous books at the earliest opportunity.
he first chapter describes events in a rebel camp in Angola, but the story really starts in a well guarded estate near Washington, D.C., where we meet a most urbane and villainous villain, Artemus Bourne, who is connected with Angola principally by his interest in monopolizing the supply of diamonds from that unhappy country. Bourne is fabulously wealthy, entertains regularly the elite of Washington, including power brokers who assist him apparently on the principle that he may be a crazy criminal but he's our crazy criminal. To cap his up-to-the-minute villainy, Bourne has biochemical factories producing deadly mutated viruses which if released could kill millions, and which have been tested on humans by his henchmen in Angola.
e has just taken delivery of a package which should have contained samples of the latest bio-weapons. He finds instead that it contains the three severed heads of his leading assistants in Angola. He suspects that this atrocity was committed by Alameo, a leader of the Angola rebels, whom he knows was in fact a former East German named Martin Kessler, who has long been believed dead. To trap Kessler, he needs to find his former lover, Elisabeth Stride, a skilled assassin known as the
. She is also believed dead, but in fact is living in retirement under her own name on Hilton Head Island, off the Carolina coast, where Kessler had, she believed, lost his life in saving her and a young girl, Aisha.
ourne's attempts to find Elizabeth, through his surprisingly inept assistant Chester, gets Bannerman involved. Martin and Elisabeth are, of course two of
, but a number more live, as Bannerman now does, in Westport, Connecticut. They include an ex-KGB Colonel who runs an antique shop, and a friendly woman who sells children's books but is really a skilled professional killer, blowing up planes and trucks with relish and abandon. Other businesses are run by former assassins for various governments, all now semi-retired until called upon by Bannerman to revert.
he action is fast, furious, and totally without redeeming social virtues. I loved it. The arch villain and his incapable henchmen are out of a comic book, but many of the other characters are well rounded and surprisingly believable. The author writes well enough to hold most readers enthralled throughout, and not only during the many exciting action sequences. A very good read.
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