Killing Ground

Gerald Seymour, Author
Gerald Seymour, Author HarperCollins Publishers $23 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-101195-5
Mass Market Paperbound - 560 pages - 978-0-06-101196-2
Hardcover - 669 pages - 978-0-7838-8139-3
Mass Market Paperbound - 571 pages - 978-0-552-54535-8
Hardcover - 978-0-593-04098-0
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7531-0208-4
Hardcover - 491 pages - 978-1-4447-6031-6
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Seymour's popularity with critics and readers doesn't depend on his ability as a stylist; he writes serviceably, but usually not with elegance. It's tremendous narrative drive that has made most of his previous thrillers (The Heart of Danger) so exciting. But there's a heavy, thumping quality to the writing of his latest that all but derails a well-researched story. The premise promises suspense: Charlotte (Charley) Parsons, a 23-year-old English schoolteacher, is recruited by an American DEA agent for a very dangerous game. She is to go to Palermo to look after the children of Giuseppe ""Peppino"" Ruggerio, the brother of--and chief money launderer for--reclusive Sicilian drug lord Mario Ruggerio. Most of the dialogue (and there's a lot of dialogue) is stiff and clotted, especially in the many exchanges among American DEA agents, Italian anti-Mafia police and British Fraud Squad investigators intent on finally bringing down Mario Ruggerio. Without believable dialogue, ferocious DEA zealot Axel Moen, who recruited Charley, rarely comes off as much more than an animated cause. Charley fares better, because we see through her eyes that the world she's risking isn't worth very much to her. The sad decline of Peppino's wife, Angela, moreover, demonstrates vividly how crime destroys lives indirectly as well as by the blast of a bomb or a shotgun. The velocity of much of Seymour's previous work just isn't here, however, and this lack detracts from the interest readers might have in his insights into the Mafia's role in the world drug trade. (Apr.)
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