Tunnel

Walter Wager, Author
Walter Wager, Author Forge $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-86488-0
Mass Market Paperbound - 304 pages - 978-0-8125-6467-9
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Wager is an experienced thriller writer (Telefon and 58 Minutes, among many others), so the comparative lameness of this excursion is an aberration. The chief problem is its tone, which is inappropriately jocular given that large numbers of innocent people are being hideously slain at frequent intervals. A rogue gang of former East German secret police still at work in the U.S. hit upon a scheme to extort $10 million from the city of New York. After proving their seriousness by a series of escalating terrorist attacks in different parts of the city, they seal both ends of the Lincoln Tunnel, with hundreds of cars and motorists inside, and threaten to blow it up unless the ransom is paid. There are additional complications involving the CIA and the Russians (still apparently trying to outsmart each other 10 years after the Cold War has ended). The girlfriend of the novel's dashing hero, police captain Jake Malloy, who is herself a Drug Enforcement Agency official on the track of a group of desperate Colombian drug smugglers, is among those trapped in the tunnel. Fortunately, Malloy is an ex-navy SEAL and is able to collect some of his old buddies in a daring underwater rescue effort that gets him into the tunnel in time to thwart the evildoers--but not before a pregnant woman, also trapped, almost gives birth on the spot. It's possible that in an action movie (and 58 Minutes did become Die Hard II), the piling up of coincidence and the casual, cartoonish tone would not seem so glaring, but on the printed page they stand out starkly. Still, no one can say this isn't a rapid read. (May)
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