Agent of Judgment

Robert Rice, Author Forge $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-87050-8
Eight years after the publication of his well-received debut Arthurian novel, The Last Pendragon, Rice offers up a pulpy thriller replete with earthquakes, floods, oceanic fish kills, exotic disease and other portents of the apocalypse. A mysterious string of environmental disasters threaten the U.S. as Ursula Walker, a single San Francisco attorney, nears the end of her in vitro pregnancy. Meanwhile, her brother Michael, aka Matt Cooper, an ex-military sharpshooter, is hiding out in a backwater Montana town to escape the clutches of their third sibling, cold-blooded James, an officer of the Arm, a far-reaching covert agency that refuses to let Matt retire. Called to San Francisco to help Ursula, who is being menaced by unknown forces, Matt is helpless to stop kidnappers who leave his sister near death and make off with her newborn son. Stalked by a hitman of the Arm sent to ""close"" him so he won't be able to reveal anything about the agency, Matt traces the kidnappers back to Montana to the stronghold of the Ringers, a powerful religious cult headed by the charismatic Mother Mary Grace. Promising eternal life, the high priestess preaches that the world is about to end and orchestrates a series of disasters calculated to mimic the Book of Revelation. Against the pleas of Darby, his sweetheart, who runs a bakery that supplies Mother Mary Grace's sweet tooth, Matt infiltrates the stronghold to rescue his infant nephew, the key to Mother Mary's scheme. Meanwhile, a subplot details the diligence of a pair of ecologists who trace the cataclysmic events back to the cult leader and set in motion a Waco-like showdown. Helicopters hovering, guns blazing, this comic book cliffhanger winds down to a sweetly satisfying end. Agent, Don Gastwirth. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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