Ponderous prose and a less than credible plot-line weigh down Cobb's Covert-One novel, the seventh in a series (The Hades Factor, etc.) based on a concept created by the late Robert Ludlum. After the chance discovery of a crashed aircraft in the Arctic Circle, the Russians, who are on the verge of signing a landmark antiterrorism pact with the United States, inform President Samuel Castilla that it's a Soviet plane that went down in the 1950s while carrying a ton of weaponized anthrax. Castilla, who suspects that there's more to the story than the Russians are letting on, orders series Jonathan Smith, chief operative for the shadowy Covert-One intelligence service, and his team to investigate. Two women whose field skills are matched by their physical attractiveness join Smith, setting up predictable situations when they fall into the hands of the bad guys. Veteran thriller fans are likely to find the underlying premise behind the Russians' duplicity unconvincing.