The Acolyte

David Compton, Author Simon & Schuster $22.5 (400p) ISBN 978-0-684-80430-9
According to Oxford, Miss., resident Compton, it was the sight of John Grisham walking into a local church that prompted him to write his first novel. In its lickety-split pacing, there's more than a touch of Grisham in this thriller about a young CIA agent who uncovers a global conspiracy; but, alas, there's also Grisham to be found in the obvious characters. Newly minted agent Greer Whitaker, 28, is assigned to spy on Randall Jenkins, the president's closest friend and advisor, as part of a sanctioned CIA operation to nail Jenkins as a foreign mole. What Whitaker doesn't know is that he is being used, if not set up, as part of another CIA operation, as secret agents and stubborn bureaucrats combine forces to keep the president unaware of an impending economic Pearl Harbor. Compton lacks the financial chops of a Michael Thomas--his conspiracy is barely described and never detailed--and once the real plot is uncovered and Whitaker goes on the run, the novel's energy flags. Whitaker is unbelievably gullible, as well; most readers will realize way before he does that the women in his life are more than they seem. But high concept and cinematic execution count for a lot in a thriller, and Compton delivers these in spades, which is one reason--along with a big movie sale--that this book has received significant advance publicity, albeit under the rather catchier title of Axis. Whatever the name, this novel likely will have bookstore cash registers ringing. Film rights to Touchstone for a film to be directed by Mike Newell. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
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