Stephen Coonts, Author St Martin's Press $24.95 (390p) ISBN 978-0-312-20521-8
The future of Cuba is up for grabs in this crackerjack speculative thriller by the author of Flight of the Intruder and Fortunes of War. Coonts regulars Rear Admiral Jake Grafton and staff operations officer Toad Tarkington are providing military cover for a shipment of American chemical and biological weapons--weapons that should have been destroyed long ago--out of Guant namo Bay, where they have been in storage. When the shipment goes missing, it's Grafton's job to find it and get those weapons back. But that's the least of his worries, because Cuba is developing its own biological weapons; as soon as they are ready, they will be loaded onto missiles already aimed at American cities. Meanwhile, an aged Castro is dying of cancer, and even if he lives long enough to name a successor, Alejo Vargas, head of the Cuban secret police, has his own plans for the future of the country. While there's little doubt that Grafton will save the day, Coonts's sharply drawn characters--including dapper CIA operative and biological weapons expert William Henry Chance and his safe-cracking sidekick, Tommy Carmellini--and a plethora of intersecting plot lines take what one character calls ""another Cuban missile crisis"" to a rousing action finale. But the surprise pleasure here is how clearly Coonts paints a picture of Cuba by focusing on the three Soldano brothers--Hector, a Jesuit priest who may be Castro's chosen successor; Ocho, the handsome ballplayer who has the chance to sail to Florida with the woman he got pregnant; and Maximo, the finance minister who is more interested in money than the revolution. This gripping and intelligent thriller is a standout for Coonts, taking the death of Castro as a starting point for an all-too-possible scenario of political turmoil and military brinkmanship. $325,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Aug.) FYI: In one of this season's more interesting coincidences, Coonts chooses for his epigraph the same poem by Jos Mart as does Amy Ephron in her book White Rose, reviewed above.
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999
Release date: 08/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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