Critical Mass

Steve Martini, Author Putnam Publishing Group $25.95 (436p) ISBN 978-0-399-14362-5
A militia group in the Pacific Northwest becomes the world's newest nuclear power in this by-the-numbers thriller by the author of The List and The Judge. Lawyer Jocelyn ""Joss"" Cole sees a big retainer when she's hired by Dean Belden to handle his company's incorporation filings. But after Belden gets a federal subpoena, Joss sees him die in a fiery seaplane explosion. Now she's the only visible link to Belden's company (which was on the receiving end of two decaying nuclear weapons smuggled into the U.S. out of Russia), and that brings her to the attention of arms inspector Gideon van Ry, of the Institute Against Mass Destruction. After the feds determine that the militia has possession of the weapons, Gideon and Joss join the race to try to avert nuclear disaster. Of course, there are complications: the militia group is being fronted by a foreign power in order to circumvent U.S. nuclear retaliation policy, and the President is in CYA (cover-your-ass) overdrive because his party accepted a campaign contribution from the chief Russian culprit. But even with a SEAL assault on the militia stronghold, double crosses galore and an ingenious ending, the book offers too few surprises, too little suspense and too little emotional involvement. The characters have no inner life, and the plotting is sketchy from the start, when it's explained that dummies were used to cover up for the two missing nukes--dummies that conveniently drop off the weapons count while there's still time to foil the bad guys. The few crucial coincidences stick out like red flags because Martini makes more of them than he makes of the people around them. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
Prebound-Other - 978-0-613-21386-8
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-671-53455-4
Hardcover - 978-1-56895-668-8
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-515-12583-2
Hardcover - 473 pages - 978-0-7472-6062-2
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-101-55023-6
Mass Market Paperbound - 367 pages - 978-0-515-12648-8
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