The Cutout

Francine Mathews, Author Bantam Books $23.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-553-10893-4
The kidnapping of the U.S. vice-president, Sophie Payne, sets off a firestorm of CIA intelligence and rescue activity in this first espionage thriller by Mathews, the popular author of the Merry Folger mystery series. After making a controversial speech in Berlin, Payne is abducted by a fringe terrorist group known as 30 April. For CIA operative and protagonist Caroline Carmichael, the kidnapping becomes more complicated when her husband (and associate), Eric, is spotted in the video footage of the abduction, leading her boss to think that he may have turned traitor on his CIA colleagues. Carmichael is chosen to head up the clandestine rescue operation because of her knowledge of the terrorist leader, but the time window for Payne's rescue is reduced considerably when her captors inject the v-p with a deadly anthrax strain. Carmichael sprints to Budapest and then Bosnia, all the while trying to balance her love for her husband with her knowledge of his duplicitous and often deadly tactics. Mathews, a former CIA intelligence analyst, keeps the action moving at a sprightly pace, and her presentation of espionage and CIA tactics is impeccable. But the secondary characters from Eastern Europe are a faceless bunch, and the author focuses so intently on the espionage activity that she ignores the reaction of the world at large to the kidnapping, although she does toss in an intriguing subplot dealing with the possible involvement of the German chancellor in the crime. Mathews makes up for these small flaws by avoiding an obvious formula ending, allowing the final riveting rescue attempt in an abandoned underground concentration camp to end on an unlikely note. It remains to be seen whether Merry Folger readers will make the genre leap with Mathews, but fans of spy thrillers should be alerted to this promising debut. Major ad/promo. (Jan. 30)
Reviewed on: 01/01/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 329 pages - 978-0-307-56732-1
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-553-52797-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 544 pages - 978-0-553-58150-8
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