Philip Shelby, Author . Simon & Schuster $25 (416p) ISBN 978-0-684-84263-9

With each new book, Shelby (who co-wrote The Cassandra Compact with Robert Ludlum) nicks away at one of fiction's last male bastions—the foreign intrigue thriller—using women as lead characters in the cloaked world of espionage. In this nail-biter about a Chinese plot to kill the U.S. president and retake Taiwan, Wall Street portfolio manager Sloane Ryder finds herself out of a job after she stumbles onto the conspiracy while investigating the dealings of a shady co-worker. Ryder is not unemployed for long: she's hired by a secret government division that has sniffed out the plan to assassinate President Claudia Ballantine. Ryder and her new colleagues soon discover that the conspiracy involves several high-ranking Chinese and U.S. government officials who intend to kill the president in a gruesome, highly creative way. The intent is to create chaos in Washington, D.C., so China has time to storm across the Sea of Taiwan and claim the island for the People's Republic. Somewhat less convincing is the character of Ryder, who remains a hard sell as someone who can trade her Wall Street power suit for a spy's trench coat. Picking up the slack, however, are two of Shelby's former heroines—professional operatives Hollis Fremont and Holland Tylo—as well as the Handyman, the elusive contract killer from Gatekeeper. With some creative flair, Shelby employs all the standard fiction tools of the espionage trade—the rogue militants, the conspiracies within conspiracies, the untouchable behind-the-scenes villains, the flat-footed heroes—and all to satisfying effect. Agent, Henry Morrison. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 512 pages - 978-0-671-01394-3
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