cover image Toy Soldiers

Toy Soldiers

William P. Kennedy. St. Martin's Press, $19.95 (376pp) ISBN 978-0-312-01478-0

Kennedy's (The Maskado Lesson) third novel turns on an interesting premise: suppose a terrorist, a cross between Abu Nidal and Yasser Arafat, took over an American boys school in Italy, forcing the politically and industrially powerful fathers to pressure the U.S. government into acceding to his demands. Hoping to achieve U.S. impotence in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the ambitious and charismatic Sharif wants, at the same time, to elevate himself to an exalted role among his fellow Arabs. A Delta force team decides it cannot storm the fortress-like school without killing most of their men and the hostages in the process. Amid a group of fairly familiar characters, Kennedy has introduced an interestingly drawn 15-year-old, Billy Tepper, a prankster with a swift and wide-ranging intellect, able, like TV's MacGyver, to transform everyday items into functional tools of another sort. With his lieutenant, Gamel, in charge of the hostage situation, Sharif seems bound to win. But Gamel is out of control. He kills one of the boys and dumps his body outside, Billy begins to sabotage the terrorists' equipment, mistakenly believing a rescue is imminent, and Sharif's plan starts to unravel. Fast paced, highly readable, if somewhat predictable, Kennedy's scenario will entertain thriller buffs. (June)