cover image O'Farrell's Law

O'Farrell's Law

Brian Freemantle. Tor Books, $17.95 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85004-3

Freemantle ( Betrayals ) takes perhaps too much time getting his thriller off the ground, but once aloft it becomes a fascinating, deadly flight. Charles O'Farrell, 46, is a loving husband and father, a patriotic Vietnam vet and would-be biographer of his U.S. Marshall great-grandfather. He is also an executioner for a top-secret CIA department, a job he sees as similar to his ancestor's dispensation of frontier justice. O'Farrell may be having a midlife crisis, and he's definitely developing a drinking problem--complete with the drunk's denial of it--as he loses his stomach for assassination. His latest mission, against a drug- and arms-dealing Cuban diplomat in London, goes disastrously awry; only family troubles and superiors' manipulations propel him to finish the job. As the Cuban and a Belgian arms dealer make their own moves, bleak disaster looms for almost everyone. A sturdy tale, notable for Britisher Freemantle's near-perfect rendering of American English. (Feb.)